Fe A Foronda, co-ordinator of Philippine Children’s Ministries Network (PCMN), reflects on a valuable time spent in Hong Kong with ‘a kindred tribe’ of network leaders.
It was good to be back in Hong Kong; I’ve always admired the city’s efficient public transport system. I am however, no fan of the walk I’m doing which is unusually uphill.
The walk from the ferry should take people 20 minutes, but my journey took 45 minutes! Having lived in Manila for nearly half of my life, walking is not a way of life. There are tricycles to hail from any street that delivers you at your doorsteps.
When I finally reached my destination, I saw the white square house of the Bethany Retreat Centre built by a Norwegian in support of the ministry in Hong Kong and notice a small lawn in front of the house. ‘In the sunshine this will be lovely for our reflection sessions’, I think.
Then came the idea of having all our applicable sessions there: what a treat! I love nature, as it fuels my energy.
I was there for the Viva Asia network meetings alongside visitors from Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia and Nepal, as well as Justine Demmer and Cherry Ho from Viva Hong Kong, and Brian Wilkinson, Viva’s Head of Network Development, who had travelled from the UK.
We were nine people who fitted perfectly sitting in the garden seats left by the house owner. I basked in the sun, surrounded by kindred tribe, whose hearts are daily knitted for the love of the work on children.
Our daily reflections connected us to the work we do: network development. The presentations from Justine and Brian were excellent. My attention was called by the need to fundraise locally. Brian pointed out that only five per cent of NGOs’ funding is local, but this needs to change because the resources from the EU and US are shrinking. They are encountering domestic problems brought about by the mushrooming economic migrants from conflict areas and poverty-stricken countries from the Middle East and Africa.
Funding from the West has turned inwards to find solutions for their own domestic problems before others.
It is a warning call for all of us in Asia where many of the people of the world live, many in dire situations. With millions of children here needing support to grow and thrive, we must devise and craft solutions that will raise support locally. Due to the typhoon disaster that happened three years ago, a-washed with grants, local fundraising has not crossed my agenda. I was blindsided. Fundraising is as regular and a must, I should say, as breathing.
The networks in Asia are in strategic locations driven by passionate leaders. The networks for children in this region will continue to reach out to more people, to support the work which shouldn’t stop in a heartbeat. They will thrive in uncertain times and difficulties: that’s a certainty.
Finally, one of the blessings during our time together, was to share stories together of how our work changes lives. Let me share with you the story I told from the Philippines.
It is a pitch black night in November 2014. Marites ran across the muddy paddy field of Can-Avid, Eastern Samar towards her Aunt Betty’s hut. She ran three kilometres straight without stopping until she saw the roof of her house.
She is dashing to safety to tell her aunt how she had been sexually abused. The following day, Marites and her aunt Betty went straight to the local government Social Welfare Officer to report the incidence of abuse from her own father.
Marites’ story is not rare for a farming community such as Can-avid. One in four children are abused in the Philippines. The lack of reliable reporting and responding mechanism aggravates the situation.
Having worked in Eastern Samar in the last three years, PCMN has worked painstakingly on strengthening the mechanism for reporting abuse committed against a child.
A social worker conducted a case management report and in agreement with government authorities, committed the child in the care of a network member, Pastor Merlyn Medalla. Together with 37 other pastors and church members, she had trained and got a license from the Department of Social Welfare and Development to take children to her home to protect them.
Marites now studies in High School and has got good grades. She is one of 150 abused children being monitored by both PCMN and the government social worker.