Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice,
For they shall be satisfied.
“Whatever you have done to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me”
Sr. Eucharista Cyril
The Holy Family Feeding and Health Program in Rizal in the Diocese of Sorsogon is a long standing Humanitarian Project handled efficiently by the Holy Family Sisters beginning from the Pioneers since 1984. It was sponsored by the Holy Family Mission for Ten long years and then sponsored by CARITAS-SPAIN Organization up to now. This Project gave access to the Community of Sisters in Rizal to become acquainted to the people, their culture and the situation of the families. They have been serving the poorest of the poor and their compassionate service was mainly towards the Children in the area who were 2nd, 3rd and 4th degree malnourished, most of them identified with Tuberculosis. It was a program that was very much in line with the needs of the Poor and was well appreciated and welcomed too by the people.
As I was newly assigned in Rizal, I had the opportunity to observe the Feeding and health Program that was carried out and how it was well planned and implemented. I was touched by the love and care with which the Feeding was taking place from Monday to Friday to 65 Students from the Elementary and High Schools of Rizal and the Beneficiaries are from the indigent families who are from far flung Barrios from which the Students come walking 4-6 km. In the course of time I came to know that most of them come to school without breakfast and they wait to be catered in the feeding until lunch time. It is then I realized the need for this humanitarian program and its urgency.
I also observed that the feeding program also cared for the spiritual side of the Beneficiaries as it included the reading of the Word of God for the day with a short echoing of its message, the praying of the Rosary and relating the stories of the Saints. It also included the values formation, allowing the beneficiaries to experience shared responsibilities, leading the Prayers and organizing the celebrations. On the Health side, the beneficiaries are recipients of the health facilities and there is a check on their growth by weighing them monthly. The Children enjoy their meals as they have Five different Menus for the week. Their smiling faces and the burp that we hear tells that they are contended and full. There are times for events and celebrations their choice of food been prepared.
It is a holistic Program inclusive of the Parents. The Parents are grouped monthly for On-Going Christian and Values Formation. They are the core group for the Holy Family Environment program and they are continuing with their formation as well as with the Activities of the Environment program such as Man-Grove restoration, Clean-up Drive and Waste Management. The Health Program includes the people – the sick and the elderly in the area. There is a medical mission taking place quarterly for the Senior Citizens and for those who would wish to avail of the help for medicine on prescription.
The 35 years of this humanitarian and compassionate program is considered as a blessing by the families and they are grateful for the presence of the Holy Family Sisters for their continued support and concern for the least of the brothers and sisters. I was touched by the dedication and selfless service of the Holy Family Sisters who were part of the Community of Rizal since 1984. It also made me to reflect if this program is being carried out for 35 long years, to my mind, it became somewhat clear the need and perhaps the economic situation has not that much improved. It is amazing how come the program accommodates 65 – 70 children every year and there are still names on the waiting list. In my mind I made a conclusion that the poverty situation has not changed that much and it is true.
Times have changed with the entrance of Covid 19. From mid-March this year the schools were abruptly closed for strict Lockdown and Protocol measures that were introduced by the government. Due to this Pandemic situation, the feeding program was suspended for the meantime. With the compassionate concern and strong suggestion of CARITAS, the program was renamed as CARITAS-HOLY FAMILY COVID 19 NUTRITION AND HEALTH PROJECT. As to the suggestion of Caritas, activities related to Covid 19 were added and the Feeding and Health Program began to function as COVID 19 MEALS-ON-WHEELS since May 2020. The cooked food is taken to Five Barrios and Four Sitios on a weekly basis and Feeding is operational. Within the last five months the Feeding Program was catering to 540 children in the different places. It included too some of the Elderly and sick adults as they freely come in on the days meals is served.
I am fortunate, I would say that I am entrusted with this humanitarian and compassionate ministry since July 2020. I am grateful for the trust placed in me by the Unit and the Community to carry out this ministry which I accepted in Obedience. My gratitude goes to our Unit Leader Sr. Vivian Fernando for her encouragement and to Sr. Ida Joseph the long standing Coordinator of Caritas Project for initiating me to take up the responsibility. I am working with two valiant ladies – Ate Norma and Ate Divina who are dedicated and long standing partners of our mission. I am learning from them their cultural aspects, the language and the Filipino culinary tops which they share with me graciously.
I am only a learner, because it is only now that I realize the work entailed in a Project especially when it is sponsored by Funding Agencies. The Paper Work, the Reports, the Evaluations, the Monitoring, the Correspondence, Bank transactions, Accounting and the actual Supervision of the Project. I am not yet familiar with all of these. But I have accepted this ministry in faith, trusting in the Lord to guide me. I will not hesitate to ask for help on matters that are beyond my capacity until I get into the system of this particular ministry connected to Caritas Organization. I know that I will be helped at any time. It is a beautiful ministry touching lives and touching the situation of our people.
Jesus said : ‘When I was hungry you gave me to eat.” The same Jesus is offering me this opportunity to feed the hungry – God’s Children in Rizal. If I am to be judged on the last day, I am sure that Jesus would recognize me for just this one ministry that I did with much love for Him – feeding the hungry!