Zamboanga City – THE several hundreds of homeless children who ubiquitously roam this southern Philippines city’s streets now have a spanking new “house of love and care” where they can find shelter from the harsher misfortunes of life.
The newly-built Akay Kalinga Center for street children was inaugurated in the morning of July 29 by Archbishop Romulo Valles, Mayor Celso Lobregat and project proponent and Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) president Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF. Constructed at a cost of P4-million with funds donated by the Spanish foundation Manos Unidas, the building located in the interior of a downtown section will serve as the new edifice of the 10-year old drop-in center.
This center shows how much our community can do together for our street children, who in biblical terms are the most vulnerable members of our society, Valles said during the blessing ceremony.
Our street children problem needs everybody’s assistance, Mayor Lobregat said, and the Akay Kalinga is part of the solution to the problem. “This building is a monument of love and care for them”, he said in his message during the inauguration program.
The number of street children in this city has been increasing for the past so many years, a result of the widespread social and economic dislocations of families residing in the countryside that, in turn, are caused by poverty and Muslim and leftist insurgencies.
Akay Kalinga, which is Pilipino for “guide” and “care”, started 10 years ago in an old house at the same site formerly owned by a prominent family. Last year, the old house was torn down to give way to the new building. Anisa Yacub Romero, daughter of the former house’s owner, during the inauguration said she is glad that a shelter of compassion has sprang in the same site for the less fortunate young people in the city.
Western Mindanao State University Vice-President for Research, Extension and Development Dr. Grace Rebollos in her solidarity message pledged her institution’s assistance to the center in terms of educational and training support for the center’s staff and wards and technical support to its welfare program. Guidance counseling faculty members and community development students conduct life skills coaching to the center’s wards.
Fr. Calvo, too, said: “Today I dedicate this house to the street children of the city, in behalf of the church. This center is a humble parable of the meaning of love and care and dedication. With this, we walk with our street children in their aspiration for a life of dignity and security and peace.”
Aside from providing free meals daily to drop-ins, the house at present also provides regular board to 19 children aged seven to 17. Those who stay in are also given scholarships, and as of todate 95 street children have completed elementary, secondary and college studies. The center also conducts regular sessions on personal hygiene and values formation in the center and weekly at the city’s main public plaza.
The new building features two dormitories, one guest room, a library, meeting room, office, showers and toilets, terrace, and playground. Other international foundations aside from Manos Unidas provide financial support to the center.