During the first month of The World Race my team and I partnered with a ministry called The Philippine Christian Foundation in the dumps of Manila. Imagine a large dump where 90% of the trash in the Philippines goes. Five thousand people live there because collecting trash and plastic is their best shot at an income and survival. We worked in a school right in the middle of the dump, started by a woman from the UK named Jane Walker.
We didn’t know what to expect going in. Without being there, there is no way to help you understand the overwhelming smell that greets you as you enter, the mud and grime that everyone wades around in, or the smoke that makes it hard to breathe. There is no way to describe the harsh realities they face, that when you look into their small homes there is literally NOTHING there, that disease and infection and starvation are more rampant than my small mind can comprehend. But there is also no way to describe the thing I least expected to find there – and that is their JOY.
Oh, how I loved the people that I found there. They loved me and challenged me in so many ways. Their lives and outlook defied so much of what I was taught in America. Wealth does not bring happiness. Knowledge and understanding are helpful, but they do not always make people better persons. One can literally not know where their food is coming from the next day, and yet give you everything they have…because they want to.
One of my favorite people I met there was a man named Pastor Nell. He had a deep wisdom and faith that shook up my idea of what faith even is. He was constantly asking how we were and trying to make us feel at home, and in his impoverished state was freely giving his time to teach the technological skills he had to teenagers in the school. On top of that, he had adopted a baby girl when he wasn’t even sure how he was going to feed his own family. In America we might call him foolish, but somehow by God’s grace he had everything he needed each day.
My team and I spent time making relationships with the children and helping build a library in the school with all of the books that had been donated to the school over the years. It was mundane and dirty work – imagine moldy, wet books and boxes of books that hadn’t been touched in years – we never knew what kind of critters we would find! But it was all worth it. Now the children can use the books, and I hope each of them will be able to read them too.
Currently The Philippine Christian Foundation is trying to end child labor in the dump by providing schooling for the children. They are building classrooms out of recycled shipping vans to create enough space to do this. If you would like to give towards their efforts or learn more you can visit their website: http://pcf.ph.