St. Martin de Porres, Bustos, Bulacan, Philippines, March 2007:
Cultivating New Life: The children take to living off the land-not the streets
On the streets, the children of St. Martin learned to beg, scrounge for food, peddle scrap scavenged from refuse, even steal to survive. At St. Martin they are perfecting far different skills, ones which are already enabling them to stand on their own feet.
The seeds of their self-sufficiency they have sown themselves in the rice paddies and vegetable gardens that are already providing food for their tables. Though the property can only currently supply around 30 percent of the sustenance required by St. Martin’s 67 growing boys and girls, plans to increase supply are in full swing as all idle lots are now being converted to vegetable gardens. Tomatoes, okra, kangkong, pechay, kamoteng-kahoy, string beans, papaya, saluyot, and eggplant are just some of the crops they’ve planted along with the rice that will be ready for harvest at the end of April. Supplementing their diet are eggs from the 40 ducks that live on the pond, and the chickens that roost in the coop on the property. Though still too young to do more than flower, a variety of fruit trees have been planted, promising bountiful yields to come.
In addition to school, homework, and arts activities, the children’s days contain a mix of community tasks-tending the gardens and animals-and such personal chores as washing their own clothes. After the chaos of the streets, the children have taken well to living life on a predictable schedule, with time set aside for chores before they head off to school then again in the afternoon, when they return around 4.30 pm. The children also take turns working in groups to prepare meals.
Setting examples of hard work and productivity are friends of St. Martin who are always there to help out. Tito Carding, a relative of Father Boyet, took responsibility for the improvement of the fish pond, now overseen by a caretaker he’s posted on site who is teaching the children how to feed the fish. Ambet Juan, another relative of Father Boyet, is introducing the children to organic farming techniques, including the incorporation of manure regularly delivered by Infarmco, a leading breeder of hogs in Cabuyao, Laguna, (south of Manila), which is known for its technical support to farmers wishing to learn the latest organic technologies.
Learn more about the people of St. Martin de Porres at the SMDP website.