Friday, 5 February 2010

Oh my (actual) life...

Today will be my last post from the Philippines and so i decided to include one of our phrases of the week as a title. This phrase has usually been uttered in shear fear as our driver Lito weaves his way between oncoming traffic, occasionally going the wrong way up the carriageway and generally applies the principle that if he doesn't look at other cars they won't hit him! But also, it somes up some of the exasperation at our experiences here together.

I have been asked time and time again in the last few days whether this trip was what i expected. Its hard to answer because i wasn't really sure what to expect. I wasn't looking forward to coming in the least and having been here, i would be a lot keener to return than i was to come intially. I have had more fun than i expected, despite being the but of many jokes, and i have recieved more from the children and staff than i could ever have hoped for. Their joy is infectious and that will stay with me forever, i think.

Having said all this there were just some things that no-one could be prepared for. Our trip to Smokey Mountain on Day 1 (which seeems a lifetime ago now) was horrific as people lived among the rubbish and sewage and formed a community. Disturbingly Sol, told us happily this week that it "...used to be an awful place, its come on so much in the last few years" (!!!!!!!) The other shanty villages we visited and the street communities lived in horredous conditions with the smell making my stomach do somersalts and it has amazed us that there are not more obvious signs of disease, but the village near Laguna we visited on Tuesday where over 1/2 of the poultry income of the families go to buy clean water leaving them the equivalent of 2pounds fifty pence to live on for the rest of the week left the biggest impression on me. I will never forget the children happily playing and washing in the toxic stream flowing from the pharmaceutical factory just yards away, oblivious to the apparent dangers.

Last tuesday was perhaps the most touching day. I was inspired by Michelle, an ambitious 15 year old with her life ahead of her and full of dreams for her future. Her possible blindness within 5 years was shattering to hear, just minutes after being inspired by her drive and determination. Like so many of the other children that we have met, she may well have suffered incredibly in former circumstances. Many of the children we have met are victims of abuse, not to mention poverty and neglect. The inspirational story of Kanlungan is that out of the incredibly damaged 'raw material' of the children they meet there are so many stories of joy and hope and the children discover humanity again as well as growing in the love that God has for them.

If i'm honest there was a degree of scepticism in me when i came here as to what the ethos of the charity was and how money was used. Kanlungan are an incredibly professional organisation. You can hardly say hello to the administrator without it being noted and a reciept issued!! Everything is above board, everything is managed through case files, everything is monitored with Professional staff who are training other agencies. It is my firm conviction, that no matter what horrors the past may have held, it is a great blessing for these children to pass through Kanlungan's care. Whether its meeting Roel & Wilmar on the streets at night, or popping into the drop in centre, whether its at Benitez House recieving intial alternative education and therapy or whether its living in Laguna or at the Boys Home or Farm receiving schooling to be in Kanlungan's 'system' is to recieve an incredible start to life for i am convinced beyond doubt that this is an organisation that God is using incredibly and it is an honour to be associated with them.

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