Katie Gard in Manila, Philippines

a window into my new home in an informal urban settlement

What happens when Katie comes home from the Philippines? October 14, 2014

Summer Camp 2014

 

The After School Program at OCCCDA (Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association) in Philadelphia is in full swing!
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by a writer for MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) this morning, and it was invigorating to reflect on all that’s going well in our program, …so I thought I’d share it with you too.  :)
1)  Our after school program was born about 5 years ago, not out of our ideas about what the community needs, but from a research process of knocking on doors in the neighborhood and asking what the perceived needs (and assets!) were in the community — (one of the ‘best practices’ we learned about in grad school!) — and the most common response was: “we need educational support for our children.”  And the facts back it up:
The Philadelphia School District is notoriously distressed, with an unprecedented budget gap of $81 million this year, which has already forced the closing of 64 of Philadelphia’s 250 schools, and upcoming options of either laying off 1,300 staff (mostly teachers), or shortening the school year (Philadelphia School Network, 2014).
On top of this, our neighborhood is one of the most ethnically diverse in Philadelphia, and many parents, who are struggling to learn English themselves, consider themselves unable to help their kids with homework.
This sentiment is backed by:  70% of the elementary-age kids are scoring below “proficient” in reading and math, 1 in 6 are enrolled in ELL classes, and the drop-out rate is such that 50% of men ages 18-24 in our neighborhood haven’t graduated high school.
Therefore, the free after school program at OCCCDA.
2)  For 3 hours every day, Mon-Fri, we offer an Arts & Educational Enrichment program for 60 kids from the neighborhood, with hands-on Math, English, Science, Technology, plus Art, Cross-Cultural, Conflict-Resolution, Nutrition, Recreation, & Music Therapy.
And we carve out Homework Help as a class period, in which volunteers from the local high school and community circulate to help kids with their homework.
3)  Although the program is free, we ask parents to volunteer at least 1 hour per week per child.  This gives us a chance to get to know the parents, and gives them a chance to “give back,” so though they may not have been able to afford a this program if it had tuition, they can maintain dignity and ownership by contributing their time and talents.
We’re seeing that quite a few parents, when given a task that if they weren’t there to do it, it seems there would be no one to do it — end up choosing to come on more days than their minimum requirement, so as to see that niche fulfilled.
For example, when there are parents to staff an extra room, kids who have finished their homework (and begin to get antsy & distracting), can go to a separate room to write paragraphed letters to any of their after-school teachers, which we then respond to the next morning.  Parents have complimented the potential impact that this individualized communication with teachers can foster.
4)  Finally, we have monthly meetings with the parents, in which we gather feedback about programming, and brainstorm about what they’d like to see happen and how they can be part of making it happen.
Needless to say, I’m very happy about where this program is heading, and I’m rejoicing as I look back on the goodness of God, and how He has been guiding the formation of this program, from its beginnings.  And even though I’m not overseas, I’m in awe of the continuities between the driving forces behind this work, and the international community development work I’ve been studying.
Praise God for what he is doing in our world — right in our neighborhood.
 

How to Change the World. Bornstein. April 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Katie in Manila @ 1:09 pm

An inspiring collection of stories about Social Entrepreneurs:

Bornstein, David (2007). How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition. Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

 

A ‘teaser’ to give you an idea what it’s about:

TUL 640 – Proj 3.1 – Lit Review & Reading Log – post to share

 

Theology of Entrepreneurship March 9, 2013

In much of the developing world, the number of able-bodied workers far out-weighs the number of jobs that have been created to employ them.

vach kariton pusher manila-500Two situations result:

First, many of the poor defeatedly resign to the fact that there are no jobs for them, and make do eeking out a living as best they can, with a day-to-day, hand-to-mouth mentality.
Urban poor Filipino culture does not typically lend itself to long-term risk-taking, accumulating capital that could be invested in a start-up business, nor pushing oneself to dream big and work for that dream. Many Filipinos (who are capable of working but don’t have work) live off the good graces of family members & relatives who do have a job, thereby spreading the meager wages thinly.  The income is enough to suffice from day-to-day, but if (when) an emergency arises, they are often forced into cycles of debt.

Secondly, those who are employed are not often treated fairly, but they don’t complain, because they could easily be replaced, as 10 other people are likely waiting to apply for their job.

