Space is something we Filipinos don't care too much about. To name a few examples: our houses our built right next to each other; there is minimal to non-existent personal space; shoppers are literally rubbing elbows at the biggest public market in the city; and passengers are squished inside a small jeepney.
But space is something our founders thought an important factor when building a child-caring center. During this pandemic time, where children are prohibited to go out of their homes, our children are still able to "go out" of their homes. They are still able to enjoy a game of soccer and kickball in our huge playground. Our toddlers are still able to ride their scooters on our driveways. Our children are still able to run around and chase each other in a game of tag. The space we have makes the lockdown endurable for everyone.
Employing 100+ Filipino workers is an evidence of CSC's commitment to the children it serves. This means we have people who can do the job for our children. This means our children can be children again and not worry about adult responsibilities.
But this lockdown gave our children the opportunity to step up. Older children looking after the younger ones, children cooking dessert and meals for the home, children leading praise and worship nights, older children taking on their responsibilities whole-heartedly. We are proud of the small and big victories are children are achieving.
Our houseparents live on-site. We require that of them so our children will have that constant adult figure in their lives. They have various tasks and responsibilities in the homes. Just like any other parent, they too have different parenting styles. Being in lockdown gave the chance for our houseparents to talk more, share notes, and give each other encouraging words. The houseparents supporting each other leads to better parenting in our homes. Happy parents equal to happy children.
This pandemic is discouraging at times, but we choose to celebrate the small and big wins during this time.
In May 2019, after 40 years, we the Social Work team, were able to move our case files and office to the building inside the compound of the residential shelter, where we were able to join the rest of the multi-disciplinary team, which has always held office at the shelter. Moving the office brought us hope of improving services by being closer to the children and the rest of the multi-disciplinary team.
When COVID-19 caused CSC to call for employees to be locked-in, two of our three Social Workers (Mardy and Glaiza) were able to volunteer to stay inside. Mardy and Glaiza saw this as an opportunity to continue strengthening relationships with the children, work more closely with the multi-disciplinary team, and dig into some pending files. Cris, the remaining Social Worker, worked from home.
This pandemic posed challenges in case management. We knew it was important to keep the children involved. During the annual Summer Activity Program given to the children at CSC, we were given time to have a "Short Talk" or focused group discussion on an overview of challenges in case management. This was conducted recently at the Medical Building. It was attended by 32 children, ages 10 and above. It was facilitated by Mardy and Glaiza.
During the Short Talk, the kids were observed to be engaged, listening, and interested in the topic as they discussed how the challenges brought about by the pandemic affected their future. The children learned that physical birth family visits were not possible with government-imposed travel restrictions and health safety protocols of CSC, but that connecting with birth family as approved, was to be done through telecommunication.
It was a time to affirm that the we and multi-disciplinary team were doing our best to continue to provide for the holistic needs of the children by adapting and learning new ways to deliver services. This could be seen by Cris calling houseparents and children on the phone, counselors providing telecounseling, and therapy services adapted to be home-based until therapists could be admitted inside the shelter after quarantine. Other staff, such as the nurses and teachers, were also locked-in to ensure that the service was available to the children. The children were encouraged as the social workers shared that they (along with the multi-disciplinary team) were always looking at the individual needs of the child and advocating for their best interests.
The children understood the challenges we faced to complete some requirements due to travel restrictions or safety protocols and that this affected other professionals and offices working on their cases as well. However, the children were assured that we were proactive in lobbying for them. Social workers were in contact with government offices, including the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Inter-Country Adoption Board. We were learning new ways to submit Child Study Reports and to keep connected with other professionals and agencies involved in case management. True to being advocates, it is at the heart of the social work department to steward time and services available for the benefit of the child regardless of the circumstance.
The rising concern among the older children at risk of aging out of adoption was discussed. They expressed concern about what their future would hold and if that would be together with CSC. It was explained that CSC had prepared for this by teaching the children at the shelter life and independent living skills. The Independent Living Program was still a residential shelter but with more in-depth training on these skills to help them transition out to the community.
