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The selfie generation awakened

/ 12:02 AM November 20, 2016

We found ourselves walking on the sidewalk of a dark White Plains Avenue on Friday night. A group of fellow “pilgrims” following us was suddenly thrown into a panic when an elderly man who was part of their pack stumbled, tripping on a portion of concrete. Indeed, the sidewalks of Manila are not for seniors.

We felt even more out of place when we reached the People Power Monument and found ourselves surrounded by young people in hoodies and T-shirts, predominantly in black. Though angry, harsh slogans filled the air—“Marcos, hindi bayani,” “Hukayin! Hukayin!” (“Marcos, not a hero,” “Dig him up!”), the overall atmosphere was congenial. I smiled in comradeship with every gray-haired, lined visage I encountered. Lots of young people held up obviously hand-printed or personally printed posters. The gathering had a genial, impromptu nature to it.

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True, we were impelled by anger and indignation, searching for an outlet for the feelings of rage and betrayal engendered by the day’s events. But the sight of young people taking part in—nay, leading—the protest against the sneaky, cowardly burial of Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani was somehow comforting. We veterans of protest marches and rallies may stumble our way through future mass actions, but obviously the selfie generation has been awakened, and there is no turning back for them.

If Christmas is the season for children, then our thoughts should turn toward them and go beyond just meeting their wish lists. For some children, wishes and wants can be so much more basic and essential than just another toy or fancy gadget. And how more basic could that need be than a family? Yes, all children are born into a family, even if that family should turn out to be a single mother or father with little or no resources to raise them. Or, the child may lose what little family into which he or she was born to death, hardship, or abandonment. What then is to happen to the child?

Fortunately, in the Philippines there is the SOS Children’s Village, a network dedicated to the proposition of providing “a loving home for every child.”

Founded in 1949 in Austria by Hermann Gmeiner to help children orphaned by war, SOS Children’s Village has since become a global movement with a single goal: to help the most helpless children grow up in an environment that closely resembles the “normal” family setup. In Gmeiner’s words, every child should be able to grow up in “the natural world of the family,” prescribing that nine children live together looked after by a house mother who is “not a social worker or teacher,” but a woman “who, once and for all, is there for these children … [providing] a real home for the children, a family in which even the psychologically ill child can develop freely.”

Gemma Goliat, the national director of SOS Children’s Villages here, says the movement opened its first village in Lipa, Batangas, in 1967 and has since expanded to eight villages nationwide.

“I consider the real heroes of SOS the house mothers who devote their lives to rearing the children,” says Goliat. Every house mother strives to bring up her wards in a family setting, far removed from the institutional harshness of traditional arrangements. Four principles underlie the world of every SOS Children’s Village: the mother, with each child under the care of a caring parent; brothers and sisters, with children growing up within the bosom of a family; the family, with every family group creating its own home; and the village, a community that connects the homes and families.

Every year, SOS Children’s Village launches a fund-raising campaign to meet the many urgent needs of every village. Once more, they are reaching out to companies who may want to make SOS a recipient of their corporate social responsibility programs, or to allot a portion of their profits for the villages. They also accept donations in kind, such as extra inventory, and encourage companies to involve their employees in their fund-raising program. This is the way the SOS Children’s Village family grows and expands, giving every child not just a home but also a network of caring adults.

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