In the Philippines, most major food chains, stores, and government labor jobs function under a system of contract labor.  Jollibee, (the Filipino competitor of McDonald’s) for example, will often hire workers part-time for only six months at a time, paying them “training period” wages closer to P250/day (minimum wage is P426/day), and clocking them as working 6-hour days, though they are given ‘stay-until-you-get-the-job-done’ assignments that usually keep them there 8+ hours.  (Contract labor is not legally required to pay benefits.)

In bringing about justice, one of the best areas we can target is job creation.

Entrepreneurship has the potential to not just help the ones starting an enterprise, but the additional people they might employ in the future.

In the long-term, nurturing the supposed 10% of the population who have innate entrepreneurial skills could off-set the disproportionate job-to-worker ratio, making the unjust jobs less competitive.  Theoretically, given enough rise of entrepreneurialism, unjust jobs may be forced by the market to reform.

But even on an individual level, from the start, entrepreneurialism can imbibe a certain self-confidence and a breath of new life.

 

Katie’s story of Ate Rebecca:  Manila, Philippines.

In the urban poor community I live in, I have a good friend named Ate Rebecca.  (Ate means ‘older sister.’)  My host mom had been employing her for a while to wash our family’s clothes, but when that stopped working out, she began asking to borrow money from me, with a pitiful pout.  I knew better than to get on a lending spree with her, but agreed instead to support her short-term while we explored alternative job possibilities for her.  We visited a ministry that counsels in livelihood options, and she chose to try soap-making.  We attended a free seminar and invested in a small kit for making dish-soap.  We kept meeting together to check-in as Ate Rebecca led the way on selling soap to her friends and neighbors. 

DSCF0583-400

I soon noticed a marked change in her attitude.  She now felt more in control of her financial situation, commenting, “I hadn’t thought of this as something I can do, but now… I’m doing it!”  We discussed what portion of the earnings ought to go back into capital for the business, what part to set aside for saving & repaying long-overdue loans, and what part could be spent on a conservative but healthy lifestyle for her and her family. 

It all seemed very promising until we discovered that the quality of soap was noticeably inferior, and none of her friends and neighbors were coming back for more.  This was our first major hiccup.  After much consideration, we upgraded to a bubbly version and tried again.  But the momentum had been lost, and the nearby friends: disinterested. 

We’re currently shelving the project, but the experience was not a waste.  It gave Ate Rebecca a taste of taking charge of her lack of employment, and me a window into the hurdles & responses, and transformation of one trying out entrepreneurship. 

God calls us to:

  • Seek justice for the oppressed.  

“Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”  -Isaiah 1:17

Job creation and nurturing entrepreneurship is a good way to work towards this justice.

  • Wise investment of capital.

The ‘Parable of the Talents’ in Matthew 25:14-30 points us toward a responsibility for creative investment and money management.

Another, (more often overlooked), key feature of this story is the lending of capital.  The church should consider how to engage the poor in business skills training, and careful lending of funds.  Funds could come from either a revolving loan fund initiated by wealthier members of the church, or accumulated by the poor themselves in a ‘paluwagan’ style savings cooperative.

* Paluwagan is a Filipino system in which members agree to each put small amounts of cash into a kitty weekly, and then lend the kitty to a different member each period.  It’s a useful way for the poor to collect capital without outside intervention. 

In sum, enabling entrepreneurship can be a central component to the church’s response to seeking justice for the poor.

For the printable Word doc version of this post, click here:
TUL 640 – Proj 2 – Theology of Entrepreneurship short – 3-9-13

 

A Worldwide Phenomenon: Informal Private Schools serving the Poor March 6, 2013

proj 2 - indiaschool2Across the world, it’s commonly accepted knowledge that private schools are for the rich, and public schools are for everyone else.  However, research by James Tooley, documented in The Beautiful Tree, shows otherwise.  In case studies globally, a surprising majority of school-age children, supposed by statistics to be ‘out-of-school youth’ are electing to attend informal local neighborhood low-budget private schools, rather than their sometimes far away, under-performing public school counterparts.

 

What’s going on in this global but off-the-radar system of alternative schooling?  Why are paid alternatives preferred by poverty-stricken parents to free public schools?  What are the benefits and shortcomings of each?  If we (outsiders) aim to help, ought we keep pouring into improving the public school system, or are there ways to help support the informal schools?  Ultimately, what might an ideal model look like?  And how might external funding be put to best use (if at all)?
Click here for the rest of the story!

