Reaching Out, Giving In

We were required to do a reflection paper for YMCA’s Youth Club’s outreach program. :)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead

“Beliefs and Causes.” This is one of the many subgroups (i.e. religion and spirituality, sexuality, travel, and languages) I found as I was browsing for online groups in Facebook. Clicking on the link, the first group on the list was called, “Feed a child with just a click!”, having more than 4.3 million members. Amazing. The number one cause Facebook members support is world hunger.

What is more amazing, or rather, appalling, are the statistics shown on the group’s homepage: 18,000 children die each day due to starvation and malnutrition, while around 850 million or so people will go to bed with empty stomachs. These numbers are real. People go insanely hungry right this very second. In our country, millions of Filipinos live in wretched homes, go to sleep with their stomachs yearning for food, clueless as to what will become of them as they wake up to a new day.

Worlds apart
Meanwhile, countless young people lie in their cozy homes surfing the Internet, browsing through social networking sites, communicating with friends miles apart, the whole world within their reach — a lifestyle that doesn’t exist, even just in the dreams of other less fortunate children. I wonder if they are aware of the immense power they have, of merely being in front of the computer with a stable connection. With just a click of a button, one can donate a cup of water or a bowl of rice to the World Food Programme and other organizations (e.g. Multiply this by the millions of people who go online each day wherein tons of food could be accummulated that can feed a whole community. This is just one way that the Internet is a crucial tool in making a difference.

If the Internet has the power to change lives, what more if we move our eyes away from the screen, stand up, interact with our peers, start changing the world together? Won’t that be able to even create more impact? One person cannot change the world alone, after all.

Merely looking at these figures makes me want to do something really badly. Why has not everybody been awaken to these realities? People say apathy is the reason; people simply don’t care. I don’t believe this though. I believe that we all want to act and to make change happen, well at least, most of us do. We simply just don’t know how, or in my case, where to start, given so many pressing problems, it is overwhelming.

That is what YMCA Youth Club is currently working on. With more than 60 young, passionate members, this newly established youth organization’s task is to guide the youth into the first few steps towards making a difference.

Last May 25, the YMCA Youth Club Social Works Committee held an outreach project in the Reception and Study Center for Children (RSCC) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Thirty or so members volunteered to give a whole Sunday morning and donate a few treasures to children 7 years old and below. These little kids are either abandoned, neglected, exploited, or abused. I could never imagine myself being in their current situation when I was a child. I cannot bring myself to accept that they have been stripped off their basic rights while I spent my childhood days in the loving, nurturing environment my parents provided.

Flickers of hope
There were about fifty little boys and girls. Some were quiet, some were too restless, some were wondering who the teenagers wearing crisp, white shirts are. After a few games and activities, the kids were becoming too difficult to handle. I did not know what to do. These children were not given the enduring nurture of a real mother. They are also deprived of quality education. What can I, an 18-year-old college student, do?

Nevertheless, the YMCA Youth Club members, including I, played and danced along with them, as though nothing else matters but toys and games. I played jump rope with two cute little kids, and carried a little girl around the activity hall, to their sheer delight. I watched as a boy named John Llyod Cruz (yes, named after the famous actor) used poor-quality crayons to fill a coloring book’s pages with color. The others did their own special styles of interacting with the kids, showering them with the kind of compassion they seldom had.

I wonder what will happen after we give them our care and attention for three whole hours. After playing games and giving them prizes, toys, Jollibee Spaghetti with Coke for lunch and loot bags, I wonder how long these things will make them happy. What is one magical day worth to the rest of their lives? Perhaps not much, but maybe in those three hours, we gave them something to hang on to. I guess it’s always nice to have an unexpected stranger give you some undivided and a few gifts, even if it only lasted for a while.

This was worth something to the volunteers, too. We were reminded of how lucky we are and how unfortunate they were, how we must do something about this inequality.

Then I realized, that while this outreach program has given these little children flickers of hope, to the volunteers struggling to reach out to the lives of these children, the memories will forever linger. The important thing now is to decide what to do, now that we have tasted a dose of harsh reality.

Waking up to a new light
Now I realize I need to stop spending too much time doing nonsensical tasks and worrying about the most trivial of issues. There is always someone less fortunate than me; my worries are too foolish compared to the plight of people living in poverty.
Because of this, it is my biggest dream to make this world a far better place to live in, even in just my own special way. I wish others would have this dream, too. And together, perhaps we can accomplish something even greater things, don’t you think?


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