This post is a story of love, dedication and vision.
Rick & Maria Bell have been friends of mine for over twenty years. Much of this time they have been living in the Philippines. As Missionaries for Christian Alliance, they have sacrificed the comforts of an Australian way of life, to live and be apart of the community in Manila.
Over the years I have been privileged to hear Rick & Maria share with me their vision and the tremendous need to do more. Back in October last year, I added a post about Rick & Maria’s personal pain not for themselves but for their community when the ‘Philippines Flood’ hit.
Time ticks on and it has been over a year. The world moves on, media interest has been diverted elsewhere but Rick & Maria and Manila are still there.
I thought I would share with you a recent newsletter email I received from Rick (with permission given from Rick).
Photograph captured by Rick Bell - 'Who's Responsibility Are They?'
By Rick Bell:
As I photographed the boys above, I asked the dangerous question “whose problem and responsibility are they?” It is a question I have asked myself over and over again as I see sights like this daily as I drive to my home in down town Pasig, Manila.
It was four months ago that I took the time to talk with some of these boys and found so many terribly confused and frightened children. Their lives are unhealthy in every way. So often they are just moved on by authorities rather than alleviating any of their suffering. As I also walk the informal settlements of our area and look under bridges and in crowded hidden places I find populations exploding of Children at RISK. According to new reports Almost 2 million of Manila’s children younger than 15 years old live on or below the poverty line. 175,000 of these children live on the streets after having run away from home or being abandoned. They beg, steal, scavenge for food, and sell newspapers, cigarettes, and in extreme cases prostitute themselves. These Children, the hope for the future, I ask again whose responsibility are they?
I do not pretend nor can I truly comprehend to understand these children situations or private pain. What I do know however is that time is running out for many of them. If someone does not intervene for them they will become the criminals of tomorrow, the detested in our community, the vulnerable and highly exposed falling all to often to unsavouray influences. It is incredible for me to see even today that we can still be seeing and living among the children of Dickens’ England.
A friend from Australia recently walked the squatter community we work in and commented that how easy it would be to ‘Lay low’ and do nothing about what he saw ahead of him. ‘Silence’ he said was not an acceptable answer to these major problems.
My heart as a father has been broken many times as I have watched for years these children having to grow up all too fast. They fill our streets, beg at our windows and suffer the consequences of something they are not responsible for. When I look at my own situation and I see how my own children have had so many opportunities in life, good education, excellent parents, nutritious food, a safe home and a future that the kids we deal with now could only dream off, I cannot stand by and do nothing anymore. Actually when I read the words of Martin Luther Luther King who said:
“Passivity to accept an unjust system is to co-operate with that system and thereby to become a participant in it!”
Getting ready the Children at Risk Centres in Pasig, Manila.
Rick Bell continued:
Last May with these concerns and children in mind, our team were given the opportunity to provide one solution in our area for some of these children. By faith, we entered into a contract to purchase four townhouses not 900 meters from our school. They were run down and needed a lot of work. We saw their great potential for a “Children at Risk Centre” which has been one of the dreams of our school for nearly four years. The four buildings were offered to us at a flat rate of A$90,000.00 which was nearly half their current value. The gentleman selling the properties is a Chinese Christian Businessman who desires also to see this type of residential care unit developed for kids at Risk.
By faith, the board of our school agreed to pray and trust God to meet this amount by December 30th, 2010. We have prayed and trusted and He has already allowed us to raise nearly A$40,000.00, so we are already well on the way to seeing this dream become a reality.
What have we done so far?
The work has begun!
- To date we have been busy gaining the government permission and a license for an official “Children at Risk Center”.
- Two months ago we were blessed by the three Aussie Christian brothers who came from Perth, two tilers and a plumber. In just two weeks they
renovated two of the townhouses by tiling floors, refitted the bathrooms, renewed the kitchens, and all from funds they had raised for the project.
- Three weeks after this event five more friends came from Australia and assisted in the renewal process.
- Three months ago now we installed our first set of house parents and moved in 3 boys who were classified at risk.
Young boy who attends Rick & Maria's school
Two weeks ago I interviewed the boys who are already living at the centre. I asked them what they think of their new place to live and study in and how it is affecting their lives. Their answers were all too clear, they included:
- It is a safe place for us! We no longer fear going to bed at night nor do we fear the constant possibility of a flood rising up around us.
- It has a toilet and a shower!!!
- The food is great and there is no day that we go without eating.
- Our house parents are kind, they have time for us, they listen and they teach us to know Jesus and God’s word in a simple yet deep and real way.
- It is a quiet place that allows us to study well and do our assignments on time with electricity.
- They also said they now feel so sorry for kids who don’t have this opportunity to live lives like this and they pray more often for kids who are still like they were, and they even pray for more people to be raised up to start homes like this, RISK Centres for more kids who need the opportunity to be protected and given the chance to study and thrive in their lives.
How can you be involved and partner with us?
My hope is that you also sense the urgency with us that something can be done to reach out to these young people. By housing and educating them we can provide a safe place where they can complete their studies, and look forward to a future of dignity.
All donations to help complete our target to pay for our Children at Risk Centres are greatly appreciated and are tax deductible. You can contribute at any branch of the Commonwealth Bank (or electronically). Account Name is CAMA Services Overseas Aid Fund. BSB is 062 905. Account number is 10114276. Please note that 10% is deducted from what is given to World Relief to cover their costs in administration.
Would you like to get in contact with Rick & Maria?
Maria & helpers (Rick is taking the photo)