TUL 555 – Proj 2 – The Beautiful Tree + Oxfam – Katie Gard – 3-5-13

 

Fire in the Slum! A story of clever recovery. November 25, 2012

Dec 26, 2011.  11:00am.  Fire breaks out along the river bank of the Legarda Esteros, totally gutting 89 wall-to-wall shanty structures home to 186 families.  Every person was able to escape the flames with the clothes on their backs, but not much more.  Most had been in their homes resting from a full Christmas celebration the night before, while many families were off visiting relatives in the provinces.

By 3pm, the fire was declared “controlled,” and the community members gathered themselves at the scene.  Barangay captain, Filomena Cinco, immediately called a meeting of all the head-of-households (mostly fathers).  “There’s a pattern,” she said, “among slum communities who are stubbornly resistant to eviction:  fire, then barricade.”  There was little doubt in their minds that the fire was a strategic, last attempt to dis-empower a community that was on the verge of its ground-breaking event (Dec 30) that would begin erecting permanent houses on the land and solidify the community’s long-sought land tenure.

But this community on the banks of the Legarda Esteros, after a decade of cleverly mediating a plan for permanent rights to the land they were living on, was not about to be out-done.

Captain Cinco called all able community members to immediately begin clean-up.  By the end of the day, any and all scrap material that could be sold had been brought to a central location.  Then the men of the community took posts barricading the border of the community so that no one could enter to barricade them out.

The following day, the gathered junk was at once sold to a junk shop, generating P240,000 ($5,854 USD), which was immediately divided equally among the families.  It was just enough for each family to purchase plywood (for floors and walls), and roofing for a skeleton of a shelter.

Captain Cinco then gathered the carpentry-wise men and posed the question, “How many of these shanties can we build in a day?  3-4 per work crew?  Let’s get to work!”  By the end of the 5th day, every family was equipped with the bare bones of an erected structure.

On the sixth day, the antagonistic LGU (local governing unit) sent representatives to deliver the message that no one should build new houses on the land.  “Well, see for yourselves,” replied Captain Cinco, “all the houses have already been rebuilt!”  The representatives toured the site of the freshly-finished houses, taking photos to document the facts.

On the seventh day, Captain Cinco and her crew were summoned to the LGU offices and charged with insubordination.  “You’re building houses and you weren’t supposed to!” they chided.  “Sir, when we got the memo, all the houses had already been built!”  Once again, the LGU was appalled and frustrated at the cleverness and unified cooperation of the stubborn residents of the Estero.

Twelve years after their first eviction notice in 2000, the community is still working on gaining land rights… and is almost complete!
This was the site of my advocacy internship this semester with MATUL.   

Click here for the rest of the story!
Adv – Proj 1 – Internship 10 pg report – 11-25-12

 

Saving for the “What Ifs” September 7, 2012

Filed under: Community Economics — Katie in Manila @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Adversity to Saving

It’s been a curiosity to me that more people don’t save money when they’re in times of plenty so that they’re not destitute in times of want.  Aside from being today-oriented, and the fact that others just might come asking to use your savings for their emergencies, it’s a deeply embedded worry in the culture that maybe something bad will happen to you if you save just for the sake of saving.

 

Story #1:

A few months ago, Romeo started saving what was left of his lunch money at the end of every day.  After about a month, he got sick, and his entire savings (plus some of his parents’ money) went toward a doctor’s visit  and medicine.

It’s because he was saving,” commented his friends.  “Bad things happen to you when you hoard your money.”

 

Story #2:

I cross-checked this story with a friend from another circle, and she verified it with one of her own:

This bamboo “alkansya” is a typical traditional Filipino piggy bank. There’s a hole at the top to drop in coins, and you have to break it to get money back out.

 

“A few years ago, I started a little piggy bank, with no explicit purpose; just to save.  On the same day that I filled it to the top, my dad got in a taxi accident, and the amount in my piggy bank was exactly the cost of the hospital bill.”  She of course surrendered her entire savings to the family’s cause, and couldn’t help but feel a little guilty that maybe the accident was because of her savings.

Maybe it was God’s or fate’s way of telling her, ‘don’t tuck away money for yourself for no certain reason, or fate will give you a reason, and it won’t be pretty.’

 

It’s OK to Save when… 

* My friend added that it is culturally acceptable to have a piggy bank if you’re saving for something specific, even if it’s just a toy or something you don’t need — just as long as it has a purpose.

* Culture has also adapted to sanction saving in a bank, where the money is supposedly out of sight, out of mind.

* The problem comes when the piggy bank becomes an end in itself, just ‘having money’ being the object of our desire.

