Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

With the support of our Project Humanity partners, ChildFund Australia is contributing to the relief effort in the Philippines, following the flash flooding and resulting devastation caused by Typhoon Washi.

Tragically, the storm has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, many are still missing, and over 40,000 children and families have fled their homes to wait in evacuation centres. Currently there are no reports of casualties from ChildFund-assisted communities, but many families have lost their belongings and their homes have been severely damaged.

The government of the Philippines is providing support through its military personnel, and ChildFund is providing emergency relief to 2,000 children and families in Cagayan de Oro, one of the worst-hit areas. This includes the distribution of bottled water, food items, hygiene kits and medical supplies.

Child-centred spaces have also been established by ChildFund in the evacuation centres, recognising that children in emergencies need a safe space in which to play and re-establish a sense of normalcy. John, a 13-year-old staying at a shelter, says: “It was so frightening. First, the water was at knee level. It then rose very quickly to my waist and then neck level. I almost drowned. Good that my father was able to get hold of me.”

Mark Anthony Dasco, ChildFund Philippines acting country director, says: “Child-centered spaces provide psychosocial support for children who have been affected by emergencies. They also provide a safe, physical space for children to gather in an unstable environment.” At the spaces, ChildFund is also able to monitor the health and wellbeing of children, and provide additional health support where necessary.

Over the longer term, ChildFund will work in partnership with communities to restore their livelihoods, particularly families dependent on agricultural and fishing activities which have been severely impacted by the flooding.

The Petrucco family are currently undertaking their Coast to Coast walk across India in support of ChildFund. So far the family has raised more than $50,000 for ChildFund projects in India. This blog is from Day 10 of their journey, when they arrived at Mysore.

Today started as all days with a visit from the monkeys and being chaperoned down to breakfast by the monkey herder with his slingshot. My daughter India received a visit from the Indian Tooth Fairy last night, having lost a tooth, and found a rupee under her pillow this morning.

As we sat and enjoyed our breakfast we had the outside restaurant to ourselves and Gus enjoyed riding his scooter up and down the path alongside our table spotting monkeys in the distance and entertaining the waiters. As a team we took some time to review the first leg of our journey and had a discussion about what has been working well, what hasn’t been working so well and ideas for the next leg. It was a fruitful discussion filled with many positive observations and some good ideas for the next leg.

Gus brought along his scooter and put on a show for the kids. We learnt how ChildFund, in conjunction with the local project office, work with the community to identify areas where government programs are not available and there is a gap in the provision of care for children. These centres allow parents to leave their children six days a week whilst they go to work (mostly as labourers) and the children are taught, receive nutritious meals and monthly medical checks. As always it was beautiful watching our kids interact so naturally with the Indian kids, they all had a great time together.

After the visits we had a quick 30 minutes back at the hotel before heading out to the St Teresa’s grounds and the project office. A presentation had been planned for us to be able to meet with the children who were going to be the recipients of many of the items we had been fundraising for.

Upon arrival we were greeted by many of the staff from the project office and the ChildFund India national office, including Antony and Prem. There was another journalist from the Indian Times wanting an interview and several photographers also present. We just can’t believe the level of attention our walk is getting from the Indian press. We are very pleased to be able to use our walk to raise the awareness to the wonderful work of ChildFund India and the many current needs of vulnerable children.

After the bikes, we presented new school bags and school kits to orphaned children. There must have been over 100 amazing kids who were called up to receive their brand new satchel from either Maggie or Gus. The children must have ranged in age from 3-4 year olds up to teenagers. One at a time they came up with the most beautiful and grateful look in their eyes. I just took the moment to kneel down and look into the eyes of each one of these incredible kids. I looked over to see Bec having a quiet tear to herself back at the chairs and decided to join her in what would have to be one of the most special moments of our lives.

Maggie then handed the microphone to Gus who was waiting for this moment. On stage, 500 people in the palm of his hand, and he was off. He talked about goats, he talked about helping kids, he talked about our driver Raju, he talked about all sorts of stuff. One hand on his hip, the other on the microphone. He had to get the wind up from India and Mags or he would probably still be talking now. Bec decided not to talk today and was happy to leave it to the rest of us to convey just how thankful we were for the experience we were sharing together today.

After our presentation the Bishop of Mysore gave a very heartfelt talk, including his thanks and appreciation for the commitment being made to the children of Mysore. After the Bishop it was time for another play from the children and then another highlight of the day, dancing from Veenai and his team. Wow, what a performance, he was spectacular – look out Bollywood.

The day was drawing to a close and after a few final words of thanks the presentation was over and we all adjourned to the school grounds for tea. As we were having tea all of the children were walking around with their new bikes or school kits, it was just amazing.