The people we reach

We work in the city of Davao, in the southern Philippines, on the island of Mindanao.  The part of Davao that we work in is called Agdao.  Agdao is home to more than 50,000 people. It is a very poor, primarily squatter area.

Davao City is a beautiful place, located between the Philippines' largest mountain and the calm waters of the Gulf of Davao. In the community we are reaching, however, these gifts are overshadowed by the despair and hopelessness bred by generations of poverty and soaring unemployment levels. In the squatter communities of the Philippines, the people do not own the land, and its owner may give the order to demolish the dense clusters of small one to three-story houses made of scraps that have been built. The government has some safeguards in place to help these people, and attempts to relocate them to semi-rural areas at the edges of the city, though oftentimes the people will sell these new houses and move back into another squatter area, because it is the life they know. When fires break out, they spread easily from house to house and destroy entire communities in hours.

These communities have many problems; some are more obvious than others, but all contribute to an unfair and destructive environment for children to grow up in. These include:
  • Undernourishment, which does affect a child's development, as well as school performance and resistance to disease. In the worst cases, children do starve to death, but much more common in Davao is the problem of people only having small amounts of rice to eat, without enough vegetables, meat and other nutritious foods to provide the vitamins and minerals the body needs.
  • Joblessness and the resultant idleness that not only takes away the hope to earn for the family, but also leads one to become accustomed to not even trying. This hopelessness paralyzes parents who see no way to meet their family's needs, encourages destructive habits, and gives children the sense that if their parents aren't doing anything, why should they study in school and try to be any different? This is only cemented when they try and fail, due to a system that is often unfair.
  • Gambling, borrowing money, and expensive vices that destroy what little income is available. Lending is often done at a high interest rate, and they will visit to collect a small portion of it every day. Some forms of gambling are illegal, and some are not, but all are dangerous investments with little or no return.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse. These lead to other crime, especially violent crime, and take away what chance one has to find and hold a job. Many fathers in squatter areas drink because they are depressed that they cannot provide for their wives and children, and when they are drunk, become angry and abusive.
  • Disease, and a lack of available health care to combat it. Tuberculosis is rampant in Agdao, and Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever is also common, along with a host of other serious illnesses, and even though hospitals charge only a fraction¬† of what they would in the west, the entire family will often become entrenched in debt to help a loved one. Children suffer from many skin infections, boils, fevers, and other problems simply because they live in unsanitary conditions and lack proper hygiene, such as soap to wash with. In some cases help is provided by the government, but the people have no awareness of it or how they can get the help they need.
  • Broken relationships, often resulting from things such as marital infidelity, cause tremendous pain, especially to the children. In some cases men will take their wife's paycheck and spend it on a mistress, and the wife will stay with him in an attempt to protect the children. Divorce doesn't exist under Philippine law, and annulments are hard to get, so many are living with other people's spouses and attempting to raise a family with guilt hanging over them. Many others don't get married legally, and teen pregnancy is also extremely common. Typical family sizes are larger than in the west, despite the difficulty in providing for the needs of the children. As a result of all of these things, many children lack a nurturing family environment, and often have no role model at all to learn from, and desperately seek attention.
  • Education is often unattainable, even at the elementary level, because while public schools have no enrollment fees, the family must be able to pay for the children's uniforms, transportation, meals, and school supplies. At the High School level, many projects are required to be researched on the internet, typed up, and submitted on a disk or printed out. Usually the only computers available are at internet cafes, which are noisy, expensive, and full of distractions from video games and social networking. College has these problems in addition the the cost of enrollment.
We exist to bring the Hope of Christ to these communities, both on a physical level and spiritually as well. Often by meeting a need a person is aware of, we gain the trust to speak to them about the need for a relationship with God. Indeed, though much of our programs revolve around children, we often see their mothers and the rest of their families coming to the Lord in the process, and this is no accident. Much of our staff is composed of members of the community who have found the hope they needed in God, and labor with us to bring it to others.