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Here are a couple of tributes from Auntie Sandy's retirement party in Minnesota on September 11.

Paul’s Speech

Why are we here tonight? That is my assigned topic as we get the program going tonight.

I want to paint two pictures for you tonight. Both represent endearing images for me for the ministry of CSC.

Healy_speeches_9.20_2One is a cross stitch with a group of owls on a tree branch with these words stitched above them: “There’s always room for one more.” We have made that kind of a motto at CSC over the years. Although we have limits of space, manpower and budget, we always try to be open to making room for another child who needs us badly. This might be a malnourished child found in the street who might not survive another day without the lifegiving care of CSC, or an abused child badly needing the protection of a shelter. There is room for one more. Sandy’s heart is like that. It has an almost unlimited capacity to love more children. And when she loves you, that means that she remembers you, your personal information, your eventual adoptive parents, your accomplishments, everything. We are here tonight because of Sandy’s amazing heart, which has always inspired us at CSC to scoot over a little and let another child in.

Healy_speeches_9.20_3Another image that I have in my mind is a staircase.  It is the staircase that leads up to Sandy’s office above the garage near the Cherne Home in Banawa. The stairs go up the side of the building and constitute a pretty good climb, especially for little ones. Hundreds and hundreds of children have made that fairly steep climb up to see Auntie Sandy. For some it was to have regularly scheduled counseling, or just to say hi and see if there might be a treat.  It was worth the climb. But for many, climbing those stairs meant that the climber was in big trouble. If the house parents sent a child or children to see Sandy in her office, it was usually because of something fairly major that needed her attention. None of these kids hurried up the stairs. They knew that Auntie Sandy would be disappointed in them, that there would be repercussions for their behavior. Being in “big trouble” was never fun, and the stair leading up to her office certainly seemed long and steep.

The person waiting at the top of the stairs was always loving and fair, and, when necessary, firm. She was and is a symbol for what CSC is about. We not only have room on our branch for many kids, but we strive to do our best to provide loving, compassionate care for all of them. That involves meeting their emotional and spiritual needs, but also, it means having rules and expectations. It means that we love them enough to discipline them, even when that is far from being fun. It means that, sometimes, they need to walk up that seemingly long flight of steps to see Auntie Sandy. Away from the other kids. Away from any other distractions. Just one on one with Sandy, and her loving heart. We are here tonight because for the past  years Auntie Sandy was at the top of those stairs, doing her very best to encourage, instruct, love, correct, inspire, befriend and, yes, discipline and introduce them to the One who would enter their hearts and change their lives for eternity.

Cebu City is very much a Roman Catholic city.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and the Sacred Heart of Jesus are two of the most popular parishes in our city.  In Banawa there is a parish that sort of combines these two, and is known as the The Alliance of Two Hearts Parish. If you have ever visited Cebu and CSC you have almost certainly driven by that church on your way between the CSC office and the Shelter in Banawa. With no disrespect to that parish, and without ascribing divinity where it is not merited, I would respectfully submit that CSC has, for the past 35 years, been the Alliance of Two Hearts: The heart of our Lord Jesus, whose perfect love is at the center of everything we do at CSC, and that finite, fallible but unfailing heart of Auntie Sandy that beats in such an inspiring way for the kids of CSC.

Healy_speeches_9.20_4Bless you Auntie Sandy.

 

Marlys’s Speech

In 1962 Sandy and her family moved to this community, and started attending this church.  My father was the pastor at the time so that is how we met and became close friends immediately.  At that time Constance Evangelical Free was a small country church, located on the corner across the street. 

Sandy and I were extremely active and often whispered and giggled during the service.  My dad would stop right in the middle of the sermon to tell us to be quiet or move to the front pew. Our naughty behavior helped us to understand some of the rambunctious children that we would eventually care for at CSC. 

We went to everything at church; Sunday school, Vacation Bible school, the youth group, and Camp Shamineau for retreats and summer camp.  We went to some of the same schools and graduated from Anoka High school in the early 70’s.  Sandy and I took several trips around the US and to the Canary Islands.  We never dreamed in those days that we would be called by the Lord to be missionaries on the other side of the world. 

When we were children playing together in Constance years ago who would have thought that we would spend 36 years side by side taking care of precious children in the Philippines?

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Working with Sandy has been a tremendous blessing, even in difficult times.  We have had the privilege of working with many wonderful Filipinos that the Lord has called to be partners with us. Sandy was the Child Care Director and worked closely with all of our house parents and counselors, and trained our child care workers. Hundreds of children have been touched by her efforts and her dedication, and will never forget her unconditional love for them, including our daughters.

