JDVSF founder Lizelle Salvador and Board member Ellen Goodridge visited San Martin de Porres, Hijas de Esther and Centro Salvador from October 19-20, 2016. Ellen Goodridge, though involved with the JDVSF since 2005, had last visited the Philippines in 2010. Here is a brief account of Ellen’s experiences seeing the changes to the St. Martin de Porres facility in Bustos from 2010 to present.
I first visited San Martin de Porres in 2007 for the inauguration of the first Boy’s dormitory funded by the JDVSF. At that time, San Martin de Porres was a fairly modest facility with just a few simple buildings and only about 30 boys resident. On my next visit in 2010 for the inauguration of the Comedor (dining and activity facility) I observed SMDP had grown to a much bigger facility with multiple dormitories, additional mixed use outbuildings, and a beautiful church, yet was still missing certain elements to make it a complete refuge for the children.
Now in 2016 the vision is fully realized, and San Martin de Porres is a spacious and welcoming facility that provides a fulfilling home for over 140 children, boys and girls. The roads are paved, the buildings are functioning to fulfill the needs of the SMDP community and the entire facility is just beautiful with colorful paint, mosaics, creative light fixtures, and carefully tended plantings.
The main thoroughfare was once a muddy track; now it’s a paved street, bordered by mature plantings and connecting all the buildings. Inside the dormitories the children keep their home clean and neat. They learn responsibility and self-sufficiency through chores and caring for their home. The Comedor serves as the heart-center of the facility where everyone gathers regularly for meals and group activities. There is an amazing playground (even with a zipline!) as well as a shaded full-size basketball court to enable playtime and exercise.
This was also my first visit to the Girl’s Village, since named Hijas de Esther, which is just across a large field from SMDP and was completed in 2015. Enabling the girls to have their own facilities gives them the opportunity to thrive according to their specific needs, while still being part of the larger SMDP community as it’s only a short walk away.
Inside Hijas de Esther was evidence of many active and engaged young minds; with beautiful displays of their schoolwork, art and even fun Halloween decorations. Their home and school facility was vibrant and thriving. I am excited to help expand the facilities there through the upcoming Multi-purpose building that starts construction in a few months.
The best part of all of my visits is of course interacting with the kids. As a privileged American, and now a mom of two children of school age, it’s truly hard to imagine the trials these kids have been through before they come to SMDP. On my visit this time we saw them present great musical and dancing performances, and we were able to interview quite a few older kids individually, and observe the girls at school. The wonderful part of SMDP is that these kids receive shelter, food, stability, but we also see them thriving and gaining intellectual, spiritual and creative skills that will sustain them throughout their lives, and prepare them for when they leave SMDP to make their way in the world.