One day is not a very long time to get to know a new place. But one day amongst a community in the Philippines involved with Baptist World Aid Australia’s SAO Child Sponsorship program showed me just how transformational this program is.
Not so long ago there were many dangers and hurdles facing children in their village. Some missed out on parts of school because their parents couldn’t afford the cost of excursions and extra activities, or because they were needed to work. Many had poor health, due to a lack of variety in their diets and limited healthcare facilities and knowledge. And many children were shy and had little confidence that they could make any difference in their own lives and in the lives of their families.
On the day I met them, I found a very different community. I found a group of people who care for one another and work together to improve their children’s lives. They were dedicated to building a safer environment for their children, where they could have opportunities their parents never even dreamed of.
SAO Philippines, Baptist World Aid Australia’s Christian partner, has worked closely with the community for several years. As part of the project, a Community Based Organisation (CBO) made up of members of the community, was formed to implement many of the initiatives of the project. This means that the work is really being done by the community itself and they are being equipped to take responsibility for their own development.
One of the most influential programs has been a series of workshops for families to help them improve the way they communicate and interact with one another. This involves effective parenting workshops, helping parents and children to understand their responsibilities; marriage enrichment courses, helping parents learn how to communicate and solve conflicts better; and money management courses to help parents deal with pressures on the family budget.
I met one girl whose family life had been transformed by this program. For many years Roselyn’s* father had an alcohol problem, which had many negative effects on his wife and two children. After attending the family workshops, he was able to see the impact of his alcoholism and he resolved to give up drinking and work on fulfilling his responsibilities as a father and a husband. This has completely changed Roselyn’s home life and she told me that her family is closer and much happier.
Many other programs have also made a difference to the lives of families in this community including training in establishing small projects for extra income and turning a rubbish dump into a communal vegetable garden. Programs for children have helped them build their teamwork skills and understand good nutrition and healthcare. When I arrived, I expected to hear all about the economic impact of the program—helping families to improve their incomes—and these outcomes were certainly there. But I was really surprised and encouraged to hear that the most significant impact for them was much more holistic—building an environment that nurtured their children in every aspect of their lives. A few months ago they even won an award for being the most childfriendly community in the region.
From my experience, this community doesn’t need a prize to tell them that they have created a better environment for their children. It is written on their children’s faces and in their words when they tell me that they are glad that SAO Child Sponsorship has come to their community, that they feel safe and happier, and they have great plans for the future that they know are achievable.