We can imagine the inner turmoil social workers and case workers, nationally and around the globe, have at this time being unable to physically reach their clients or offices. Our heart goes out to the children and families who have lost this connection and keep them in our prayers.
Thankfully, at CSC, we have the option to be together with the children. We have options that allow us to continue in our ministry commitment to provide children a temporary shelter and case management. Being with them has allowed us to further think out of the box and see areas we can continue to serve.
This pandemic has highlighted challenges and blessings in connection. As social workers in service to the children at CSC, the time to be with them has been an encouragement to us. We are blessed to see how the children are growing, coping, and learning during this season. We are grateful for this opportunity to be able to connect and be readily available to them.
I had breakfast with a CSC donor today. He and his wife have been very generous to CSC over the years. He had previously owned a business in the Twin Cities and he mentioned how glad he was the he didn't have to be trying to run a business during this pandemic. I think we all have things in our past that we are glad we don't have to deal with during this challenging and difficult time. Although I miss being on the Leadership teams in Cebu so much, I don't really miss some of the difficult discussions and hard decisions that need to be made almost on a daily basis. The thing that makes them hard is that they affect lives, and we don't have a grand blueprint for success in navigating this pandemic. None of us has ever seen anything like this so we have no data base of proven methods to bank on .
I am so glad that our new Field Director, Roberto Atienza, is so talented and enthusiastic to embrace the challenges of leading CSC in Cebu during this time. I'm sure he would rather be leading under different circumstances but he has stepped up and taken on the challenges with vigor and tireless effort. His term of leadership began when the pandemic was already upon the Philippines. While still learning some of the basics about the ministry, getting to know our leaders and deciding on a management style he was suddenly leading meetings about quarantines, supply chains, manpower crises, lockdowns, mobility limitations, and the financial, social work, educational, medical, HR and spiritual issues that this crisis presents to CSC. And these have been oom meetings, not face to face sessions where it is easier to share feelings and interpret ideas and reactions. I am thankful that he is not wishing he was someplace else or focusing on the negative parts of ministry in a pandemic. His faith in God is strong, contagious and encouraging to the people whose pictures are on the Zoom screen and who rely on him for direction, support and spiritual leadership.
Am I glad that I am not having to lead CSC at this time? Well, that is a complicated question. We left Cebu in part because of concerns because of our age and health issues, and we don't second guess that. I miss the interactions with our great Leadership Team, watching them rise to the occasion every single day. I miss consultations with Roberto on a wide range of issues and watching the child care workers and other lock-in staff doing an exceptional job. But I don't miss some of the pressure packed meetings that are necessary, of having to come up with fresh ideas when I don't feel like I have any more, and facing the sobering realities every day of a deadly disease lurking just outside our CSC campus that it is our job to keep out. I know that at 66 years of age I don't have the same stamina I used to have.
I am glad that God worked out a transition of leadership in Cebu and that Roberto is clearly His man for the job. Stepping aside and letting him lead was a seamless transition for me because of who he is as a man of God and a leader. I know that Stateside is where we are supposed to be, even if we miss the kids and workers so much it hurts sometimes. In that respect I'm glad to be where I am.
Please keep Roberto and the Leadership Team in your prayers during these tough days. I can say from experience that they feel your prayers, your love and encouragement and need it very much. Thanks!
A few months ago we were planning our trip back to Minnesota to start our retirement. Because of the pandemic our flights were canceled and we were put on "enhanced community quarantine." Basically , we have had to stay inour home for the past 100 days, unable to go to the shelter or the office or the Children of Hope School to see the kids and workers. Needless to say it has been a challenging time for everyone at CSC. During our extended quarantine we have been checking to see if there are any flights out of the Philippines, preferably Cebu. We were happy to be here, helping out Roberto and the Leadership team in helping assure that our children are receiving the best care possible during the lockdown in Banawa. We have attended regular Zoom meetings, discussing manpower and financial issues, keeping our US office appraised of the situation here and dealing with logistical issues of moving people and goods around during times of strict measures that limit mobility.
