written by Ernesto Cullari
The world is filled with catastrophes and calamities that are outside of our control. The World’s economies continue to crumble. There are millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico’s pristine waters and it wont be until August that the federal government and British Petroleum will be able to stop the destructive flow. Consider that Iran has enough nuclear fuel to build two nuclear warheads and not one nation on Earth seems committed to stopping them from assembling The Bomb. As individuals we are completely helpless and without recourse, unable to stop the freight train-like trajectory of history.
But there is one ongoing disaster, where despite how overwhelming the need, you do have the power to enforce a real and lasting change upon it. At this very moment, there are hundreds of thousands of homeless and often abandoned children roaming the streets of Cebu City, the oldest city in the Philippines. Like packs of wild mutts these untended children roam the dangerous streets begging, foraging and getting high. They go for days without food and they call the filthy unforgiving sidewalk their bed. Life is so devoid of good prospects that many children prefer to sleep the hot and humid day away, despite the noise and lack of privacy.
Many kids have joined street gangs that were inspired by American gangs such as the Bloods or the Crips. Tragedy, hunger and aimlessness are a street kid’s perpetual reality, yet they are not entirely without hope. You have the financial power to ransom these children from danger, hunger and despair.
In December of 2009, just after Christmas, my mother Dalisay and her husband Matthew, both experienced missionaries, moved to Cebu City to take over an orphanage that was struggling to survive. They arrived in the Philippines replete with knowledge gained from their prior work at an orphanage in Guadalupe, Mexico, which is the epicenter of the violent war being waged between competing Mexican drug cartels.
While in Mexico, my mother’s husband was informed by locals that his name was on a list marking him as a target of abduction for ransom, which placed my mother in mortal danger as well. Despite the fears and the challenges that they both faced few experiences could have prepared them for what they are currently dealing with in Cebu City.
Poverty is spreading like wild fire throughout the Philippines. Unlike with the Mexican border there is no American money making its way into the economy in Cebu City, unless of coarse you’re one of the few that count themselves among Cebu City’s wealthy elite. My mother recounted to me how she recently watched a new family, a teen-aged girl and her father move to a sidewalk outside of a local bank. She noted that at first their clothes were fresh. But as the days passed, their clothes grew a little more ragged and their overall appearance resembled the rest of the destitution that surrounded them until finally the bank posted guards and roped off the area to keep them off their little entryway.
It is circumstances such as this that motivates a family to leave their children at His Dwelling Christian Church, located in Cebu City, which is the parent Church of the orphanage where my mother now finds herself.
Once a child is fortunate enough to make their way to the orphanage they receive food, love, medical attention, Bible study, a formal education and shelter, but it is no guarantee that the child, despite their reversal of fortune will want to stay there. Most of these children were born on the street and were abandoned or severely neglected by their parents. As a result, these children are undisciplined and accustomed to living without rules and structure. Many of the boys will return to the streets because they miss the marauding or the lack of accountability that comes with street living. Still others will return to the streets because they miss their parents.
Such is the case with little Jasmine who after a short stay at the orphanage missed her mother so much that she returned to the shantytown, where her mother lived. There was a fire one night and Jasmine and her little brother ran to watch the flames. Her little infant brother who was with her was struck by a dump truck and killed and Jasmina’s feet were crushed in the accident as well. My mother is praying and waiting that Jasmine returns to the orphanage. (There are currently 18 children being loved and watched over by my mother and stepfather. You have the financial power to help save their lives too. I guarantee you that your reward will be much greater than your gift of money.)
(To be continued.)