September 06

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Unseen Tears: The Filipino Orphan

Most of us are fortunate to be born into a family with parents. Our mother and father can provide for and nurture us. We likely didn’t face our parents death until adulthood, most likely middle age. In America, we are able to go about our lives unfettered by the concerns an orphan faces.

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The Philippines is home to more than 200,000 street children, according to a study conducted in 2000. They make up 3% of the total population of Filipino children ages 0-17.

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Street children as young as five were being caged in brutal detention centres in a cynical drive to smarten up the Philippines capital ahead of a visit by Pope Francis earlier this year. Their living quarters included bats.

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Each child slept on a cold cement floor. There is a real attempt to hide these issues to the outside world.

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It is very difficult to face the world as an orphan. A child struggles through long years with only the shadowed memories of dead or vanished parents. “When you lose your parents as a child, you are indoctrinated into a club, you’re taken into life’s severest confidence. You are undeceived.” states Hilary Thayer Hamann in Anthropology of an American Girl

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It’s easy to ask how could so many children be orphaned. The reality is it’s a daily occurrence in the Philippines. Some children are abandoned by their parents because of financial limitations. Still others lose parents to illness.

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I met a very impoverished mother with three children on a recent field visit. She had been sick for a week and was getting worse. Appendicitis was the likely cause. The area of her village was severely flooded. The only way to medical help was a long boat ride on a wooden boat hardly sea worthy.

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Then, a long walk in knee deep water would follow or a caribou ride.

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This poor woman was too weak to travel. All that could be done was to give her medicine and hope. Her children were also ill and unclothed. One child had a terrible diaper rash and bugs were gravitating toward the area.

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Another had conjunctivitis. The third suffered from impetigo. There is a real possibility these children could be orphaned as well.

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When I go out and see a lot of people who are in need, the desire to do something is overwhelming for me.

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I realize that I have had a family raise me with plenty of food and care so I need to bring others to experience the same. I believe these kids deserve better and can achieve greater things in life.

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I visited kids living in a children’s village. Here there were thirty children who are either orphans or former street children. I taught them to do headstands and cartwheels.

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The kids also danced and played games. On that day, you could not see a single, frowning face in the room.

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I continue to be amazed by the resilience of these children. Despite their dire circumstances, they were seemingly typical youth.

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I plan to do this every week, visiting other orphanages, community centers, schools, or children’s hospitals. I believe what we do is creating change not just for the kids but also for me as a volunteer. I am invigorated by the smiles and hugs of theses young beneficiaries. This is enough reward for the hard work that is put into every event.

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In the words of ADP training that I have taught to Save employees, you must first understand the need for change. Ask Why? How? You can utilize a partner’s time, talent, and treasures. From the many kids I have encountered throughout the different outreach activities, I’ve determined that what they need is care.

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I’ve seen a lot of outreach programs in the Philippines because of the state of poverty here. The difference in what Save does is that we are trying to make it learning-based. We also want to make sure it’s continuous and ensure that resources are maximized. In the end, there is sustainable change.

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Each encounter is unique as these kids have unique stories. I am surprised how brave the children are, handling seemingly big and serious issues at a young age. It’s hard to imagine being married, or worse yet, having a baby by thirteen. In as much as I want to inspire them, little do they know that they too inspire me to push more in reaching out to more kids.

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I volunteer because I believe every person has a responsibility to mold the next generation and improve others lives. That’s why I applied to the Pulse program. I have already attended many outreach programs and I always goes home fulfilled.

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I encourage any of you who hasn’t, to give a few hours of your time to volunteer. I can promise you that you will get back far more than you give. The experience will stay with you for a lifetime. You can offer wings of hope for the underprivileged. Are you in?