Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
I met Ann via our Tropicalpenpals.com site earlier this year looking for advice on her first visit. I was also able to help Ann meet up with one of the Charities here that are doing some great work.. Mercy In Action which is a British charity via Emily and Tim (who run the Talisay project).
On a recent first ever, trip to the Philippines, I was privileged to have paid a visit to the "Mercy in Action" drop in centre in Tabunok, Talisay.
This is a centre that was set up to provide a hot meal and schooling for Street children. As well as looking after the welfare of the children, - "as a full time social worker is assigned to the centre," it also helps with provision of medicines, as and when required by the children, when they fall sick, or require dental care urgently.
For the past year, I have been trying to de-clutter my home. Whilst doing some research into my trip to the Philippines, I came across www.tropicalpenpals.com and it was through this site that I had my first introduction to "Mercy in Action" (M.I.A.). On Matt’s blog I found an excellent solution to helping me de-clutter and to help provide these children with much needed clothing amongst other things. I travelled light on my own clothes and took what I could for the kids. My next challenge was to try to ascertain exactly where the centre was located and after a few e-mails, texts and telephone calls it all eventually, fell in to place. My friend, Matt very kindly offered to meet up with me, and one of the students from the centre met with us and directed us to the centre. Sadly, not all of the children were there as we arrived on a non- feeding programme day. Meals are provided on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Nevertheless, our visit gave a bit of an insight into the work of the organisation and the challenges they and the children have to face on a day to day basis.
The centre is housed on the first floor of quite a shoddy building full of offices of one type and another. It consists of two rooms one of which functions as the classroom, brightly decorated with pictures drawn by the children and posters used for educational reference. I couldn’t help but notice a beautiful collage made up of photographs of very excited, happy smiling faces of the children on what was, I think, the children’s first visit to the local swimming pool and probably, their very first experience of one too! Outings are few and far between, but it was obvious from the photographs, the tremendous pleasure that they got from it……
The other room, I understood, is used as part office and part rest area for the children to have a sleep after lunch. Bearing in mind these children sleep under a bridge a short distance away from the centre and if they manage to get any sleep at all, they would be lucky! Some bunk down in the corridor of the building, much to the distaste and annoyance of some of the office residents. The rooms have a couple of fans but no air conditioning so they tend to get very hot and stuffy! There is no running water so the children are unable to wash their hands either before or after a meal. Prior to a meal the plates are covered with plastic bags and the children also apply plastic bags to their hands. Traditionally Filipinas/os eat with their hands but in this case when there is no cutlery and no running water to wash it anyway, there is a very high risk of the children ingesting some bacteria from unwashed hands that could make them very sick. A precautionary measure! "Health and safety", if you like! The premises themselves are loaned by the local authorities. Not a place, sadly, that they can really call their own….
On that note, I have been informed that land has been acquired to build an orphanage for these children. "A place they could call home". £40,000 needs to be raised in order to build it so, if anyone has any ideas out there please feel free to share them. I would love to see these children have a bit of stability in their lives….
As time was running very short, and I was very keen to meet the other children and to have an opportunity to give them the clothes I had brought from Scotland. I was delighted to have been invited to go back on a day that all of the children would be present. I arranged to return the day before my departure home. I’m so happy that I did!
When we arrived, lessons were in progress and the children were working very hard on their maths. Now, I was feeling very guilty because I really didn’t want to cause any disruption. However, we were noticed peeking our heads through the door and the children became incredibly excited!
Something that I will never forget, is the welcome I experienced with the kids. It brings a lump to my throat just to think about it. The children who I had met on my prior visit were so excited to see us again and had even adopted me as "Auntie", the others were excited, but also very curious at this visit…. It’s strange but, walk into a room full of people here and nobody even so much as bats an eyelid!!
We had a lovely morning with the children helping out with their maths. When all the hard work was done the children neatly packed away their materials into their carry folders. When at last lunch arrived, we had the privilege of helping with the distribution of that, with a lot of good fun and laughs along the way. Sadly, all good things must come to an end and soon it was time for us to leave but not without some lovely memories of my visit. I will never forget those beautiful smiling faces. Always smiling even through all of their hardships.
Mercy in Action are currently developing a large scale project which has already purchased the land but still looking for around £40,000 to construct an orphanage/children’s centre. So if you would like to do something positive to help people who really do need it. This could be a great way to help. But also if your coming to the Philippines doing what Ann did with sacrificing some luggage space for kids clothes to give away is a cheap and easy way to help. Not always will the clothes be worn but sometimes sold for food by the children but the main thing is it helps. Also the space you give up surprising enough when you return to your home country will already be filled with new clothes you have bought in the Philippines due to them being so cheap. Not many countries offer designer labels at around P500 and unbranded for as little as P50 upwards (less than £1.00) brand new. I hope to see you later in the year Ann when I return myself from the UK as I will shortly be heading back myself to start funding the construction of my house here in the Philippines and I thank you for taking time out to help and spend time with the children.