Submitted for publication, CFPnP Newsletter, June 2013  

PONDO NG PINOY and ACE IPI
JOURNEY WITH THE YOUNG

The Lord Jesus affirmed the value of the young and His utmost love for them when He said:  “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them…..for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Then He embraced them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13;16). This is both an affirmation and a call.

            Responding to that call and with an ardent desire to minister to, and with underprivileged young persons, the Advocates for Children and Elders International Philippines (ACEIPI), a duly registered non-profit organization, embarked on a “Youth for (4) Youth(Y4Y)” Program. Even as ACEIPI then in 2005, started catering to the needs of the marginalized sector of youth offenders in a facility in Bicutan, it knew that there is greater need to prevent other minors in poor communities in committing felonies and other acts of violence.  Hence, a more holistic program such as the Y4Y becomes imperative.

             Aimed at ultimately promoting youth empowerment, the flagship Y4Y Program implements 4 major Components: Access to Education, Values Formation, Competency Development and Community Volunteerism. Through the years, ACE IPI targeted within 5 sites i.e. Riverville, Lopezville, Lovewin, Espiritu and Napoleon, those who either have stopped schooling, or are entering and/or continuing their high school education but could hardly pursue their studies. To date, ACEIPI has been assisting 74 indigent youth.  But recognizing that the Church is an indispensable partner in shaping character and building lives, ACEIPI sought the assistance of the Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation.   In April 2012, when resources seemed to be dwindling, the grant from the PnP came in as a timely “rescue”.  Hence, of the total number of ACE IPI beneficiaries, 41 are being supported by PnP, more specifically there are 19 in  high school,  7 K12, 1 elementary  , 1 is taking up vocational courses while  13 others are enrolled in college.  PnP helps provide high school students their daily fares, plus a budget for school supplies, projects and uniforms.  Those in college receive a share in their tuition fees, some school supplies and an allowance for their daily transportation.  As an added form of support, they are also allowed to access the computer facilities of ACE IPI office for school research work and reports

            But for ACEIPI, academic education is not enough. Faith-based values and a nurturing family are integral links to youth development and spiritual maturity.  A child’s success is often anchored on adequate parental care and guidance. Hence, monthly Values Formation sessions center not only on promoting youth leadership but more importantly on family enrichment, e.g. strengthening the interpersonal relationships among the members and bringing them all closer to God.  A day of Recollection with Christmas Fellowship is also being held.  In all these PnP funded sessions, almost 110 regularly participate.  The presence therefore of both youth and their parents is required. They must also attend the Eucharistic celebration at least every Sunday.  They are further enjoined to actively join parish-based activities such as membership in the choir, Catechism classes, etc.  Meanwhile, the attendance of the youth “scholars” both in school and in the parish is being monitored by designated Area Coordinators.

As enthusiasm and spirit of cooperation grows, more and more parents and youth are rendering volunteer services not only to ACE IPI but to their respective communities as well.  Y4Y member-families already began developing support group systems.

            During summer of each year, ACE IPI conducts various classes e.g, English and Math Tutorials, lessons on Arts/Painting, playing the violin, folk dancing including sewing and rosary making for parents.  In the earlier years, all youth “scholars” had been provided with Basic and Advance Computer Education.  Mothers also attended a livelihood class on how to produce laundry powder, liquid detergents, cleaning aids, hand soap and sanitizer. All of these training sessions develop skills and enhance intellectual capabilities.  Some of them could be utilized towards the socio-economic improvement of their family life.  
         
          It is important to note that the continuing support of Pondo ng Pinoy essentially brought about a different kind of consciousness to youth and parents and to volunteers as well. For one, Rev. Fr. Raprap del Rosario’s message during the 7th anniversary celebration of ACE IPI was most inspiring.  He believes that the future is well alive in the hearts and minds of the young but that in striving for a good future, they must always uphold and respect the dignity of every human person…that of their parents, their neighbors and themselves, for such is not dictated by financial status in life.

            With the renewed grant of PnP for this school year, ACE IPI became even more determined to implement a much stricter set of policies and guidelines for Y4Y members to follow, particularly the latter’s mandatory and prompt attendance to agreed activities and meetings, otherwise they cannot avail of Program benefits.  ACE IPI made Y4Y members realize more and more the value of every 25 centavos or a one peso that goes into the PnP coffers- mostly contributed by simple, ordinary people who trust that their humble share will go, not to waste, but a long way to uplifting the lives of the poor.  Meanwhile, Y4Y graduates who are already employed are also highly encouraged to extend whatever assistance they can so that they too would enable other underserved youth in their family and communities to continue studies.  This is a shared mission with ACE IPI and a way of manifesting gratitude to God’s goodness. 
    
            To all ACE IPI members and clients, PnP is now, not just a sponsor, but a credible and concrete Church response—--Christ’s love made more real; doctrines become flesh, and the clergy- true witnesses and shepherds.

            Overall, modest yet meaningful gains have been achieved, despite humble resources.  Keeping almost a hundred young persons off the streets is not at all that easy.  Still, more families cry out for help for their kids. But at this stage, ACE IPI can only do so much. 

Perhaps, the efforts of both Pondo ng Pinoy and ACE IPI in “creating visions of better tomorrows” would become even more daunting as challenges e.g., continued poverty, the threat of technology on social values, and the decreasing opportunities for employment remain.   But assuredly, they will keep the Faith.  With God leading the way and lighting the paths…………….their journey with the young continues.

By:  Tessie D. Gomez
Vice-President
ACE IPI