On October 2nd and 3rd we visited the Childrens Village.
We left Mactan on Friday around 10a.m. with Lets Share TV. We boarded the boat with 2 Americans, 1 lady from Holland, a young male missionary from Spain, a half malaysian-filipino and a Belgium music producer. Eric, part owner of Lets Share had sent out a message to anyone who wanted to join the trip to Leyte and I was lucky enough to receive it. His mission is to help others who want to help others. By building a network of people,they help charitable organizations be known and receive assistance from others.
The boat set sail for Southern Leyte, where we docked at a little fishing village near Padre Burgos. It took about 4 hours on the bright yellow Lets Share bangka. We were all happy to leave the mugginess of Mactan and have the wind flying through our hair and head out into the vastness of the ocean.
We arrived on the most peaceful fishing village, where palm trees lined the entire beach strip and all you could see was a tiny wisp of smoke from a near by campfire. Well… in the Philippines it’s just a pile of burning garbage, but anyway. Tired from the journey and the excitement from the night before, we ate and went straight to bed to prepare for the next morning.
The next morning we woke up feeling refreshed and as we sat finishing our breakfast, the children showed up at the entrance of the resort. 16 children from the village arrived at 10a.m. to join us on the Lets Share bangka for a day of swimming at Limasawa Island. ( Limasawa actually translates to Five Wives, though I am not sure exactly why.) The little faces stared at us in wonder and their little heads bobbed up and down with their bright eyes scanning each and every one of us. They were all wearing yellow Lets Share t-shirts given to them from the last visit and they held on to each others hands waiting in anticipation. There was one House Mother, Brinda and a House Father, Angel that joined us on the 20 minute bangka trip to Limasawa.
The sun came out and smiled upon us. Perfect timing! The kids wasted no time and the ones who could swim jumped straight into the warm, green water. We gave out snorkels and masks and used the boat as a jungle gym, laughing and playing in the water. We taught one little girl how to swim encouraged the timid ones to paddle around beside the boat. We swam for 3 hours only to pause for lunch which was brought out on to the boat.
They were so eager to get back in the water, trying to pull me back in but I was eager to bring out the paint. I only had 4 paintbrushes, so we decided that we would finger paint. Oh how talented these little ones were. They were so full of excitement and happiness, dipping their little fingers into the colours and mixing all of them together. I taught them primary and secondary colours and they happily created flowers, boats, blobs and whatever their little minds could think of. I asked them all to sign their name and show the camera their artwork. Even the house mother and the girlfriend of Eric, painted. And when we were finished, they all helped clean up and place their paintings in a neat row so they could dry. They even took the brushes and rinsed off all the paint and cleaned up all the spilled paint!
The day ended sooner than we wanted, but they didn’t complain as they changed back into dry clothing. We were all exhausted but happy. It was time to go, but we waved good-bye and promised them we would be back with them tomorrow.
At noon the next day we got picked up by Jeurgen Schneidt. He is the founder and the president of KinderHilfe Philippines, Childrens Village and is basically a saint. He has devoted over 25 years of his time to helping hundreds of children receive love, care, shelter, education and medical attention. With very little sponsorship and donations, he has still managed to create a village with 10 homes that could house 14-16 children, all with House Mothers there 24/7. His wife left him to return back to Germany and so he does this all on his own, with his own pension. His main 3 projects are the Childrens Village, the medical attention where he has managed to actually receive help from doctors in Cebu who operate on his children for FREE! His other projects include building hospitals, schools and day care centres here in Leyte, of course funded entirely on his own.
We were picked up and driven to the children, where we played games at their beach (which is really nothing but rocks and coral – not deep enough to swim). Afterwards we got the chance to visit their homes, and is it ever beautiful. The love, and the care the children get really is incredible and the homes are really very beautiful. If I had been placed in a foster home, I would have loved this one. I spoke to the House Father the previous day and he had told me that the children do have families, however they are temporarily placed in this institution after they have been assessed. If the child’s family can not provide for the child financially, physically or spiritually, they are brought to the village until they are graduated high school. Around that time they are released back to their families. However many come back in the summer to help the village or receive sponsorship for college. If they have no place to return to, then of course they can stay in the village.
The people who work here are amazing. They work non-stop 24/7. I received the chance to meet the newest member of the village, a one month year old baby boy. One little girl brought me into the house to meet him and I spent time with one of the House Mothers, where she told me life is hard and it’s a lot of work, but she says it is definitely worth it. Jeurgen says it’s quite difficult sometimes though because on several occasions he has had to let staff and house mothers go because they were caught stealing donation money. Jeurgen said the money is hard to come by, but when you see the wall of achievements, it’s incredible that he could do so much just out of his own pocket. He has sacrificed so much for these little kids, but he is so happy to do it. It’s amazing.
And when you see the kids… the moment we stepped out of the car they came running and smiling and laughing. They waited patiently as Jeurgen showed us around and once we were done with the adults, the kids from the previous day pulled us into the grass and jumped on us begging us to play. So we did. They were so curious, asking us what our favourite songs were, our favourite games.. anything they could think of. We jumped around, spun around, danced, sang.. I taught them ‘I feel Good’ by James Brown and they told me stories, how long they have been there, what they do, who visited them… and how very few people come to see them. Some days they feel trapped, but most days they are so happy knowing they are being cared for and that they are loved and they can look forward to the day when Eric brings people to visit and play with them.
At 7pm the kids get ready to go to bed as they have school very early the next day… so sadly, we had to say good-bye. They asked, when are we coming back? And I had to be honest and say, I don’t know… but I will not forget you. I gave whatever I had on me to the girls. My sandals, my hair elastic… my love. They told me they would miss me. They would miss us… and a few held our hands and cried as we walked to the car. Oh, how my heart hurt. I can see the sadness in their eyes and on their face… how much they want to leave with us, but they can’t.
I wondered if they felt anything like I did when I was a kid. If they feel abandoned and if they truly understand what their parents are trying to do for them. I hope when they are older they can, but the best part about the Childrens Village, is really just the amount of love and support they have from each other. In a community where everyone is experiencing the same thing, it’s so wonderful they can be together to help each other through it.
I’ll be going back again, for sure. This time with more remembrances for everyone. The kids call items you give them remembrances. Jeurgen is also getting old and he fights the corruption here in the Philippines, but one day, he says, he knows he will be gone and what will happen then? None of the money will go to really helping the children.. but anyway he says, until that day he will continue on strongly supporting these children on his own.
If you ever want to go see him and his kids, they would love it. They will open your heart, break it in half and glue it back together stronger. That’s what those kids do… If you want to support, please make a donation. He is someone I admire, and who I will try to support as much as possible.
You may also contact me or Eric from Lets Share TV if there is anything you would like to do to help.
Kinderhilfe Philippens, Childrens Village
Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte