Briones: Children’s welfare

I DON’T know how much the Archdiocese of Cebu earned when it hosted the 51st International Eucharistic Congress back in 2016, but it must have made a killing.

Oh wait. I shouldn’t say that. At least not in the same breath.

Anyway, it was nice to read about the church investing in the country’s youth, especially those who are out of school or those who loiter in the streets, by building a four-story activity center at the St. Joseph Parish Church in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City.

The P60-million Abtanan sa Kaluoy will provide feeding and education programs for street children, among others.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said that the Abtanan will not only involve the archdiocese, but they will also tap the government and nongovernment organizations.

“We have been waiting for this for a long time. We’re urging everyone who are compassionate about helping our children to join us as we create programs that will lead these street kids to a better future. We want them to become good assets of society,” Palma told SunStar Cebu’s Rona T. Fernandez.

The facility is expected to rise in three months.

The prelate said that they have yet to establish a fixed administrative board to run the center once it’s finished, so until then on-the-job trainees will handle the feeding and educational programs.

I’ve always said that children should not be living on the streets. They should not be accosting pedestrians for a coin or two. They should not be rummaging through garbage for something to salvage and sell so they can eat. They should not be selling their bodies to strangers. And no, they should not be hanging out in internet cafes playing video games until the wee hours of the morning.

They should be at school learning. Or playing tag or hide-and-seek with children their own age. They should have a roof over their head where they can eat nourishing food and have a good night’s sleep.

But that’s me and my wishful thinking. The reality is there are many of them out there.

I don’t have the latest figures, but according to a Situationer of Street Children in the Philippines in 2003, Cebu was home to less than 5,000 “highly visible children.”

Mind you, that was 14 years ago. It’d be naive to think that their numbers have not grown.

For these children, many of whom have been abused, neglected or abandoned, the Parian Drop-in Center has been their sanctuary for the last 26 years.

The center is run by the Children of Cebu Foundation Inc., with Councilor Margot Osmeña as one of the project’s prime movers.

With the establishment of Abtanan sa Kaluoy, the center will no longer be alone in looking after our future’s welfare.
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