Sandy has always gone the extra mile to do what needed to be done, even if she worked 12 to 18 hour days, or more.  It was a joy to travel around the island of Cebu with Sandy to visit children who were referred to CSC, and we spent countless hours taking care of sick children in the hospital or in our infirmary. In addition to being Auntie Sandy to all of the kids at CSC she also fulfills that role to adopted children here in the United States.

What a blessing that the Swanson family moved to Constance more than 50 years ago, and I’m so thankful that our friendship has lasted all these years. I can’t believe that the time has come  for Sandy to retire, and I simply cannot imagine being in Cebu without her. One thing that will never change is our love and respect for her, and all of the wonderful memories will be in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives.  We give God all the praise and glory for using Sandy for the many years that she served at CSC.

Healy_speeches_9.20_7We love you, dear friend.

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

One Light Tube At a Time

May. 6, 2024By: Mark Leop

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Within the borders of the shelter, the facilities maintenance team plays an essential role in ensuring the physical environment reflects the warmth and love that these children deserve. Our tasks extend far beyond fixing leaky faucets or repairing broken doors; we are entrusted with the responsibility of sustaining an atmosphere where hope can grow.

The team's recent activity was replacing the dim, outdated lighting fixtures with vibrant, energy-efficient tube lights that transformed the ambiance of the homes. Where once there was gloom, now a radiant glow spreads throughout the corners, giving a sense of joy.

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For the children, the newfound brightness serves as a symbol of hope, a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there are those who care enough to bring light into their lives. The simple joy of being able to read a book without straining their eyes is a blessing that many take for granted.

Seeing the smiles of the children motivates us to undertake more works and activities that not only improve the physical environment but also uplift the spirits of those who call this place home, one light tube at a time.

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Easter Celebration at CCHS: A Joyful Time of Togetherness and Introspection

Apr. 22, 2024By: Teacher Mae

At Cebu Children of Hope School, Easter isn't just about chocolate and colorful eggs – it's a time for friendly
competition, laughter, and unforgettable memories. This year's Easter celebration was no exception, as
students, teachers, and staff came together for a day filled with thrilling games and challenges that brought out
the competitive spirit in everyone.

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Dancing and Singing Songs:
Easter songs sounded in the big room as students gathered for a special assembly to start the day off. We sang songs that spoke of hope, resurrection, and renewal, which filled our hearts with the spirit of the occasion. The environment was infused with energy as students and teachers performed lively dances with an Easter theme, showcasing their inventiveness and enthusiasm after the upbeat music. 

Discovering the Significance of Easter:
It was essential to pause among the celebrations and consider Easter's more profound meaning.
Students learned about Easter's biblical and historical background through lively discussions and
interactive video presentations. Easter tells the account of Jesus' resurrection, which helps people
appreciate and value our holiday more deeply.

Easter Arts and Crafts:
Creativity was blooming as students engaged in various Easter-themed crafts and activities. Each activity allowed self-expression and artistic exploration, from coloring eggs to designing eggs. These hands-on experiences not only sparked imagination but also encouraged students to feel fulfilled.

Egg Blowing Contest:
The Egg Blowing Contest followed, where competitors tested their lung capacity in a match of breath and skill. Competitors tried to blow their eggs across a marked finish line using only a hollowed-out egg and unwavering resolve. Cheers broke out as the eggs raced through the floor, driven only by the competitors' breath. Everyone was on the edge of their seats throughout the entertaining and exciting Egg Blowing Contest.

Walking Eggs Contest:
It was the Walking Egg Contest, which tested participants' balance, coordination, and willpower. Using spoons held in their mouths, participants carefully balanced eggs as they made their way through an obstacle course. The contestants' constant fear of losing their precious cargo made the competition much more suspenseful. As competitors crossed the finish line with their eggs remarkably intact despite the odds, the crowd cheered them on.

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Prize or Challenge:
Inside each egg, an enjoyable task or a treasured prize awaits everyone, heightening the celebration's mystery and excitement. Rewards might be anything from candies to tiny trinkets. On the other hand, challenge activities allow kids to work on tasks that promote creativity, confidence, and collaboration.

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As the time began to end on another memorable Easter celebration at CCHS, laughter echoed through the air and smiles lit up the faces of all who participated. Through games and challenges that tested skill and spirit, we came together as a school community to celebrate the joy and camaraderie that define this particular time of year. As we reflect on the day's festivities, let us carry the spirit of Easter with us – a spirit of fun, friendship, and boundless enthusiasm.

Happy Easter from all of us at Cebu Children of Hope School!