St. Martin de Porres, Bustos, Bulacan, Philippines, March 2007:
Hope Springs Eternal: At St. Martin, JDVSF visitors find new growth everywhere
Perhaps the cruelest tragedy that befalls children who live on the street is the loss of family. For those who suffer abuse at the hands of an older relative or parent, running away from home is the only way to survive. While for those who come from large families the parents cannot afford to feed, striking out on his or her own sometimes affords a resourceful child a better chance of making the most meager ends meet. Either way, extreme poverty can rupture the very bonds–between parent and child, brother and sister-that should provide safety and comfort to those most vulnerable.
At St. Martin de Porres, children, who for whatever reason lost the protection that being part of a family should afford, are rediscovering the joys, comfort, and safety of that connection. As a spring visit by JDVSF Founding Chairman Lizelle Salvador, Executive Director Operations Ellen Goodridge, and Corporate Secretary Hayley Callahan showed, the children are thriving in the loving environment that Father Boyet and his helpers have provided and that the Foundation supports.
To welcome their visitors, the children, many of whom played the Rondalla during the mass celebrated especially for the visitors, presented a simple program after the service. Eager to show off their advancing musical skills, the children were also quite proud to take their visitors on a tour of the new dormitory that the JDVSF funded and built with funds raised throughout 2006 together with a substantial donation from the Japanese Embassy of the Philippines.
To ease the transition from the modest but familiar quarters they’d been occupying on the former city bus that had been outfitted with bunk beds, the boys have been moving into their new residence in phases. A group of 12 boys took up residence in two rooms in the first wave, followed by another group of 8 three weeks later. “They feel happy and proud to have their own space and have adjusted well to their new home, making their beds and keeping the room clean,” reports Eunice Cheng-Chua, JDVSF Assistant Director, Development. “But everything just takes time. We cannot rush things for them.” In keeping with that philosophy, continuity will be maintained for the smaller boys, who will continue to live with the older girls of St. Martin, who look after them just as big sisters would.
To further encourage the family atmosphere, new design plans for the girls residences were presented to the visiting JDVSF board members. To vary the style of accommodations offered in the Children’s Village, a series of cottages will be built, each housing 12 children of varying ages. As they have been since coming to St. Martin, the older children will help care for the younger residents, and all together, under the supervision of the SMDP house parents, they will care for themselves. “We have found that our kids are happiest when living as a big family and caring for one another as they would if they came from a functional home,” explains Father Boyet, noting that the children will tend the cottages themselves as well as “learn to cook, clean, and do all other chores they will need to be proficient at as they some day leave here to set up their own homes. We must always remember that they came from, if not the streets, the slums, and it is only with us that they will learn how to function as part of a happy home.”