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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Pandemic forces more Philippine families into poverty


Presbyterian Mission Agency partner feeds children’s bodies and spirits

December 26, 2021

The Children’s Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines purchased a tricycle to deliver supplies to children door to door. (Photo courtesy of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center)

As in many other places in the world, the global pandemic has pushed millions of Filipinos and their children further into poverty. But a global partner of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), has responded in creative ways not only to feed the children’s bodies but to deal with their psychosocial needs as well.

As part of the partnership with the UCCP, PC(USA) mission co-worker Juan Lopez has been working with an organization that defends children’s rights. Lopez facilitates trainings for staff and volunteers of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC). During the pandemic, the CRC continued its outreach to children with the Bulilit Pantry.

Lopez talked with Kim Vinzar Samania, who serves as deputy director and social worker for CRC. He said the UCCP is an important partner in protecting children. In a recent chat with Lopez, he said, “The UCCP churches have been longtime CRC partners in defending children’s rights. Different activities include hosting discussions or seminars about children’s rights, how to help communities, and how the Church can respond to the psychosocial needs of the children in the community.”

Samania said the first community food pantry was in Maginhawa, which started a movement. CRC’s “Children of the Storm” team already had the idea of making the community pantry inclusive of children but took it further. “What if we could put a Bulilit (“undersized”) pantry so the community could also help the children?”

The team decided to create a small pantry to give books, toys and coloring books to children.

The Children of the Storm task force is a consortium of five different child-focused organizations: Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC)’s Salinlahi (“generation”), Alliance for Children’s Concerns, Association for the Rights of the Children Southeast Asia, Batibot Early Learning Center, and Parents Alternative on Early Childhood Care and Development Inc. The consortium was formed in response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Ondoy. It has been responding since then to typhoons, floods and other calamities in the Philippines, providing relief efforts for children.

Getting supplies to the children presents challenges. Children are not allowed to line up at the pantry because of health protocols, so parents come on behalf of their children. The organization also purchased a large tricycle for door-to-door deliveries.

The Anti-Terrorism Act, enacted on July 3, 2020, by President Rodrigo Duterte, has complicated the ability of many organizations to provide aid to the people of the Philippines because it allows the government to broadly define terrorism to include anyone who speaks against the government.

“The pantry initiative inspired people from all across the country, despite the pushback from the authorities,” said Lopez. “Most of the neighborhoods had a temporary pantry to answer to the need of the most vulnerable. Most of them had quotes from the Bible to show that it was about compassion and care, and no law could stop that.”

Even before the food pantry began operation, CRC and its partners were vocal about their opposition to the law’s vague definition of terrorism.

“The CRC has been a victim of public vilification, red-tagging perpetrated by the state,” said Samania. “During the pandemic, the CRC had to delay their distribution of goods because of the threats and difficulty to travel due to the pandemic restrictions. At the beginning of the pantry movement, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict already released statements tagging the organizers of the community pantry in Maginhawa as terrorists and communist pawns. They said that those pantries were led by the Communist Party, because they were too well organized to be coming only from regular citizens.”

He said many community organizers have stopped providing help because of the threats.

“This pandemic impacts the body, mind, cognitive skills, education, development and mental health of the children,” he said. “The economic situation caused some families to engage in dangerous activities that threaten the welfare and rights of the children.”

Samania says there has been an increase in gender-based and domestic violence, as well as an exponential increase in sexual exploitation of the children. The structure was not in place for online learning, and many did not have access to computers.

Kathy Melvin, Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, December 26, 2021, the First Sunday after Christmas (Year C)

First Reading 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
Psalm 148
Second Reading Colossians 3:12-17
Gospel Luke 2:41-52

Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Mission Agency partner responds in creative ways to feed children’s bodies and spirits

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Kristen Gaydos, Communications Director, Presbyterian Historical Society
Michael Gehrling, Associate, Northeast Region & Assessments, 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

God, you connect us to you and to each other in so many ways. Help us to inspire as we are inspired, to challenge as we are challenged to nurture as we have been nurtured, and to live in order to make Christ known to all the world. Amen.