 

Saving for the “What Ifs”:

This helps explain one more reason why trying to talk my friends into saving for the abstract ‘future’ is so difficult — when “you never know… something might happen and you’ll need cash” doesn’t sound like, “ooh, therefore I should save” so much as “yeah, if I save, I bet something will happen!”

 

Cause & Effect Interpretations    – of –    Saving & Negative Incidents:

Interesting how interpretations of the above events can vary with cultural upbringing.  My natural reaction to both stories was, “well, given that something bad happened, it sure is good that you have already what you need to cover the cost, so that you don’t have to go into debt to pay for this emergency.”  And theirs is, “if I don’t want to incur an unexpected expense, I should probably refrain from saving aimlessly.”

 

Middle-Ground:

Our happy medium:  plan a goal you want to save for.  I’m happy to report that I have about 5-6 friends setting aside vacation money in my care, and 2-4 saving up for Christmas.  I’d noticed before that everyone comes with a distinct purpose for saving… now I know why.  :)

 

Angel’s Burger March 5, 2012

Filed under: Community Economics — Katie in Manila @ 5:25 pm

Food Too Popular
Angel’s Burger is a favorite (in fact, the only) chain hamburger shop in Botocan.  It has great patronage, especially because it’s in a prime location — right next to the central basketball court.

Two days ago, the corporation decided to close down their Botocan site.  Apparently, its delivery truck had started having problems getting all the way to Botocan.  Reportedly, kids in a neighboring community had practiced their hold up skills on the truck recently & stolen all the buns.  I don’t know if the incident was repeated or not, but without negotiation, Angel’s decided that was beyond what they wanted to deal with, and pulled out.

Opportunity for Entrepreneurship

As disappointing as the loss is to the people who like to hang out at the court and eat burgers, a few of us are wondering if this might be a good opportunity for the workers to go from employees to owners/operators.  It’s popular enough.  They’d survive.  They just need the capital to start.

There are plenty of micro-credit organizations around that offer loans — some at fair rates, and others at ridiculously high rates.  I did some research, and it looks like the low-rate ones available in Manila (like CCT.org) are so into the slow work of community development that it would be difficult to get a quick loan from them on-the-spot, to keep up the momentum.

Lending agencies available from the US (like KIVA.org) use “field partners” (like CCT.org), so you can’t get a loan directly from KIVA.org anyway.
Hmm… options, options.  This is all happening at the same time that a few of us were musing about some of our church members who don’t have jobs, but hang around the Angel’s Burger area a lot.  I wonder if they’d ever want to pool their resources & go into business with the Angel’s Burger’s employees…

Fun to think about.  But I know it has to be their idea — no sense in me pushing something where mine is the only enthusiasm.  ;)

Just the same, it’s fun to start thinking about practical application for all I’m learning right now in my Community Economics course about micro-enterprise.  :)

 

History of Botocan March 4, 2012

Filed under: Urban Realities — Katie in Manila @ 5:42 pm

Barangay Botocan is an informal settlement of over 4,000 people living in the heart of Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines.  According to residents, the land currently belongs to the University of the Philippines (U.P.), but in its early days, apparently it was controlled by the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority (NWSA).  It’s unclear to me whether there was a transfer of property rights, or if both institutions believe they own the land.

Moving In…

Ate Merly Gamos was among the first to set up a home on the land, in the 1960s.  At that time, the land was a vacant, muddy lot, spotted with molehill-like mounds (locally termed, ‘dwarf homes’).  She initiated a contract with NWSA allowing her to build a plywood hut on the land, providing that if NWSA ever needed to use the land, she would relocate.  NWSA posted guards on the land so that as more people started moving in, the guards could ensure that no one was setting up permanent structures, lest they get too established there, which would make it harder to ask them to leave later.

But sneakily, Ate Merly put up a concrete frame behind her plywood façade.  The plywood, after all, had become infested with termites.  She also strategically made friends with the NWSA guards, bringing them plates of pancit (rice noodles) on her birthday, as Filipino custom would have you do for your neighbors.

Water

Because fetching water is bothersome, they figured out ways to bore holes and extract water from the pipes in place on the National Waterworks’ property.  Actually, Ate Merly’s relative works for NWSA, “so he dug the holes & put in the channeling tubes because he has the right equipment, and I paid him,” she reports.  As it turns out, buried beneath the long, narrow settlement of Botocan lies NWSA’s massive waterway system; “you could drive a truck through it if it wasn’t filled with water.”  So the availability of water, even if illegal, made it an attractive location to settle.

