Healing comes in full at DSWD's home for girls
MANILA, Philippines - Childhood years are mostly remembered as a period filled with love and protection.
Rich or poor, attachment of children to parents brings joy. Younger years have always made a bank of good memories among children.
But this is not the case for 18-year-old Grace who used to live on the streets of Iloilo City. Many of her younger years were tainted with abuse and exploitation.
“Nagtatrabaho na ako bilang sex worker kahit noong ako’y teenager pa,” she said. "Nagkaroon ako ng live-in partner na binenta ako sa mga lalaki. May mga kaso din siya ng pagnanakaw."
(I was already a sex worker during my teen years. I had a live-in partner who sold me to other men. He was also involved in robbery cases.)
Grace is currently at the Home for Girls In Iloilo City, a center managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for victims of abuse and exploitation.
In this center, she undergoes counselling sessions, as well as therapeutic and restorative activities.
The department is also helping with a case filed against her.
“Nakasuhan ako na accomplice sa isang akyat-bahay case. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang pinasukan ko,” she said. "Masaya ako at tinutulungan ako ng DSWD sa kaso ko."
(I was charged as an accomplice in an robbery case. I never had any idea what I was into. I am glad that DSWD is helping me with my case. )
Change for the better
According to Roqueta Aquio, Social Welfare Officer, Grace was distant and aloof when she was first brought to the center.
Things changed as time passed by. While, in the past, she never wanted to talk to anyone, Grace is very different now.
In a recent cooking contest conducted in the center, she was bubbly and was consistently on top of her team.
Working along with two other resident-girls in the center, Grace cooked “Ovareta,” a variation of the well-known caldereta menu which has egg as its main ingredient. The recipe won the Best in Palatability award.
“Maganda ang karanasan ko dito sa Home for Girls. Gustong-gusto ko ang pagluluto. Dito lang ako natuto," she shared. "Dati-rati ay kain-tulog lang ako at naghihintay ng tawag ng mga contacts ko."
(I find my experience here at Home for Girls very fulfilling. I enjoy cooking because it is only here where I learned how to cook. My life before was just 'sleep and eat' while we would wait for customers.)
It was in the center where she learned how to cook different viands such as adobong manok, vegetables, and fish sinigang, among others.
Through cooking, Grace found her worth and was able to refocus her negative thoughts.
She is also very thankful that she enrolled in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Department of Education.
“Sa ALS, nasa Grade 5 lang ako. Alam kong malayo pa ang lalakbayin ko pero naniniwala ako na may magandang pagbabagong darating sa akin," she said. "Ayaw ko nang balikan ang dati kong buhay. Gusto kong makatapos at sa tulong ng DSWD, alam ko maaabot ko ang pangarap ko.”
(Under ALS, I am still in grade 5. I know that there is a long way to go, but I want a positive change. I don’t want to go back to who I used to be. I want to finish college and, with the help of DSWD, I know I can)
Grace also appreciated that the center’s psychologist is helping her towards healing.
“Pinapaguhit niya ako tungkol sa aking buhay,” she related. "Tinutulungan niya akong makalimot sa aking nakaraan."
(She would make me draw about my life. She is helping me forget my past.)
Center Head Rosalina Lorque said that most of the children under their care came from dysfunctional families.
“Their children ended up being abused or as children in conflict with the law (CICL) because of lack of parental guidance and love. The mother of Grace, for instance, did not even give her attention and support,” she said.
Home for Girls serves as a temporary residential facility providing alternative forms of family care to children whose needs cannot be adequately met by their loved ones and relatives over a period of time.
“We have already found relatives who could take her in and give a new environment with love and concern for her. She deserves to have a second chance in life and there is still a bright future that awaits her. Every Filipino child deserves that,” said Lorque.
Aside for victims of abuses, the center, one of 11 nationwide, also caters to children in conflict with the law. The residents are given psycho-social interventions to overcome their trauma and prepare them for reintegration with their families. - Rappler.com
May Rago-Castillo is the Regional Information Officer of DSWD-Field Office VI.
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