THE head of Forge’s (Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors) Social Outreach Division reported to me Tuesday that they have intercepted another foreigner with a minor in tow. Besides victims of trafficking like this one Metro Cebu’s problem children include homeless and exploited (commercially-sexually) street children, many of them runaways from abusive parents.

Forge maintains two safe houses for these kids. One is an activity center where children can go in and out freely for some food or a place for the night. In the Center we do reflection sessions with them in an effort to entice them to get out of a sordid street life.

Those who express the desire to change their ways we place in another house we call Dreamer’s Home. The child has to volunteer to stay there where we motivate her (we are staffed only for girls) to dream again (hence the name) of a better life. We send to school those who so desire and we’ve had successful graduates face life again with self-respect safely tucked between their ears.

Foreign Catholic Charities have been Forge’s regular fund sources for its work with endangered children. This has kept me wondering especially at this time of year (this is my annual rant), why local dioceses and parishes, with all due respect to the exceptions, are hardly engaged with these children many of whom do their begging, soliciting around churches.

Government is doing its part through the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD’s) children section and an inter-agency special anti-trafficking task force. Forge is networking with them. But so far, and here I hope I will be proven wrong, I am not aware of a local Catholic Church’s engagement with these children through and with others or through and with their own project-initiatives.

It’s not like they don’t have the resources. Every year at this time, millions of devotees drop millions of pesos into Church collection boxes. I have always advocated for some of this money to be spent for the care and rehabilitation of our problematic children. Maybe some are spent for them but we have no way of knowing because nobody is saying anything about where all that money is going.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not ask for Forge. Dioceses and parishes could initiate their own programs for the rehabilitation of these children. The City’s Sinulog Committee could also ask from merchants for donations to, say, a Sto. Nino Fund for Cebu’s disadvantaged children.

Devotee donations are expressions of faith. Bishops and priests, however, do not seem to think that helping children with these donations would be a better form of worship of the Holy Child. I know they have faith but is it possible to have it and not help abused children with something more palpable than a prayer?