Just the other day we heard of a flight to the U.S. via Korean Airlines and Delta. In order to make this flight we needed to secure a Travel Pass to get to the airport, health certificates andbarangay and immigration clearances. Jill from our US office helped a lot as did our Administrative Assistant, Vanjing and Jerry Salgo, the person who has coordinated all the security and transportation matters for CSC thr0ughout this crisis.
So we are leaving Cebu on July 4! Its Wait and Hurry Up. We are trying to organize our possessions, the accumulation of 41 years of living in Cebu, in just a few days. Some things were are selling, some we are shipping to MN and most we are giving away. But arranging all of our emotions has been more challenging. The thoughts of walking away from the ministry that has been our life for 41 years had been on the back burner for a long time as we weren't sure how the pandemic was going to play out. We had been emotionally prepared to be here in Cebu until Christmas if necessary.
So now we are scurrying to get ready to leave. So many CSC and other people are helping us. One of the nicest gifts to us was an amazing farewell party at the Shelter this morning. Although we weren't able to actually hug or be near the children or workers, we did go inside the CSC compound. We sat on the area outside the conference room of the Gleddie Building and heard the kids sing, give tributes and give us a ton of love and appreciation. It was the first time we had seen them in more than 100 days. Lots of tears were shed. It wasn't the party we had imagined months ago when we were preparing for retirement, but it was a wonderful party and we are so thankful to the Leadership Group for planning it. We were humbled. It made leaving Cebu, although still difficult, seem somehow more manageable because we were able to see and hear the kids we love so much.
When you care for 80 residents, from infants to young adults, you want to make sure you are prepared as a global pandemic creeps closer and closer to your front door. Though CSC (and most of the world) is maneuvering through uncharted waters, I am proud of the way Roberto, Paul, and the CSC leadership team have been proactive and creative in their response.
One of the top priorities before COVID-19 became prevalent in Cebu was to make sure we would have the manpower and supplies needed to continue to provide fantastic care for our kids. As we were working to stock up on medicine, food, diapers, and other daily necessities, God was working in the hearts of many CSC employees who volunteered to be "locked in" at the Shelter. These people (pictured below) were an answer to prayer as the best way we could keep our kids safe from the virus was to do a total lockdown.
We are now in week 3 of lockdown at CSC and God is continuing to show His goodness. I am so thankful for our team of dedicated CSC employees and the ways they are using this time at the Shelter to create fun memories for our kids and enable them to continue progressing academically. Teacher Cris, our CCHS principal, signed up to be locked in at the Shelter and is helping lead the kids in academic activities every morning. Everyone from house parents to aunties to social workers to nurses have stepped up to do what is needed for the ministry at this time. God's presence is so visible at CSC!
As a leadership team God has been helping us be creative with how we can support our "locked in" coworkers. Prayer has been our main vehicle. Every night at 9:30pm we pray for the kids at CSC as well as our coworkers who are living and working at the Shelter. We also divided up all the locked in employees among the leadership team so each of us have 3 or 4 specific people we are more intentionally praying for every day. During Holy Week we set up Facebook Live events so both the employees locked in and those locked out could worship together and encourage one another. The Saturday before Holy Week the locked in employees had requested a special worship time that would just be for the adults, a time when they could focus their worship without having to divide their attention with monitoring kids and helping them worship. Roberto and Paul arranged a time after the kids went to bed to gather all the adults. The employees were so thankful for that time of refreshing! As a leadership team we are meeting together online 2-4 times a week to be proactive and planned as the COVID situation constantly changes in Cebu. Pictured below is one of the many checkpoints around the city.
The immediate outlook in Cebu is not promising. A couple of days ago they set up road barricades around our part of town (pictured below) as we have growing numbers of COVID cases. Now, today, there are rumors that the road that the Shelter is on will have its own barricade, prohibiting anyone from coming in or going out. Many questions like how we'll get food deliveries to the Shelter are on our minds. But, just as God has been faithful and present continually over the past 40 years, He will show Himself able and good in the midst of increasing restrictions.
Thank you for your continued prayers! We at CSC know that there are many, many places in the world that need your prayers and financial support. We are extremely grateful for your continued commitment to our amazing kids!