Fighting to survive on the streets
|Jorge Villegas, reaching out to children living on the streets.|
Originally published in Catholic Outlook October 2012
This year World Mission Day is on Sunday 21 October and the theme is ‘Restore Hope’. With your support, Catholic Mission is able to reach out to those in need in the Philippines, which is the special focus of World Mission Month in October.
Under one of the large freeway bridges in Manila, away from the hectic streets and the crowded neighbourhoods, countless families and children are struggling for survival. Sleeping on cardboard boxes and washing in filthy waste water from a nearby factory, this is the place they call ‘home’.
Some of the children living on the street have been forced to leave their homes because of poverty, others have run away after being physically, emotionally or sexually abused by their families. They do not have any relatives or parents on the street to help look after them and rely on other street children to help keep them safe.
These children miss out on the things we take for granted in Australia, like education, food, shelter and someone to love and care for them, and keep them safe. With no dreams for the future, many are feeling desperately hopeless.
With support from Catholic Mission in Australia, Jorge Villegas, a street educator and social worker from the Kuya Centre for street children in Manila, visits these families and children several times each week.
By talking to them about important issues such as education, child rights, health risks and substance abuse, he is making them aware of the consequences and dangers of living on the streets, and alternatives to this lifestyle.
Connecting with the children through street education, counselling sessions and activities like sports and games, Jorge is building relationships and trust while also encouraging vulnerable street children to change their ways of life and access services like the half-way home at the Kuya Centre.
With 80% of street children being boys, the Kuya Centre caters for boys between the ages of seven and 15. Girls are accepted in emergency situations and transferred to separate facilities within a few days.
The Kuya Centre provides shelter, food, clothing, education and job training for the boys. The biggest challenge is to rehabilitate and re-socialise the children. After having lived on the streets for a number of years, many of the children have forgotten the very basic habits that we take for granted including how to wash themselves, how to live in a society or group, and how to interact with other people in a socially acceptable and respectful way.
The average stay is between eight months and one year, with the main objective being to reconcile the boys with their families. The social workers are responsible for locating the boy’s family, building relationships with them and assessing the condition of the family to see if it is viable to reunite them.
The boys who are reconciled with their families are given ongoing counselling and educational assistance to ensure they can continue with their education and do not return to the streets.
As Br Luc Boudreault, the director at the Kuya Centre explains, even the smallest amount of money helps provide essentials like education for the boys.
“It is only $20 that they need for one month. It goes a long way. They can send one child to school for one month. It means a very big difference to receive knowledge, to receive education. Without education they can do almost nothing.”
In situations where the staff at the Kuya Centre are unable to locate the boy’s family or it is not safe for them to return to their family, the boys are referred to a permanent shelter where they can continue with their schooling.
Celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, the Kuya Centre, which was established as an initiative of an association of religious brothers from various congregations, has helped hundreds of street children change their way of life and restore their hope in the future.
To find out how you can contribute to the work of Catholic Mission call 1800 257 296 or visit: www.catholicmission.org.au/hope
Restoring hope to a ‘special someone’
|Jon-Jon, a 'special someone' who needs you now.|
Every year, in every country Catholics celebrate World Mission Day, the day in which we reflect on the urgency to proclaim the Gospel in our times and pray that we will be always more committed to Christ’s mission of salvation for the world.
This year World Mission Day is Sunday 21 October. Globally, Catholic Mission has the responsibility to promote a dignified and fruitful celebration of World Mission Day.
In this Year of Grace and Year of Faith we have been asked by Pope Benedict XVI and the Bishops of Australia to deepen our relationship with Christ and strengthen our commitment to sharing the Gospel message.
Here in Australia, the month of October has been dedicated to restoring hope to those who suffer from exclusion, poverty, injustice and those whose life has been diminished in some way.
The focus in Australia is on our brothers and sisters in the Philippines, with school children being encouraged to ‘restore hope to a special someone’.
Every Catholic school has been provided with a resources kit, which aims to provide opportunities for teachers and students to deepen their understanding about issues of mission and justice.
These resources have a special emphasis on hope and how we can commit to building a better world for God’s people, a world where everyone has all they need to live a dignified and fulfilled life.
The school resources can also be found online; these web-based interactive learning resources and activities will help to educate and inspire the whole school community to fundraise, advocate and pray for children in desperate need.
Fundraising for Catholic Mission is an excellent way for children in Australia to connect with children in the Philippines and around the world and to help make a real difference in their lives, providing nutrition, shelter, healthcare and education. When schools fundraise for Catholic Mission, the money goes directly to support children in need.
Our new peer-to-peer fundraising program makes supporting those who truly need it simple. Students can create their own individual events and collect donations from family and friends.For more information, call Catholic Mission on (02) 9919 7800 or visit www.catholicmission.org.au
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