On Tuesday we headed to the first child development center.
The bus driver was uh-may-zing. We drove for what seemed like 2 hours and most of that on this narrow two way street that seemed like a main road but was narrower than a residential street in the US. We were inches away from vendors, the oncoming traffic, tricycle taxis, etc… but we never hit a thing! It took some time for us to get used to this way of driving. =)
Being greeted by the children when we arrived at the center was a surreal experience. They formed a tunnel and each had a leigh to put around our necks.
We sang praise together and they performed a couple of dances. I almost lost it during the praise time but I told myself that it’s only the first day, hold it together! One LDP student gave us his testimony.
The kids were fun and outgoing. They all had big smiles on their faces… at least all the Compassion children did. There was a boy, I still remember, who looked either sad or like he had a chip on his shoulder. He wasn’t a Compassion child (he wasn’t wearing that blue t-shirt in the photo.) Maybe he was wishing that he was a sponsor child too? I don’t know…
This is one of the classrooms that was upstairs:
The room was also the dining area and that’s where the mothers were preparing the food for our lunch. We ate lunch together with the children. I felt really bad because we got at least three other dishes along with our soup and rice but the children got only soup and rice. I thought about offering them some of the food off my plate but that seemed like an awkward thing to do. They were probably just wanting to do they best to serve us since we were guests from oversees. They treated us like celebrities… wanting to take photos with us, giving us special food, giving us a tour of the building, and all the children were vying for our attention.
After lunch, we separated into smaller groups of four and visited some of the children’s houses. My group visited Abegail’s house. The home we visited was so tiny! It was no bigger than our bedroom and probably the size of a kind size bed. Six members lived there. Four kids, two parents. The kids slept on this wooden “bed” (looked like a futon frame) and the parents slept on the concrete floor. In the back yard, there was an outdoor kitchen (basically one coal-burning fire pit like device to cook over). The bathroom was also in the back yard. There was a small closet-like room that with a tarp door and I assumed that was where the toilet was.
We asked the mother about the sponsor and she showed us the letters. They were great letters! Very encouraging. Towards the end of the visit, the father came home from work and we all prayed together. When we were done praying, the father had tears in his eyes.
I think it’d be one thing to experience poverty myself but I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have enough to feed my kids or send them to school. How would I feel as a father or mother who couldn’t provide for his or her kids? Would I feel a sense of shame mixed with thankfulness when meeting “sponsors” who do for my child what I cannot do? I tried to imagine what the father must have been thinking to cry like that in front of us.
Back at the center, I met these two girls who were 15. Melinda and her best friend. They both were planning to go to college. One of them wanted to be an accountant, the other a chemistry teacher. They taught me the word for beautiful in Tagalog (ta-GA-log). Ma-gan-da. We kept saying the word over and over again and laughing. They also tried to make each other sing for me. They kept saying “sam po! sam po!” One of the girls explained later on that it was from “example.” Cute huh?
When it was time to say good-bye, the children followed us to the bus and kept waving until we left. Here’s a picture of them from the bus.