Physical, emotional and sexual violence in home, school, community, and in social media (cyberbullying); poverty and opportunists fueling risky street living, child labor, cybersex crimes, child trafficking; parental abuse, absenteeism, abandonment and neglect – these are the realities many Filipino children today contend with. Research studies and experiences have shown that traumatic childhood experiences are found to be related to other risky behaviors such as drug use and alcoholism; medical and mental disorders; relational problems; depression and suicide.
What can we do in the midst of these realities? Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:1-2). Throughout the Scriptures, God chose and used children for some special tasks. Even babies are meant to declare God’s praise for the Creator and the Miracle-maker of life. God’s heart for children will exact justice and retribution. However, not doing anything could also cause our hearts to become unresponsive and callous to the evil we see around us. If you get disheartened and it propels you to do something, let me suggest some practical things you and your family could do about this desperate situation.
First, examine your heart. Have you in any way abused children in one way or another as mentioned in this series? Since there is no perfect parent and we have our moments, we may have taken our stress and problems on children with verbal, physical or even emotional blackmail or abuse. If so, grieve over it and ask forgiveness from the child. Study your trigger points, manage your stress and priorities, and discuss ways to prevent such abuse happening again.
Second, be interested and mindful of the children around you – your own if you are a young family, your nieces, nephews, neighbors’ children that you meet, including street children. Get to know them and what is going on in their lives, find ways to become a positive influence in their lives for their good. If you do not have children, come alongside young families you know who may need a break or breather from the stressful season of parenting by babysitting for them. You could also mentor young couples in the area of parenting using FamilyLife’s HomeBuilders series that discuss common issues like communication, resolving conflict, parenting teens, and other relevant topics in a non-threatening and fun way.
Third, support with prayers, finances and your time ministries that reach out to families and children. FamilyLife Philippines’ (FLP) bring parenting classes to public school parents that are offered free of charge. To motivate and encourage parents to attend and finish all fourteen interactive class sessions to experience change, FLP receives donations in kind and cash so as to give snacks or lunch as the situation demands, door prizes of noodles, vitamins, materials that aid their learning, and a goody bag of food items at “graduation.” Aside from FLP, I have personally visited and connected a number of ministries that cater to neglected and poor children through schools and orphanages to people who could support substantially. I can vouch for their authentic and life-changing work. Precious Heritage Ministries Foundation provides housing, food, clothing, medical care, education and love to the orphaned, abandoned, malnourished children and also do community development programs in rural and urban poor areas. Gentle Hands Inc. gives holistic care to orphaned, abandoned and neglected children in several places in Metro Manila. Search for one near your residence so you could be involved in one that helps children-at-risk.
Fourth, if God puts a burden in your heart to do something, then do it. Jane Walker, a UK publishing executive who saw the Smokey Mountain dump site children when her taxi passed by on a short visit in Manila in 1995, could not shake off what she saw. She gave up her promising career as a journalist and used her savings, with help from friends, to put up a daycare center in Tondo.
She challenged owners in the nearby port area to donate unused container vans that she eventually turned into a four-story school building in 2008. The Philippine Christian Foundation, Inc. (PCF) was set up as an entity for the school, where 700+ children living in the garbage dumps and their families have been helped. I interviewed her in 2013, met and heard the children showcase their talents and have been quite impressed with what she and her team have accomplished in giving hope to these children and their families.
Which of these could you apply this coming year?