Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Compassion Philippines Trip 2013 Part 3 (Day 2)

Day 2 (Monday April 8): PH961, Word of Hope Church, Cogtong Candijay, Bohol
After the awkwardness of Day 1, struggling to relate to and connect with mums and bubs, I was in my element today. We were visiting a Child Development Sponsorship Program (CDSP), which are school-aged kids. The Project we visited today, PH961, is relatively new. It started in 2006, and the oldest kids are around 12-13 years old. We learned that the area has a low crime rate, and is not really affected by natural disasters.

We learned that the three people in charge of this church and Project have high influence in the community. One is a Dean of a local University, and another is in local government. The kids at this Project were on vacation at this time, but they put on a special day to accommodate our visit. We learned that we were the first group of sponsors to visit the Project. They also had 30 children recently registered, but not sponsored. We would get the opportunity to meet, play with and hopefully find these kids a sponsor.

We also learned that this Project has a special Australian connection. Last year PH961 was visited by an Australian sponsor and her friend, who was not a sponsor. The friend was so moved by what she experienced, when she got back to Australia she arranged a substantial four-figure monetary gift for the Project, which they used to build more classrooms.

Once again we were welcomed by a sea of smiling, friendly faces wearing yellow shirts. There was a song and a couple of testimonies. We performed our songs.

After this we split into three groups to tour the Project and see the classrooms. The kids were busy drawing and writing letters to their sponsors. I took the Australian football around and tried to engage. I pulled out my usual engagement tools: thumb wrestling, paper/scissors/rock, finger trick. Many of the kids were very shy because of the language barrier. The group I was with just before lunch were a bit more open, so I taught them a couple more songs.

Lunch was a fine spread; a feast of local seafood among other things. We were definitely left satisfied. After lunch the Project Director shared with us details of the way Compassion works and what’s required of them. We saw financial records and children’s files, which included health and medical records, school grades, details of letters and gifts received from sponsors. I switched off at this point because I’d seen it all before on my previous travels. I need no convincing of Compassion’s integrity.

After lunch we had free time with the kids. My Australian football (red and egg-shaped) was a huge success, particularly with the 3-5 year olds, whose throwing and catching skills astounded me. At one stage I had to share the footy between three groups – older boys who were competing for it, 3-5 year olds who simply wanted to throw and catch, and a bunch of girls off to the side. Other team members engaged the kids with things they brought, such as bubbles, beach balls, parachutes and chalk.

Once again we ventured out on a home visit. We met a family with mum, dad and four kids. The sponsored child of the family was Jessa Mae, who is 12 or 13ish and dreams of being a nurse. The parents are very proud of their kids, and their medals of achievement are prominently displayed in the family home – a bamboo hut with separate rooms and an ordinary roof. The area is susceptible to flooding, so they have a room built in that is slightly higher than the others. There have been occasions where they had to move all the family’s possessions into this higher room. What I love is that the Compassion-assisted kids actually have dreams, and realistically believe they can achieve them with God’s help.

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