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Supplemental Feeding Project

Born out of a Dream

by Rev. Leng P. Lubang

Have you ever experienced dreaming in series?  I did have for several years beginning at the time I was in the seminary at Silliman University Divinity School.  It’s a dream of children crying out for help, one was in an ocean setting with scenes of children drowning asking for help while I was helplessly standing in a hut.  Another was a toddler whom I saved, bathed and embraced.  At another occasion I saw a child from my bedroom window transforming into a young lady.  Children in my dreams…

When I first set foot at Sabang in August of 2004 I was in a dilemma of deciding to go fulltime in the pastoral ministry or just half time because there was a call for me to work in the UCCP National Office.  Prior to my return and while I was still in the US, there had been some exchanges of communication between me and the UCCP National Office inviting me to join the staff there.  Meanwhile I knew that SCCD was waiting for my arrival to be their pastor.  During my first week, I was confused on what course of action to take until on the 6th day, together with two Elders we went to visit Simborio, a rural poor community where the church used to hold Bible studies but ceased for some reasons.  Walking in the mud of the rice fields then reaching this community of about fifty families abounding with small children walking barefooted wearing rugged clothes, my heart cried out on such sub-human condition.

I was holding back the tears within me in pity of the people especially when I heard one old woman, a grandmother relating how she lost three of her grandchildren in an epidemic the past year.  They described vividly to me the “plague of death” that passed over their place killing a number of children mostly pre-schoolers.  That day I made a strong resolve to go fulltime in Sabang and give up the call of the National Office.  Little did I know that it is in this community that my dream series of children crying out for help and me reaching out to them helplessly would transform tangibly, in flesh and blood.  It took, however, another two years before a concrete project could be launched to “rescue” the children from the claws of death in malnutrition.

In August of 2005 after preaching one Sunday on the prevalence of malnutrition in the country and challenging the parishioners to do some concrete steps in addressing this problem, a worshiper came up to me and expressed her interest in developing mission program for children.  She introduced herself to me as a Social Worker in-charge of the DSWD (Dept. of Social Welfare and Development) National Program on Supplemental Feeding.  That encounter with Ms. Miriam Gerero (now the president of the women’s organization in church) led to this currently supervised Supplemental Feeding Tie-Up Project.  It is a “tie-up” project in that it is a partnership among DSWD, the Kabisig ng Kalahi (a non-government funding agency), Mead Johnson Nutritionals and the SCCD as project proponent.

The program content and technicalities of implementation is drafted by the DSWD, funding for the daily hot meal which covers a period of six months is provided by Kabisig ng Kalahi amounting to P50,000.00 and the Mead Johnson Nutritionals gave a six-month supply of milk for the 30 children enrolled in the feeding program having each of them drink a glass of milk daily.  Kabisig ng Kalahi sources out the funds by soliciting from companies or generous individuals.  In the case of SCCD Feeding Project, it was sponsored by Training for Excellence Philippines, a private company.

The program, which finally took off in November 2006, is not only feeding the 30 malnourished pre-school children but equipping as well the parents of the children especially the mothers on nutrition and health education, family planning and most importantly livelihood.  They are also taught proper food preparation as they cook the meals of the children and organizational skills having been organized as a Mothers’ Class.  Through the LGU (Local Government Unit) Social Worker, parent education is provided as well as tapping of resource persons for livelihood skills.  The church on its part conducts weekly Adult Bible Studies in the community with the parents as the core participants and Outreach Bible Classes for children alongside it.

Monitoring of children’s weight is done monthly with reports submitted to the DSWD every two months.  As of this writing, at least more than 50% of the children have gained in weight reaching the desirable normal weight.  Some are still underweight and others fluctuate with weight rising and falling due to several factors.  Such is expected considering the depressed living condition of the families.  Simborio, as the place is called because of the ruins of a Spanish church in the 1800s sitting nearby, is a squatters area with residents as itinerant workers in the dwindling rice fields and in construction projects in the subdivisions being developed within the vicinity.  Anytime the land is sold by the owner to housing developments, which are mushrooming in this part of Cavite province, these squatter residents will have to go and perhaps squat somewhere else.  They have no ownership of this piece of property for they are poor migrants from other provinces in the country trying to seek greener pastures.

Families staying here have an estimated average of five to seven children with parents in their teens or early twenties.  Most are poorly educated as indicated by how the children are raised here.  Poor sanitation combined with ignorance due to inadequate education indeed endangers the growing children.  In fact just before the start of the feeding sessions, the required deworming of children showed how much parasitic worms have kept them from growing well.  So many worms were purged of their bodies coming out of their anus, mouth, nose and ears.  What a loathsome sight yet people there just made humor out of it.  It was perhaps their way of coping with this harsh  reality of life.

Almost two more months to go and the 6-month feeding period funded by the partners will be over.  SCCD hopes to continue feeding those children whose weights have not normalized and closely monitor the livelihood project, which would be taking off this month.  The Bible Studies for adults will continue as well incorporating topics on health, nutrition and family planning.  Lessons on literacy would be integrated in the Outreach Bible class for the children addressing the out-of-school kids in the community who dropped out of the public school due to economic reasons.  Apparently reports say that the public schools nearby require the pupils to buy food from the canteen and they are penalized if they don’t cooperate.

Scholarship for some of these children in Simborio is now being sourced out by the DLA (Disciples Learning Academy), the church-founded school under their Scholarship Program for Indigents (SPI).  It is aimed at providing quality Christian education to the economically disadvantaged though limited only to five children per grade level.  The school will be looking for sponsors to shoulder $400.00/year or $40.00/school month covering tuition fees, books, lunch meal and transportation of each scholar.  For school year 2007-2008, the DLA hopes to get 10 sponsors for 10 children who will commit to support them in the next 6 or 7 years until they finish elementary schooling in the DLA.

My dream series on children continues but this time in concrete actions of feeding, scholarship, education and livelihood projects.  Let us indeed allow the children to come to Jesus for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven