I have recently spent a month at Rehoboth Children’s Home, situated in a small village on the northern island of Luzon in the Philippines. This Home was established 36 years ago to care for orphaned, abandoned or neglected children; it aims to provide for their physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs, thereby giving them ‘a hope for the future’. Currently, Rehoboth has 32 residents and 28 REAP students (those who are able to live in their own homes but have support with their education). My introduction to Rehoboth came through a friend of mine from college days who is a resident volunteer there. This was my fifth visit since 2010.
In my time at Rehoboth, I worked alongside Kathryn, teaching the younger residents – boosting their English reading and maths skills (in school, they learn English, Filipino and the local dialect). The children were a delight to teach – eager to learn, determined to achieve – so that, long-term, they could get a good job and be able to help support their families. In addition to daily planning and teaching, I undertook a variety of administrative tasks, including contacting sponsors with updates on their child’s progress, data preparation for the Annual Report and planning and making resources for our annual UK Supporters Event in April. As Sponsorship Secretary for the charity, I particularly enjoyed meeting and getting to know the children new to the Home, as well as seeing the changes in those I already knew. Time was also spent helping the children write letters to their sponsors.
Apart from the daily work routine, highlights of my stay included watching the children harvest the fish (fingerlings) from the Home’s fishpond, collect leaves and worms to make vermi-compost and gather dry cow pats from the local field for a school assignment: ‘Bring in one sack of manure for the school garden’. Health and Safety wouldn’t allow it in the UK!
I was able to visit the family home of three of Rehoboth’s newest residents, sisters aged 7, 8 and 12. In vacation time, they return to live with their mother and four other sisters at the market in the local town. Their mother sells vegetables for a living; their step-father works away from home. They live in a tiny ‘room’ behind the stall, with one bed, pay for electricity but have to use public facilities for washing and toilet needs. Their mother was clearly moved as she described the difference Rehoboth has made to her daughters: they were neater, had gained weight, were kinder and more helpful and said their prayers before eating and sleeping. We were able to tell her how well they are doing in school, too.
Rehoboth helps every resident and REAP student achieve as much as possible in regards to their education, including university degrees. While it is a long-term home for some, others come for shorter periods. Recently, three youngsters have ‘found’ family members and been reunited after many years apart. Two are in a position to be able to leave Rehoboth now and live back with their families.
In the couple of weeks before I travelled to the Philippines God brought to my mind the following verse:
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
It proved to be true in so many ways; with God’s help I was able to:
- overcome a nasty bout of flu to prepare, pack and manage a long-haul flight
- live without running water and a flushing toilet
- bear the heat, mosquitoes and even a cockroach
- enjoy being woken daily at 5:30am by a chorus of children washing, singing and preparing breakfast
- stand at the front of the local church and ‘give a word’ – the expectation for all visitors
- communicate and teach despite language differences
- write a blog
A sincere ‘thank you’ to all who prayed for me – I can testify to God’s answers and blessings.
It is really hard to summarise the stories and atmosphere of life at the Home – you really need to visit! In the meantime, though, please ask me for more stories or information on Rehoboth or Sponsoring a child yourself and visit http://rehobothchildrenshomes.org.