I was deeply moved and uplifted by the compassion and kindness shown to the Filipinos when 10 volunteers from Singapore spent a week in central Philippines helping the citizens there gain access to quality drinking water in the article, “Helping islanders get clean water” that was published in The Catholic News”, November 17, 2016.
Organized by CHARIS – the overseas humanitarian arm of the Singapore church, and acts29, a Singapore church youth organization involved in evangelism through mission and dialogue, the Oct 23-30 mission reached out to the residents in the typhoon-hit Romblon.
Some information on CHARIS:
Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore (CHARIS) is the umbrella body for overseas humanitarian aid by the Archdiocese of Singapore. CHARIS is a member of Caritas Singapore and was launched on 20 August 2010 by the former Archbishop, His Grace, Archbishop Nicholas Chia.
Humanitarian situations cover natural disasters and other adverse circumstances faced by the poor and needy, especially in developing countries in the region. Aid provided by CHARIS includes funding, medical aid and volunteers for immediate relief as well as the long-term support of those displaced and in need.
Some information on CARITAS:
Caritas Singapore was set up in November 2006 as the social and charitable arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore. It provides coordination, direction and leadership to 23 Catholic social mission groups carrying out work for the poor and the community.
The Catholic social mission groups under its umbrella serve a wide array of constituencies of need that includes the poor and destitute families, youth and children, prisoners, persons with HIV/AIDS and terminal illnesses, people with physical and mental challenges, migrant workers, overseas needy as well as those with legal and medical needs.
Caritas Singapore provides core programs to further its social mission work. It mobilizes funds, resources and other support from the Catholic community to fulfil the Church’s charitable tasks. It runs formation programs to communicate and educate the broader Catholic community on the Church’s Social teachings. Caritas Singapore also works with its Catholic social mission groups to help the broader community become more aware of the causes and plights faced by the poor and marginalized in the community in its advocacy efforts.
During their trip, the Singapore team helped train the Filipino youths under acts29’s scholarship programme, staff of Romblon diocese’s social action organization, local Caritas scholars and the local community in building a bio-sand water filtration system.
Over several years, rising sea levels and typhoons all year around have destroyed many island communities, leaving many Filipinos without electricity for days when homes are badly damaged. Many of them have to struggle with poverty.
It was a magnanimous gesture on the part of CHARIS to co-fund the building of an evacuation centre on Rombolon island. This centre is now able to provide shelter for some 200 people during a typhoon.
Given that there are typhoons that hit many provinces in the Philippines, I hope in time to come, CHARIS along with her supportive partners can build more such shelters in all the other provinces so that all Filipinos will not be filled with anxiety and be assured of a safe environment throughout the year.
Duterte’s war on drugs and crime; his soft side
With 3 million drug addicts in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has got his hands full. I often listen to many of his speeches and find it most interesting and very down-to-earth. He has said in many times: “I hate drugs.” In one of his speeches, he mentioned that when he took office mid-term, already half the government budget was used up.
He added that rehabilitation of drug addicts is good, and he would want to take that route, but said that it is costly to build rehab centres and provide on-going treatment.
With many countries criticizing Duterte for failure to observe human rights, I wonder if they, in collaboration with some of their rich citizens, can lend a helping hand and fund rehab centres to enable drug addicts in the Philippines to have adequate treatment so that they can re-build their lives and be reunited with their families – instead of either losing their lives by being shot at by the police or army or end up in cramped prisons with an uncertain future.
The no-nonsense Philippines leader, though will spare no effort to get rid of drug pushers and those who break the law has also got a soft side. Showing compassion, Duterte granted an absolute pardon to Actor Robin Padilla following their meeting at Malacañang Palace on Tuesday 15th November 2016. Padilla was convicted of illegal possession of firearms in 1994, then released after being granted conditional pardon by former President Fidel Ramos three years later
In this article, this pardon by the President restores Padilla's civil and political rights, which may enabled the handsome actor to get a US visa so he can be with his wife and new-born child.
Mental health issues, another social problem affecting many Filipinos
Like many other countries, the Philippines has its fair share of citizens who are grappling with mental health issues, including suicides.
In 2012, everyday 7 Filipinos committed suicide and I am dead sure that figure has risen over the years.
As a staunch mental health, I want to reach out to as many people as I can, not just here in Singapore but overseas as well. And when I come across influential people who are passionate about mental health issues as I am, then I will make every effort to share my commitment and, expertise and experience with them in this area.
And that was how I got to find out the excellent work undertaken by Senator Risa Senator Risa Hontiveros. This dynamic lady filed the Mental Health Act of 2016 or Senate Bill No. 1190 so that support can be given to her people who are trying to cope with mental illness. Senator Risa was grateful that the Department of Health established HOPELINE where distressed people can call this phone line to share their mental health issues or related problems
I have shared my journey in taking care of my late wife, Doris who battled schizophrenia for 4 decades, my advocacy efforts and awareness programmes with the Senator and hope that through her support, I will one day be able to give motivation talks in the Philippines and inspire the Filipinos over there with my love story.
It would also be useful if CHARIS or CARITAS supports mental health programmes in the Philippines and walk alongside me in my untiring efforts to bring light to those in live in darkness.
I had advocated for our Catholic organizations to provide support for the mentally ill and I was so uplifted when CLARITY was formed in 2010.
Clarity Singapore Limited is a mental health charity endorsed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, and is a member organisation of Caritas Singapore and National Council of Social Service (NCSS).
Their focus is responding to mental health needs through community-based mental health care services and social integration programmes. Working with the Church and the Ministry of Health, Clarity Singapore is able to provide care right in the heartlands through counselling services and workshops that are based in your neighbourhood.
Perhaps, such a related organization can be set up in the Philippines – more so when many of their citizens are Catholics. To this end, it would be helpful if CHARIS or CARITAS could give guidance on this – if the authorities in the Philippines are keen to set up a similar mental health charity.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called on the Catholic Church to reach out to the mentally ill and their caregivers, so I hope that as Christians, we can all heed the compassion of his Holiness and give unflagging support to our needy brothers and sisters in Christ who are going through challenging times.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO