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Christmas is a pretty big deal in the Philippines, yes, you might argue that it is a big deal to many other places as well, but it is only in this country where you start hearing Christmas music in September!!  :)  

Similarly, Christmas at CSC is a big deal.  There are many events and traditions held.  It is an important value at CSC that this very significant holiday is celebrated well and that it's true meaning is highlighted, amongst the glitz and glamour of the presents and beautifully lighted Christmas trees.  

Of course there is quite a bit of planning that happens even before December, but the break-neck pace of non-stop Christmas parties, dinners, programs, and other such events begins around the middle of the month.

Below you will see pictures taken during the hair/make-up/all other kind of prep done before Cebu Children of Hope School's annual Christmas program.  This year, the main feature was a play called Hotel Bethlehem, a modern spin put on the Christmas story.  It was a huge success!  The children put their hearts into it.  And the countless hours invested by the teachers (rehearsing lines, making the set, working on the sound equipment and many other tasks) could be seen in that night's polished production!

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A beloved tradition at CSC is the annual Progressive Dinner.  The children travel to the homes of the missionary staff to enjoy some food and to hear and see different parts of the Christmas story acted out.  After the groups have made it to each home and are quite busog (full) they head back home and the missionary staff follow and everyone enjoys eating cinnamon rolls in the shape of a Christmas tree!  It is a great night of fun and food, but the true meaning of Christmas---Jesus' birth is shared in a memorable way as well!

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Another really special event during this time of year is called Junel's Box.  It is a great opportunity for our kids, who once had nothing, to give to others.  Every year, our social workers find a family in the community in need of assistance.  We share information about this family to our kids and give them the opportunity to give money from their bank (they receive an allowance each week for completing their chores).  That money is then used to buy the things the family needs, such as food, house needs, building equipment, clothes, etc.  And their generosity astounds---it happens frequently that a child will give all of the money in their bank, without hesitation.  Below you will see pictures from the day we delivered all of those goods.  The family was so grateful and our kids were able to help others, to give to others, when so many of them had once been on the other side of need.

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People that know about CSC often want to bless our kids around the holidays and this year was no different!  Marriott Hotel contacted CSC to say that they wanted to throw a Christmas party for our 7-10 year olds.  We were so excited!  Marriott came and picked up 28 of our kids and a handful of our adults and treated them to an afternoon of storytelling, Christmas cookie decorating (and eating!), balloon popping, snacks, present opening and eating (I say it so many times because it was a frequent activity!)

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And on Christmas Eve night, Santa came to the Philippines!  There are many new children at CSC at this time and for them, this was the first Christmas experience they had ever had.  Several were a bit wary of Santa, but with gift in hand he seemed to be an okay guy.  It was such a blessing to see the ecstatic smiles of those getting their first Christmas gift---but for those not new to CSC---well, they were still extremely excited as well.  A Christmas like this is only made possible by those of you who give, so I just want to say a special thank you for your generosity! 

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Christmas day is not complete at CSC without the formal Christmas dinner.  The missionary staff, the house parents and all of the children enjoy a nice meal outside together!  The food is good, the tables are decorated beautifully, the children get all dressed up and the meal is finished with Christmas cookies for dessert!  This year, after the meal, everyone went to the school to participate in a unique telling of the Christmas story, interspersed with the singing of hymns.  After that came a time of prayer.  As you will see in the pictures, not all of the little ones made it through the whole event!

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!  CSC has been blessed this year and we trust that God will continue to provide for this ministry and these children.  Thank you for reading about the many Christmas traditions at CSC.  What is your favorite Christmas tradition in your family?

 

THE RICHES BEYOND MY SOCIAL WORK PROFESSION

Jul. 11, 2024By: Cris Secuya

It's a common aspiration for everyone to desire wealth, especially after enduring significant economic hardship. That was my mindset as I grew up: longing to achieve fame and fortune, reaching the goals that seemed perpetually out of reach. The agony of destitution is profound, especially when everything you need is beyond your reach and the uncertainty of when fortune might finally smile upon you.

During my college education, where I pursued a Bachelor of Science in Social Work, my resolve faced early skepticism. In my first semester, a professor cautioned us against expecting financial prosperity from this field, suggesting it would deplete our resources rather than enrich us. Despite this discouragement and the added challenge of being a working student, I remained steadfast in my conviction. I was convinced that social work was my destined career path.

Upon completing my bachelor's degree, I found myself immersed in various childcare institutions, encountering clients from diverse social backgrounds. Many were street kids or young individuals entangled in criminal activities such as theft, pickpocketing, robbery, and gang violence. Presently, I am dedicated to assisting children who have suffered various forms of abuse.

As a case manager, my daily routine involves employing casework tools such as active listening, observation, interviews, building relationships, and conducting home visits. As a people-oriented individual, I derive immense satisfaction from engaging with others, discussing their social challenges, and offering solutions based on assessments and recommendations. Advocating for the oppressed and witnessing transformative change brings me indescribable joy.

Doing case management work at the Children's Shelter of Cebu for nineteen years already would not have been possible without God's strength. Usually, fear haunts me because of life's uncertainties. I am still experiencing enormous challenges as I continue to deal with clients with diverse social problems. Still, the assurance of God's promises that he will be with me in my journey with each client has enabled me to overcome them.

Reaching out to families and empowering them to become cohesive units is another invaluable aspect of my work. We all define "wealth" differently. For me, the richness of my experiences in social work transcends monetary value; they are enduring treasures that will outlast my existence. They cannot be traded for any material wealth in this world. Would you dare to pursue such blessings?

My work ethics in the workplace are anchored in the scripture in the book of Isaiah 41:10.
'So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

All glory to God.
Crisologo B. Secuya
CSC Social Worker

Celebrating Community and Generosity: Our Annual Fundraising Event for CSC

Jul. 1, 2024By: Jill Grasley  ›  Author Bio

A few weeks ago, we held a heartwarming and successful fundraising event for the Children's Shelter of Cebu (CSC) in Minnesota. The event saw nearly 300 attendees come together, with about half being former residents or adoptive families and the other half being supporters of our work. This gathering was not just a fundraiser; it was a celebration of 45 years of ministry in the Philippines.

The weekend began on Friday evening with a special gathering exclusively for adoptive families and former residents with current and former staff. We also had a video call with the houseparents, staff, and kids at the shelter in Cebu so former residents could connect with them. This intimate start set a warm and personal tone for the rest of the event, allowing old friends to reunite and new connections to form.

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The highlight of the event on Saturday was hearing from former residents of the shelter, Angillo and Rhoella, and our Program Director, Eunice Guinanoy. The powerful testimonies from Angillo and Rhoella illustrated the profound impact that CSC has had on their lives. Eunice shared about specifics from the program team that cares for the children, including the residents who will benefit from our new program for young adults and how we admit children and assess their needs. Their stories and experiences brought to life the mission of CSC and underscored the importance of our work.

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We are excited to announce that we raised just over $100,000 during the event, bringing us close to our goal of $115,000. The funds raised will go directly to benefit the children at CSC, providing essential food, clothing, medicine, and other necessities. The generosity of our supporters ensures that we can continue to offer a safe and nurturing environment for the children who need it most. Donations are still being accepted, and anyone who wishes to contribute can do so at https://cebushelter.org/give?p=projects-111.

Seeing so many supporters gathered in one place was a testament to the strength and unity of our community. After the isolation and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, this event was a poignant reminder of the power of coming together. It was not just about raising funds; it was about reaffirming our collective commitment to the children of Cebu and celebrating the progress we've made together.

Whether you gathered with us in person in Minnesota, watched online, or are reading this from around the world, your gifts make an impact. We are deeply grateful to everyone who attended and contributed to the event. Your support makes a tangible difference in the lives of the children at CSC, and we look forward to continuing this journey with all of you.

We thank God for His guidance and blessings over these 45 years and for bringing together such a dedicated and compassionate community. Together, with God's help, we will continue to make a difference in the lives of the children we serve. Thank you for being a part of our community and for helping us create a brighter future for the children we serve.

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Embracing Hope

Jun. 10, 2024By: Teacher Lyrah Ann

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The Cebu Children of Hope School recently marked a significant milestone with its annual Moving Up Ceremony and Recognition Rites. This celebration symbolized the incredible resilience of its students in overcoming extraordinary challenges. The event commenced with a processional and an uplifting opening prayer, setting a tone of gratitude and hope that resonated throughout the ceremony.

The Field Director's welcoming address underscored the importance of this milestone in the students' educational journey, prompting a moment of reflection on how far these young minds had come. Emotions rose as the Principal recognized the candidates for completion, celebrating their hard work and dedication. It was a moment of joy for the students and everyone who had supported them along the way. The ceremony also recognized non-completers, honoring their efforts and progress. This segment highlighted the school's commitment to helping every student on their path.

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One of the ceremony's highlights was the guest speech by the Executive Director of Phase Two Cebu Group. In it, he emphasized the transformative power of education and the value of perseverance. Another standout moment was the gratitude speech by a Grade Six student. Her words were a touching reminder of the impact of community and support:

"When I arrived, everyone was a stranger to me, and making new friends was challenging. I questioned whether I'd ever find someone to help me until a group of people stepped in to offer their support and encouragement, bringing joy, peace, and kindness into my life. Without these people, I would never have realized my dreams.
You've all been like guiding stars, leading me toward my goals with your teachings, encouragement, and big hearts. Your presence here has made perseverance and consistency possible. Above all, I thank God for placing me in this special place. I surrender all my doubts to Him and am grateful for His forgiveness through His
son, Jesus Christ."

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Her heartfelt words touched everyone present, emphasizing the significant impact of the community's support. The celebration continued with awards for the completers, celebrating their exceptional achievements. The Kindergarten and Grade Six Completers performed their completion songs, adding a joyful and celebratory atmosphere to the event.

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As the ceremony concluded, it marked both an end and a new beginning for these resilient students. It was a day filled with laughter, tears, and deep camaraderie. It was a day to celebrate their journey and eagerly anticipate the bright futures that lie ahead.

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Edible Happiness

May. 24, 2024By: Home Life Team

Ever wonder how we prepare meals for 20 children in one house daily? Our long-time cook, Auntie Helen, prepares a delicious and healthy lunch for our children in Cherne Home. Our cooks enjoy seeing our children join the empty plate club, which means the food is delicious, and the children are satisfied! Here is a snippet of lunch preparation in Cherne Home.

"The Bow and the Arrow"

May. 9, 2024By: Counseling Department

Children are explorers. Curiosity often leads them to peek Screenshot_2024-05-09_at_5.21.37PMinside the doorknob's key hole; enthralls them to touch a squealing kettle; and ferry their feet into places where they are not allowed to be. Often, boundaries are broken.

Children are expressive. Emotions often steer their ship as they navigate their social world. They jump, giggle, grin, and laugh when happy. A frown, a downturned face, and a shoulder-drop paint their sadness. Talking back, kicking the wall, shutting down, spitting, throwing things, and crying are the easiest cards to pull out when they are angry. Often, adults' patience is challenged.

Children, most of the time, do not listen, nor take heed of instructions and reminders; they have a loose grip of morality that even memory verses fall short of reminding them to be good. But this does not mean we stop teaching them to be kind. This is to remind us that children are fallible and that they do not have the skill sets to fully self-manage; even adults have difficulty regulating themselves, too. And children who misbehave a lot are often painted with a different color palette, viewed as a problematic child.

Screenshot_2024-05-09_at_5.21.51PMAt CSC, children do not only go through these developmental obstacles. They are also bringing with them their adverse experiences. For some children, this baggage magnifies their difficulty to self-regulate. Without a proper lens, dealing with these children might be quite challenging. As adults, the common response is to control these behaviors but with the aid of Trauma Informed Care, houseparents, caregivers, and other staff have a better understanding of the underlying factors of such behaviors. Rather than seeking control, comfort is offered. Rather than spending time preaching the rules and whatnots, cultivating a relationship is the focus. Rather than seeing the child as problematic, the child is seen as a work in progress, still growing to reach his/her full potential, and to give the child a chance to lead a more meaningful life. Through Trauma Informed Care, we are always reminded with how Khalil Gibran viewed how children should be guided. In his poem, he said:

"...You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
 For they have their own thoughts.
 You may house their bodies but not their souls,
 For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
 You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
 For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
 You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
 The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
 Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
 For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."
Khalil Gibran, excerpt from On Children