by Ed Dawson
Having spent about five exciting weeks in AMG-supported mission works in Bacolod City on the island of Negros, Philippines, I would like to provide a brief assessment of the work and of my personal experience during a short-term mission trip. My time was devoted to the Home of Hope Orphanage in Hundumanan but I was also able to visit the AMG feeding centers that are in the Bacolod area. It gave me a new perspective on the needs and a first-hand look at how important the work that AMG is supporting is in the lives of many children
As a psychologist having worked with violent and assaultive children in North Carolina and spent a lot of time in residential childcare settings, I was surprised at how well-behaved the children were. I observed children taking care of other children. I saw children sharing what they had with others. I was impressed that many children went about the day’s activities singing spiritual songs. Many smiling faces greeted me throughout the day. They were hungry for affection and human touch and would cling to me at every opportunity. I observed a good work ethic and an eagerness to help in the majority of the children. There were squabbles and teasing but usually they would resolve their own disagreements without needing intervention from staff.
The children were creative and enjoyed many games using patterns drawn in the dirt, pebbles, bottle caps, and even their slippers (flip-flops). Initially I was sad that they did not have the balls, bats, Game Boys, checkers, etc., that children in America take for granted; but then I became even more sad for the American children that do have them and complain about having nothing to do.
I began to understand and experience in a real way that the presentation of the gospel is more important than the elimination of poverty. Do not misinterpret what I am saying. Meeting the basic needs of the children takes money and a lot more money than they have available, but infecting them with the “materialism” I see daily in America would be of no benefit to the children. Telling them about the love of God and His having a plan and purpose for their life is the first priority.
The staff members have an impossible task. They are dedicated and loyal and some have been there for many years. It was refreshing to be in the staff devotions and to hear them express an ongoing care and concern for the children and the needs they represented. They are not highly paid but they are professionals. I was glad to see that the staffers are given opportunities for relaxation but they were occasionally given duties on their off time and accepted it without complaint. Living on the campus, they are on call 24 hours a day and they accept that as part of their calling.
Being house-parents appears to be especially stressful and in my opinion the two couples do a remarkable job of keeping it all together. Taking care of some 60 children would be enough but I also observed them cooking, shopping, cutting the grass, and anything else that needed to be done.
The director provides excellent oversight and has the necessary experience to provide a good balance and the ability to set priorities because it is often necessary to “rob Peter to pay Paul.” The few additional support staff—social worker, clerk, cook, laundry worker, maintenance man, etc.—all went about their duties with the same devotion to the children. In my opinion the leadership and the staffers’ own walk with the Lord has much to do with the happy attitude and good behavior of the children.
The campus is large enough to meet the needs of the children and the buildings are adequate. The campus is composed of a dorm for the boys and another for the girls. There is a large multi-purpose building with a kitchen and dinning facility. They also have a small building for kindergarten children and a clinic for children that are sick. Home of Hope also has a basketball court for the children to use for recreation. There is also ample space for fruit trees and a small garden. A concrete fence encloses this whole complex and the water is supplied by a deep well. There are improvements that could be made, but just keeping what they have in working order is difficult because of a lack of funds and personnel.
I learned much and received a tremendous blessing from meeting the dedicated staff and children. It is obvious the staff cares about children. The needs are many and the rewards are mostly spiritual but these individuals are dedicated and deserve a lot of credit for the success of the work.
Ed Dawson is a licensed psychological associate, working with the Lexington, North Carolina, city school system. Ed specializes in working with juvenile sex offenders, and has won a national award for his work with them. He has also given training in the NC Schools for the Deaf, and has held statewide conferences on working with youth.