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No Longer Forsaken And Hated

Eversley Sanitarium, Cebu

“You will no longer be forsaken and hated, a city deserted and desolate … ” Isaiah 60:15

It's difficult living here. I don't want people to know that I'm from Eversley. They might think I have leprosy, and that I might infect them,” says Mary Luz Alaura, a resident of Eversley sanitarium.

Such is the story for most residents of Eversley compound. The sanitarium was established in the 1930's to address the growing numbers of people inflicted with leprosy. Since then, patients have been completely treated and declared negative, but they suffer the stigma of being former lepers. Arcadia and Carmen Lubas, Tatag beneficiaries and former patients, contracted the disease at a young age, and met and married in the sanitarium. The couple, together with many others like them, finds it difficult to find jobs anywhere because of their scars and obvious deformities. Most depend on job-outs of the manufacture of ornamentals offered by several business groups, but it is not a stable source of income.

The social stigma is passed on from one generation to the next. At present, only one-third of the population are former patients, but all the residents suffer from the discrimination against lepers. To them, the issue of poverty is secondary. To be deprived of human touch and connection is a more basic issue than the lack of basic needs and services.

The challenge for Gawad Kalinga in Eversley is now increasing in scope and growing in dimension. At the heart of the social problem is the fact that people are living in subhuman conditions, suffering from discrimination and have grown accustomed to believe that they are not persons of dignity. As the team builds new and beautiful structures, it is clear that the more difficult part of the work is rebuilding people's lives, allowing them to know hope, and empowering them to make their dreams come true. And this can only happen if people reach out to one another, breaking down walls of discrimination and creating bridges to connect the rich and the poor, materially and spiritually.

“I will make you great and beautiful, a place of joy forever and ever.” Isaiah 60:15

At present, members of CFC Cebu support the work at Eversley by reclaiming the area and planning for the landscape and site development. Ten homes have already been improved , most of them completely constructed from nothing. A common bathroom has been provided for them, and the chapel has been improved for the activities. A stairway was also constructed so that people will not have difficulty going up and down.

YFC and SFC's regularly visit the beneficiaries as facilitators and service team for the various activities. The programs are already in place and the CFC, together with the ANCOP-GK team take on the difficult mission to uplift the dignity of the residents and to demonstrate to the rest of society that the residents need our love, and that Christ is very much alive in their hearts.

One resident even said, “We are thankful not because you have come to help us, but because you no longer fear us.”

Batangas

“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, your love, faith and purity.” 1 Tim. 4:12

The Bagong Silang relocation site is located in Barangay San Jose, Sico, Batangas City. The land area of 10 hectares is home to 291 families, most of them relocated from various parts of the city. The situation is degrading, with residents using improvised toilets and throwing garbage everywhere. Common diseases include cough and cold, asthma and lung disease, which may be due to the pollution caused by a nearby plant. Water supply is available from only one hand pump located 500 meters from the site and in two shallow tube wells in the area. Power supply is only available to a small group.

Residents consider unemployment to be the biggest social problem. Majority of the working population work as contractual workers and laborers in construction and have no fixed source of income. There are times when they cannot even go to work because they do not have the money for transportation to and from construction sites. Having no other alternative, parents and youth alike are caught in a helpless cycle and they turn to the streets to survive. The residents are resigned to live in a community where unemployment, illiteracy and crime abound.

The Batangas City Jail was also transferred to the area, together with the sanitary landfill for the whole city. Aside from the threat to the security of the already not-so-peaceful community, pollution is also expected to rise soon. While the people have generally accepted their fate of being relocated, many feel they are now outcasts thrown among the ugly and unwanted elements of society.

The situation makes the work of Siga in Sico very relevant and urgent. More than half of the youth population only finished elementary and high school. They are lured by the temptation of easy money earned for occasional construction work and many decide to stop schooling. A visit to the prison also revealed that many of the children and youth beneficiaries have relatives who are in jail. The father of Joy Real (a Sagip beneficiary), is a prisoner together with the cousin of Algen Morales (a Siga member) because of drug use. Algen, now 17 years old , stopped schooling and became a runner for drug pushers in the area when he was only 15 years old. “I decided to quit school because I wanted to have my own money. I became a runner for drug pushers in the area, but I didn't get paid. Instead, they would let me have a small amount of shabu or marijuana as a reward. They only paid me for big transactions, but only as much as 50-100 Pesos.”

There are many youth in Sico like Algen, prey to a life of criminality and violence because they lack good role models to look up to. The Siga program of Sico is aimed towards encouraging these youth to go back to school. And they are succeeding. This year, Algen, who stopped school for two years, will now be enrolled in second year high school. Almost half of the present membership have already decided to continue their schooling this year.

The recently formed Siga Kasangga (SK) association of the youth members is also making a big impact in the community. They have been involved in several youth camps, leading more of their friends to find God again. They volunteer in the construction and painting of the homes and other common areas. At present, the Sibol school and training center has already been completed, and almost ten homes have been built and landscaped, thanks to the Siga and other GK beneficiaries. Their most recent project, the improvement of the basketball court and the cleaning up of the area, has become a major inspiration to their friends and neighbors. Young people voluntarily come to the meetings to become members because they see that the youth are finding new hope in Siga.

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