Mom nurtures street childrenCebu Daily News
While most people go into business to make a profit, Catalina Jacela, a 54-year-old mother of two, makes and sells soya milk to feed and educate street children in Cebu City.
She sells soya milk to friends then uses 80 percent of her profit to maintain operations of Tulunghaan sa Dalan, which she set up three years ago.
Jacela holds informal classes and feeding programs every Wednesday and Saturday for street children aged three to 19 years old at the Redemptorist church’s multi-purpose hall.
“We take responsibility for caring and comforting street children. If people don’t take action, there is no hope for this country,” said Jacela, who lives in Pit-os, Talamban, Cebu City.
For Tulunghaan sa Dalan, she solicited support of volunteers. With the help of Redemptorist scholars, the bathing and meal times for the kids become manageable.
Jacela said it took her and her staff three weeks to organize street children in the Redemptorist Church area. Their efforts started with 20. Today around 100 street children, mostly bottle collectors from different parts of Cebu City, regularly join their sessions.
The session starts with the children taking a bath, attending basic education lessons and then feeding. Six volunteer teachers teach English, Math, and values education. They also infuse singing, art sessions, games and dancing into the subjects to hold the children’s interest.
Through the Waldorf Education approach, Jacela encourages the kids to use their imagination to learn.
“Education has a big role in molding children. We should give more priority to children who can’t go to school due to financial problems. Instead of criticizing them, we need to focus on ways to help them,” she stressed.
She pointed out that in three years since the center was built, she has seen many talented street children who can dance, sing and draw.
“All they need is appreciation and guidance,” she added.
The lessons are followed by a feeding program with nutritious meals prepared by two volunteer cooks. Simple dishes are served like monggo beans with vegetables, fried fish and pork menudo.
“We see a big difference now in the attitude of the children. The first time we served them meals, they were rushing ahead. But now, they line up and wait for their turn,” she said.
Jacela recalled a 14-year-old boy who had no money to buy food and inhaled rugby instead to forget his hunger pangs.
Then there was a 23-year-old girl living in the streets since she was 7. When she had her first menstrual period, she didn’t know why it was happening. She bought scrap cloths instead of a sanitary napkin because she did not know what to do.
“This is one of the reasons why we need to educate them,” said Jacela.
She appealed to the public to change their negative perceptions of street children.
“It is not their fault they end up on the streets. These kids turn into addicts or thieves because the people who could help them are judging them rather than lending a hand. We need to help them before they become uncontrollable or grow in number. We don’t have to rely on the government to do it,” she explained.
She said she hopes these street children will eventually go to school, live with loving families who will guide them, and help out other street children.
“I want to grow old seeing no more street children roaming, sleeping, or using drugs on the streets,” she said.
The Tulunghaan sa Dalan is a start. Through it, she hopes to provide street children a haven away from the judgemental attidudes of the public.
Soya milk continues to provide funds for the center. Task Force Carabao, a Germany-based group, also provides funds by buying her soya milk which sells for P20 for a 30 ml bottle to P40 for one liter.
Jacela herself has been drinking soya milk since she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1996.
Her business, which she considers more of a social enterprise, won P15,000 in the 2009 Kapamilya Negosyo Na, a tie-up activity of the University of San Carlos and ABS-CBN. She rolled the prize money back into her business to help more street children.
Jacela also submitted a proposal to the Dolores Aboitiz Children’s Fund of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., seeking additional funding for Tulunghaan sa Dalan.
“To sustain the needs of the children, we need to seek out ways to fund the center. But the biggest challenge for us now is how to encourage people to take part in taking care of these children,” she said.
She said she will soon launch the Alternative Learning Center in Tulunghaan sa Dalan to provide education lessons to street people aged 20 years old and above.
Jacela is a graduate of BS Social Work from the University of Southern Philippines. She grew up helping other people like her parents.
“We help our neighbors in every way we can. That is the reason why after I graduated from college, I spent my life organizing and engaging in social work,” she said. She was involved in Missionary Work in Redemptorist and Basic Christian Communities.
Her income enables her to buy materials for the center, and school supplies and hygiene kits for the street children.
“The remaining 20 percent of the profit is enough for my family needs. We live a simple lifestyle. I have no school expenses because my other child is a scholar. My family supports me in all the decisions and social work that I do. I make it a point to have time for my family along with my various engagements,” she said. /Chrisley Ann Hinayas/Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.