My neighbor sits outside his family's storefront, which sells ready-made meals to community members. More often than not, houses on my major footpath have a store-front: either for freshly-cooked "ulam" (the food that goes with your rice), or grocery items, for convenience. ... The cement blocks with holes cover a drainage waterway.

Enterprise

Ate Merly, a true business woman, started engaging in various microenterprises, selling baked goods, meats, etc. to the neighbors, and became relatively financially influential.

Electricity

Ate Merly was soon able to pay Meralco, the local power company, to put in electricity in the lower part of Botocan, where she was living.  “Had NWSA found out, they would have been mad.”  Botocan, at that time, still wasn’t recognized as a barangay.  It was still just a cluster of families living ‘temporarily’ on NWSA land, or so the owners thought.

Municipality

During the Marcos regime, informal settlements (locally termed, “barrios”) across metro Manila began to be recognized as political units, or “barangays.”  A barangay captain was soon appointed from among the settlers, and he registered the cluster of houses as “Botocan,” a word meaning, “the place of: the string that holds the twigs of a stiff broom together.”  The Botocan families’ guiding principle was that “scattered, we are nothing, but together, we are strong.”

Drainage

I have yet to learn how the drainage system was put in place, but I know it’s vital to a community’s well-being.  Last weekend, I visited a community on the outskirts of Manila which does not yet have a drainage system.  Instead, their roads and lawns are spotted with standing water, which are so laden with filth (garbage, moss, mold, …) that it’s indisputably a health hazard.  Botocan, though, is quite fortunate to have built-in sewage systems.

Land Rights

The residents of Botocan do not yet have rights to the land they’re living on.  In 2008, the U.P. announced their plan to reclaim the land, but no real steps have been taken.  So residents of Botocan just go on with their daily lives, more or less un-phased.

After all, by now, they have mostly cement houses with corrugated tin roofs, organized into a healthy community network, with centralized basketball courts, barangay halls, and churches, all for community life.

 

An Unfinished Story… January 29, 2012

Filed under: People / Church / Community — Katie in Manila @ 4:00 pm

(PS. her leg is fine; it just looks funny with the camera angle.) ;)

There’s a 13-year-old girl in my neighborhood named Rubelyn.

She’s always hungry; she says her parents only feed her & her 4 older siblings once per day, at midnight.

She says it’s hard for her to focus in school because she’s only ever thinking about the breakfast she didn’t have.

Aspects of the Problem:

Naturally, my heart goes out to her, but I’m also cautious about how to “help” without exacerbating the situation.

First, I’m skeptical about how hungry she really is; she has turned down bananas, potatoes, and fish that I’ve offered her in favor of bread or spaghetti.  (To her credit, apparently her family only ever eats rice & bread products — it’s as if she’s never developed a taste for anything else.)  But she did enjoy a sweet orange I gave her for her birthday the other week.

Second, I told her I’d like to talk with her parents about their living expenses.  Rubelyn says that their electricity bills & water bills take away from what they could be spending on food.  From visiting their house, I know that they’ve had the lights & TV on for extended periods of time; could this be a problem of money management as much as anything else?

Rubelyn did not seem to want me to meet with her parents, repeating that they come home much too late.  She says they both work, but only her step-mom brings home a salary.  (I can’t help but wonder what’s happening to the dad’s salary.)

The Beginnings of a Solution?

It seems one long-term solution could be redirecting the parents’ earnings toward setting aside some breakfast & lunch money for the kids — (if one could just talk with them).  But in the mean time, Rubelyn & her siblings are still hungry.

Earlier today, after Sunday morning worship, I decided I would make a double-sized sack lunch for myself, show up at her house at noon, and ask to eat together at their house.  My host mom helped me pack some rice, chicken, scrambled egg, and mixed veggies, and some neighbors helped me locate her house again.  Only Rubelyn and her friend were home; her oldest brother was upstairs sleeping, so we ate in the dim stairway, next to 2 well-behaved chickens who live inside the entryway.  About 1/2 way through our meal, we heard the sound of a motorcycle, and Rubelyn panicked.  “You have to leave,” she said, hiding my tupperware.  “My dad will get so mad!”

I exited the house on command, but waited nearby, making small-talk with the neighbor moms.  Once the dad had parked his motorcycle & gone inside, I explained the whole thing to the neighbors.

They didn’t have much of an answer for me, except that they perceive the family as stable, aside from the dad being hot-tempered.  Then the neighbor mom retrieved my plastics from inside the house, and with still no sign of Rubelyn coming back out, I headed home.

