Diamonds in the Rough

Through my blog I want to be a voice to those individuals and organizations that are not ordinarily heard in mainstream media, but who are committed to being a voice to those who are the most marginalized in our society, those who have no power to change their circumstances. Ron and Joanna Domingo (who we have had the incredible privilege to befriend) is one such couple involved in an incredible work in a region called Tondo in the Philippines. Ron and Joanna went to the Philippines with the intention of living there for a few months before they headed back home to Scotland. However life took a different turn! Today they along with their 2 babies and a team of volunteers serve a community in Tondo, well known for being one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Tondo is notorious for being the poorest and most underdeveloped district in the country. Many of the city's slums are found in this area. However Ron and Joanna choose not to echo these words over the area, rather to speak hope and to see a future for the people in this area. They established the Kalayaan Community Ministries, which works among the people in the dumpsite to restore their dignity and to give them a future.

They serve in conditions where it is a regular sight to spot children salvage half eaten food from overflowing garbage bins. The stench from rotting, unsegregated and fermenting rubbish is what surrounds the air. The dumpsite is infested with toxic waste and contaminated water. For them it is not about making it to the list of the biggest charities or to attract media attention to their work, rather it is about being faithful to serve the people and community that their heart goes out to. They consider it an honor to have a chance to alleviate suffering and to touch and change lives for the better. It is their life’s mission to see justice established where injustice cripples through poverty. Their Dumpsite project works faithfully to improving living standards and providing access to basic needs such as food, shelter and basic health care.

KCM dumpsite kids

KCM has designed and implemented different programs with the objective of ameliorating social problems such as poverty, homelessness and hunger. They have developed a sustainable feeding program called  ‘Food For School/Packed Lunch Program’. This is a feeding program designed specifically for children and young people struggling to stay in school because their families cannot afford to buy them lunch. It involves providing 100 packed lunches on a daily basis.

KCM has also designed an effective program that works towards improving health, hygiene and well being of the people. This venture is called ‘Daily Wound care program’. Every day around the dumpsite area there are children who get wounds on their feet from walking on glass and other sharp objects hidden in the garbage. Their hands are at times wounded from working on glass or playing in it. They get wounds on their heads from cuts or insect bites that get infected from the dirt and intense heat. This program cares for the wounded and brings healing to their body and soul.

Today a significant number of individuals in Tondo area has benefited from all of the above-mentioned programs and many other programs they run. KCM has given the little hearts in this region an opportunity to grow up healthy, educated and prepared to succeed and contribute to society. They are constantly bombarded with a flock of hurting, hungry, homeless children. The harsh reality is that they cannot always meet the needs due to financial constraints.

Every child deserves a chance to survive and thrive. I believe each of us have in us the ability to create a positive influence that can change a person’s life. You can make a difference by spreading the word, volunteer participation, donating or by simply saying a word of prayer. Choose to make a difference in a child's life. As you change their world, you change your's in the process.

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KCM is a non-profit organization that functions solely through donations. The CEO does not take a salary and they work with minimal administrative cost. KCM is committed to being good stewards of the funds entrusted to them and they have set up an online transparency page where everyone who donates is added and can view incoming funds and what the purpose of these funds are for. If you are interested in learning more about what Klayaan community ministries are doing or you feel lead to donate, you could contact them at kalayaancommunityministries@hotmail.com. You could catch their updates through their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/KalayaanMinistries?ref=br_rs

Hands reaching out to save little hearts from under the rubbles of war

My aim with this feature is to expose you to a world of children robbed from their simple joys of adolescence lived out in carelessness, instead replaced by the horror of war, death and the in-exchangeable pain of loss. I am a mother of three and the thought of armed men gaining control over the destinies of innocent children, confining them to holes unfit for animals, infested with disease and the horrors of weapons used only by demented minds more so than the ones who created them, causes chills to the very core of my being. This feature is not about Politics, it's not about war, it's not about the colossal mistakes of the 21st century thought we live in… rather it's about those simple, innocent, highly impressionable minds of 7 and 8 year olds that were really just put here so someone would love them and nourish them, so that one day they would be devoted to their families and their communities, dreaming of a better tomorrow.

The conflict in Syria has been going on for more than 2 years with a mass influx of Syrian refugees pouring into Lebanon daily. It is estimated that 52.8% of the Syrian refugee population are children under the age of 18. This is largely a children's refugee crisis. These are children at-risk in part because they have already lost 2 years of formal education with nothing to do with their time. There is no opportunity to go to school for legal reasons. They are rejected and marginalized, at-risk children. The future for these children may look bleak, but in the midst of this chaos is a movement that shines the light in the darkness, committed to making a difference... I am honored to highlight the work of our dear friend Camille Melki and his organization ‘Heart for Lebanon’.

‘Heart for Lebanon’ was founded in 2006 with a vision to transform devastated communities in the Middle East, by providing physical and emotional care. Syrian and Iraqi refugees children have especially benefited from this organization, as they help them overcome the stress related to their situation and provide opportunities for education, welfare, and medical treatment. Through H4L, I have come across many gripping stories of families fleeing the violence that would also reveal how Syria’s civil war has impacted children.

I share with you the story of a divided family: the story of Ayham, Iman, and Hamza.

Ayham was just six years old when his life was forever changed. Growing up in the city of Homs in Syria, Ayham enjoyed a wonderful and secure life with his mother, father, older sister Iman and younger brother Hamza. But Ayham's family and neighbors weren't the only ones occupying their neighborhood in Homs; someone had moved in, someone unwelcomed. These unwelcome gangs find pleasure in what they can steal and whom they can hurt, armed with a reputation of kidnap, torture, and rape. On January 15th, 2013 a huge massacre took place in their neighborhood, killing many in the process. Ayham was forced to cope with the loss of his father, his innocence, and the only home he ever knew as his family fled the neighborhood. Ayham’s uncle accompanied them by foot to a camp located in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. With a lack of physical space in the camp, Ayham's mother was unable to seek permanent refuge in the Bekka Valley camp and was forced to once again uproot her family. Presented with no other option, Ayham's mother took him and traveled to Tripoli, a city located in North Lebanon, and settled in a camp there, leaving his sister Iman and brother Hamza to stay in the Bekka Valley camp with their uncle. To this day, Ayham and his mother are separated from his two siblings and receive little contact from them. Monthly food and hygiene portions are provided to Ayham's uncle and his family as well as Hamza and Iman by ‘Heart for Lebanon’. The children also attend the monthly educational program run by H4L in the Bekka Valley camp where they play games, sing songs, and undergo value-based education. It is the hope of Ayham and his mother that they will one day rejoin the rest of their family in the Bekka Valley camp, a dream that is yet to unfold into reality. For now they have a reason to live  as ‘Heart for Lebanon’ shines a great beacon light of provision and hope into their life..they are loved, they are sustained.

Within each initiative ‘Heart for Lebanon’ seeks to eliminate the dependency of those it serves and to restore their dignity in the eyes of the surrounding community and between them and their creator. I applaud them for their unshakable commitment towards the welfare and security of refugee children.h4l

We can do more than make promises. We can do a little and still ensure children like Hanan have access to an education, are able to stay in school, and gain the skills they need to flourish for generations to come. There are so many possibilities, but we must start acting on them. If you are lead to make a difference in one child’s life and uplifting a community of thousands, if you would like to contribute visit: http://www.heartforlebanon.org/

I hope to teach my children that the more they’re given, the more of a responsibility they have to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless and comfort the afflicted. Join me in a journey to teach the future generation to be more socially engaged individuals.….Onward to a better tomorrow,  better communities, a better World!