Gentle Hands orphanage renovates facilities to address DSWD concerns
MANILA, Philippines— Gentle Hands Inc., a private orphanage in Quezon City, has begun renovations to address overcrowding, ventilation, and fire safety concerns raised by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as grounds for its shutdown.
Conversion of triple-bunk beds into double-bunks, repainting, and clearing emergency exit ways are among the remedial measures carried ou, said Gentle Hands staff member Jelo Rivera in an interview with Inquirer.net.
Rivera also noted that the orphanage actually began converting its bunk beds three weeks prior to the closure order, emphasizing that Gentle Hands had kept constant communication with the DSWD regarding its infractions before the cease-and-desist order was issued.
“We have constant communications with the DSWD regarding [its] standards. We acknowledge that, and we’re in the works for how we’re gonna fix things,” he said.
Rivera said that general cleaning had also begun since the children were transferred to other care facilities on Tuesday.
Gentle Hands staff has also begun clearing obstructions to its fire exits.
While staff member CJ Yorong assured that the orphanages are well-stocked with fire extinguishers and that yearly disaster preparedness drills are conducted, she noted that the DSWD’s fire safety alert came as a surprise as Gentle Hands has long acquired necessary fire safety permits.
“Nagtataka kami sa part na ‘yun kasi may permit kami na maayos yung [fire safety] namin,” Yorong said.
(We wondered about that part because we have permits clearing our fire safety.)
Gentle Hands caretakers were also permitted by the DSWD to accompany the children to their respective facilities, confirmed Rivera and fellow staff member CJ Yorong.
“We’re grateful that the DSWD allowed us na isama ‘yung mga caregivers namin. That’s very gracious of them. Nagkaroon ng compromise,” said Rivera.
(We’re grateful that the DSWD allowed us to send our caretakers. That’s very gracious of them. There was compromise.)
Budget and livelihood concerns
Gentle Hands is not a government-funded residential care facility. It depends heavily on contributions from the public to keep itself running, according to Rivera.
“We are just heavily relying on donations, so money is actually one of the things that we need,” he said.
Rivera also shared that while the cease-and-desist order threatens the livelihoods of those employed by Gentle Hands, staff members feel they must ensure the kids’ wellbeing before their own.
“To be honest, we don’t think about our livelihood for now. On our part… we don’t think of that— where we’re gonna go, where we’re gonna apply— no. What we are more concerned about are the children above all. It’s not about us; it’s not about our director, it’s about the children,” he said.
“It was very hard for the children. They don’t want to go. It was really hard actually seeing their faces, crying— ayaw nila lahat. Ayaw nilang umalis and I think it means that they feel safe here,” added Rivera.
(It was very hard for the children. They don’t want to go. It was really hard actually seeing their faces, crying— they all didn’t want to leave. They didn’t want to go, and I think it means that they feel safe here.)
The DSWD issued the QC orphanage with a cease-and-desist order on Monday, after which it facilitated the transfer of 149 children to three other residential care facilities in Metro Manila.
Gentle Hands has 20 days since the order was issued to address the welfare authorities’ concerns.