Thoughts…

What am I to think now?  Can I trust what Rubelyn is telling me?  And why does she not want me to come into contact with her parents (who obviously don’t just come home at night)?

And how do I continue on from here?  I want to continue drawing near to Rubelyn and getting to the bottom of this, but as I do so, I don’t want to be fooled and taken advantage of either.

Theology…

Jesus says, “I was hungry, and you fed me.”  I want it to be that simple.

So, we’re in the middle of an unfinished story right now.  Please be praying for discernment for me as it continues to unfold…  :)

 

New Neighbors: Part 2 November 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Katie in Manila @ 7:23 am

It’s always more complicated than it seems.

I did my research, and the community is well aware of these families that are new to me.

 

Family from Story #1:

It seems they don’t really have to live in a push-cart.

The house they pulled up in front of is one they’ve parked at many times before in years past.  The adjacent house behind Lolo & Lola’s belongs to the now blind & feeble mother of the woman in the push-cart.  Theoretically, especially in Filipino culture, you should be living with your mother, taking care of her.

To their credit, rumor has it that the house is infested with bugs that live in your fabrics like fleas and stick to your skin like ticks.  I can understand choosing a push-cart over that.

At least they’re networked.  They have family to help sustain them.

And I should note that they haven’t actually begged anything of me.

 

Family from Story #2: 

The mentally-handicapped mom & child have an extensive network of relatives in our neighborhood, too, who actually send them out to beg, outside of Botocan.

They have visited my pastor’s family many times in the past asking for money.  My discerning pastor’s wife, Ate Ema, instead gave them ‘bigas’ (uncooked rice) and/or ‘tinapay’ (bread).  After a while, Ate Ema started challenging the woman that she really should find ‘real’ work, for the sake of the child she’s raising.  Believe it or not, there are small jobs that she’s capable of, like helping collect peoples’ trash on trash day.  (See former blog post: “You’re Not Going to EAT that, Are You?”)

After that, Ate Ema actually witnessed her participating in going door to door in the neighborhood along with the children, offering to take peoples’ trash to the dump-truck in exchange for a few pesos.

And the child, April, isn’t mute nor depressed.  She can be seen playing & talking with other children.  I guess she’s just been trained to put on her ‘game face’ when on the job, begging.

 

Third family:

Even with Lola & Lolo, I feel I don’t know the whole story.  It seems when you’re begging, you have to make it sound like you literally have nothing if the person you’re asking doesn’t give you something for their next impending meal.

When I bought rice for Lola & Lolo, and asked to eat with them, they told me at the beginning that they had zero pesos to spend on that meal.  I hung out at their house while Lola cooked the rice, and then she served me a plate and said, “You first; we’ll eat later.”  I insisted that I’d wait & eat with them.  After a little while, Lola left & came right back with some brothy fish soup to go on the rice.  It certainly wasn’t fancy — but it was something — worth more than the zero pesos she claimed to have started with.

But of course had she not been deceptive, I may not have seen anything wrong with asking them to chip in on the rice, and we could have had plain rice for dinner — which for Filipinos, it seems, is really not an option, no matter how poor you are.

Lola also has a drinking problem, and has failed at times to wash my clothes properly (as in… they still sometimes smell like sweat when she’s done) because she sometimes shows up to work drunk.  My host mom has actually stopped hiring her, but has left up to me whether or not I want to continue giving her my laundry.  I’m actually quite torn about it, in fact.

 

Begging: 

My pastor says he has seen kids (age 8-9) from Botocan out on the street corner outside Botocan begging.  A bit later, he saw those same kids in the computer shop playing games — more than likely using the money they had just ‘earned.’

My pastor also assured me that the people I mentioned above are so well networked that they’re not going to starve if I don’t buy them rice on any given encounter.

Today when I met the mentally-handicapped mom, she asked for money to buy RC Cola (generic Coke, 35 pesos), and instead I offered her the 2 oranges I had packed this morning with her in mind.  She didn’t accept them from me, but her daughter did.  I assured her that oranges are healthy, and pop is not.

“Beggars can’t be choosers.”  If hunger is your issue, you’ll take decent food when it’s offered, right?

 

Theological Reflections:

This all adds a new dimension to my thoughts earlier on

Greed & gluttony

Fairness, compassion, commitment

“I was hungry & you fed me”

“Whatever you did for the [overlooked/ignored], you did for me.”

 

So what now?  Ought I or our church still intervene?

And by what tactic (given the inherent element of deception in fronting a “beggar’s” lifestyle)?