Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Let the wild rumpus begin!"

Dear friends and family,

It's universal - children love to play. Whether they are studying in a classroom or scavenging through a garbage dump, at the end of the day children need an outlet for their "wilder" side. Our Night Life program serves the most at-risk street children. These are runaways or abandoned kids living on the streets. This month God has really revitalized our Night Life program and given us new energy to reach out to them. Thanks to the efforts of the program's coordinator Lorna Carro (and the help of intern social worker Jizza Magallanes and advisor Gela Basiwa) we are conducting visitations, assessments, and referrals to help move these children off the streets and reintegrate them with their families and communities. Three days a week we provide food, hygiene services, and fun activities through Night Life. We share the love of Christ and seek to restore broken families, all the while recognizing that these children still need to play and have fun. We're also thankful for a new partnership with BreadTalk - a high-end bakery chain providing us with free bread and pastries for our clients.

"Let the wild rumpus begin!"

Night Life clients expressing their silly side
One of three areas where we conduct Night Life is a large waste pile by a railroad. These kids search through the garbage for plastics, bottles, cans, metals, and even food.
Providing a healthy meal for the children

Besides coordinating the Night Life program, Ate Lorna gives of her time and care for these children well beyond her duties at IT Tender. Recently she encountered a young boy wandering the streets alone with bruises, scrapes, and dried blood on his clothes. She asked him where he lived and what had happened to him, but they struggled to communicate since he is both deaf and mute. Eventually she came to discover that this boy has no family, he cannot read or write or even sign, and he seems unsure of or unable to communicate his name or age. Through drawings and gestures he explained that some other kids beat him up, knocking out some of his teeth and leaving him bruised and bloodied on the street. Many people have passed by Raymond (the name Ate Lorna has given him) and ignored him like most other street children that beg for food and money. Like a modern day "good Samaritan", Ate Lorna brought Raymond to the local government's Social Development Center. They told her to come back in a month since their facilities are too overwhelmed to accommodate him now. However, they agreed to let Ate Lorna take Raymond into her own home in the meantime and to personally take care of him until they can refer him to the appropriate services for deaf and mute children.

Raymond and Ate Lorna at IT Tender
Raymond has become a part of the family at IT Tender, sharing meals with our team and taking part in our Night Life program. He cannot speak, but last week I heard his voice for the first time. It was the most joyful laughter that I heard while he was playing a game with some of our workers at the center.
We were also blessed to have many recent visitors. This includes Filipina sisters Eva Taylor and Josephine Dela Cruz and a team of Americans and Canadians from our partners at Extreme Response. These friends of IT Tender stepped out of their comfort zone to care for the children in our programs. They visited the very communities that we are reaching out to and participated in our center-based programs for daycare and Night Life.

I explain our ministries at IT Tender and prep the Extreme Response (ER) team for a community visitation.
Carol McCann from ER boldly leads the way through a maze of shanties where our clients live.
Eric Longoria (left, in white) and Tony Tice (right, in red) bond with the community over a pick-up game of basketball. Whether in sandals or bare feet, these Filipinos gave the Americans some good competition.
The ER team assists at a center-based Night Life event. We enjoyed songs, games, and food with the kids.
Besides our generous visitors, we also want to thank the donors of our Sponsor-A-Child program. Because of their support we provided new school supplies, backpacks, and uniforms for each sponsor child. These students were delighted to go shopping and choose the supplies they wanted within an allotted budget. We currently have 30 children in our Sponsor-A-Child program. This program is an opportunity for poor families to send their children to school and also to benefit from regular medical support and developmental programs for the whole family (including family and kids camps, counselling, and bible studies). Please contact me if you are interested in sponsoring a child and investing in their community for just $20 a month.

Agatha, in grade 3, lives with her mother since her parents separated and she wants to be a teacher someday.
Jericho, also in grade 3, works hard in school and thanks his donor for supporting him ever since his father lost his job.
We are also so proud of our ALS graduates who passed their high school equivalency exam last year. Five of our ALS students were honoured at a graduation ceremony on July 19th for all ALS passers in this district of Manila. Our own graduate Manilyn was even asked to give a speech. She was honoured to share God's faithfulness in her life and she thanked IT Tender for helping her complete her studies and find work. After she passed the exam, our ALS coordinator Gabby Malquisto connected with the local government who offered a free scholarship for a welding course for Manilyn. Since welders are in demand internationally, Manilyn was able to finish the course in just a few months and will soon be applying for well-paying jobs in Canada. This is a dream come true for Manilyn.

Manilyn shares her testimony with hundreds of ALS graduates.
Three of our five graduates from IT Tender arrive early for the ceremony in eager anticipation.
Just last week we also celebrated the birthday of our youngest volunteer at IT Tender. For her 14th birthday, Bianca blessed the street kids by inviting them to a party at our drop-in center. Bianca was an assistant teacher at our daycare's summer school. I am inspired by the compassion this young Filipina has for her fellow Filipinos in poverty. She recognizes how privileged she is to have a home and an education. While she could have spent her summer holidays at home and her birthday with family and friends, just as I did at her age, she chose to share her time and blessings with the street kids in our community.

Opening the event in prayer
Bianca mingles with students from daycare and Sponsor-A-Child
She also provides a delicious chicken and spaghetti meal from Jollibee

And finally, thanks to all of you for following along with my work and my adventures. I appreciate all of your prayers and support for us here in Manila, especially at this time of transition as I've taken on more leadership at IT Tender.

Take care and God bless!

John Coffey
Director of IT Tender

Caring for street children ~ Isaiah 58:10

Despite the new tasks of a team leader, I always want to make time to serve our children directly.
I'm also thankful for the wonderful support of Jam who volunteers weekly in our daycare.

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