Winding through the streets of Manila, Philippines, is no easy task early morning on a weekday. Traffic is relentless as our vehicle passes Filipinos lining up for buses and crowding on jeepneys to make their way to jobs that help them provide for themselves and their families. As country director, Raul Manuel describes the feeding sites, videographer Jeremy Denief and I will visit, Manila’s concrete jungle gives way to startling scenes of poverty. Convoy of Hope has been feeding children in the Philippines for almost two years, and we’re here for 48 hours to document some of the lives that have been changed by our initiative.
TUESDAY, 8 A.M., MANILA, PHILIPPINES
Walking through narrow passages between homes where sewer flows openly down dirt paths, I notice a young boy peering out of a small window, sheepishly watching Jeremy get footage of kids who have just eaten a healthy meal provided by Convoy of Hope. He ducks behind the bright turquoise wall of his home as the camera comes his way, then reappears just as quickly.
“Hi, I’m James,” says the 10-year-old in surprisingly good English. James is one of 310 children who are fed every day in Baseco — a poverty-stricken area of Manila. As we introduce ourselves, a petite young woman appears in the doorway of the home holding huge bulbs of garlic.
“Come in,” she says to us. “You are welcome here.” Sitting in the middle of the floor are large, green buckets filled with hundreds of garlic bulbs floating in water. The smell of garlic is a welcomed aroma compared to the smell of sewage and garbage outside. Rowena, 35, begins to peel the garlic as she tells how Convoy of Hope helped her family when they needed it most.
“Last year, I had given birth to a baby girl named Nicole, and she was very sick,” she says, as James and his younger brother listen. “She had been sick for five months, and we spent all of our money on medicine to keep her alive.
“So I had no money to feed my boys. It was a hard time for us, but then Convoy of Hope came into our lives.”
Rowena goes on to explain that just as her family hit rock bottom, James and his brother were enrolled in our Children’s Feeding Initiative through Baseco Family Center and began getting food every day.
“That was such a blessing for my family,” she says. “It gave us a little more time with Nicole, and my boys were able to eat.” Rowena’s voice softens as she speaks of Nicole’s passing later that month, but becomes confident again when she begins talking about the help she’s gotten from Convoy of Hope.
“It’s a blessing that people we don’t even know care so much about us,” she says.
That was such a blessing for my family. It gave us a little more time with Nicole, and my boys were able to eat.