Dearest parents and friends,
When we received the call from DSWD to facilitate their National Children’s Congress in the midst of our Halloween rush, we knew that we had to say yes. While we were already stretched quite thinly given the number of Halloween partners we were serving this year (a happy problem as one would say), we knew that accepting this collaboration with DSWD would be a step towards work we had always wanted to do, and work that was absolutely essential for us to do.
You see, dearest friends, we cannot fully claim to be a group that makes all sorts of wondrous magic with children and families if we are not able to share this magic with children from all walks of life, and if we are not able to fight for those whose circumstances in life make it difficult for them to dream, to play, to laugh, and to just create. If we were not able to reach them, then we would not be truly living out the purpose of our organization.
The National Children’s Congress held last October 22-26 was a gathering of the top 3 exemplary children from each region under the DSWD PantawidPamilyang Pilipino Program (4 Ps). The 4Ps gives cash incentives to families from the poorest of the poor for continuing to send their children to school and get them the healthcare they need, despite their circumstances. These 50+ children then gathered together to share their challenges, their insights, and through creative means, stand of for their rights and advocate for the support they need.
The Congress was one that was full of stories and expressions of innocence and pain that brought us to tears. On day one, during the drawing out of expectations for the program, one participant shared that what she wanted was “maranasan muli ang pagiging bata.” (to experience what it is like to be a child again). We heard stories of how participants were bullied and ostracized by classmates in school because they were under this program and thus known to be extremely poor. We met children whose homes were destroyed by typhoon Yolanda, and those who were told that they would never go anywhere because of their lot in life.
Knowing where they came from and everything that they had been through allowed us to see the incredible journey that they took within this Congress. From declarations of “I am worthy,” to them saying “Kahit wasak ang aming bahay, di wasak ang aming pamilya” (“Even if our home was destroyed, our family remains intact.”) to a bold declaration “poverty will not be a hindrance to success” to a young girl perpetually called “basura (trash)” by her neighbors and extended family standing up in front of the crowd and singing with immense soul and power, we saw a different kind of magic. A magic that persists in the face of the direst and cruelest of circumstances. A magic that will not be put out by hardship and strife. A magic of the purest kind, the kind that could only exist in the heart of a child that has seen the worst, but refuses to give up.
We aimed to be of service to these children but they ended up changing us. And we pray continually for their future, that they persevere in the 4 Ps program, and that they never lose their magic. And we pray to do more of this work, work that is sorely needed, for children that need them the most.
Make Believe embraces its new direction to seek out and be involved in similar projects in the months to come. Interested in helping out or wish to collaborate with us on a project of your own? Please contact Teacher Nini at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s to a blessed November, everyone.