From Sorrows to hope
As the heat haze lingers in the warm light of a summer’s morning in Manila, Leonore Mendoza Loor and Father Socrates Montealto huriedly set up chairs and tables inside the tiny hall next to Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Pasay, a small but densely populated suburb in the south of the city. Within the next couple of hours, anywhere up to 500 children could be packing out the hall; it’s just another day at Our Lady of Sorrows Foundation.
In any given week, Father Socrates, parish priest, and Leonore, the head social worker at the parish welcome hundreds of children from around the local streets of Pasay as part of their innovative, three-pronged outreach program. Now in its 30th year, the program had humble beginnings, says Leonore. “What we had at first was a very simple program, and then we expanded it to look at the children’s broader physical and family needs.”
Now, the foundation’s program has three major components: health and nutrition; skills training and livelihood; and educational scholarships. Adjacent to the hall is a small clinic, where the foundation provides dental and general healthcare for local children and their families. Trained doctors and community health volunteers assist at the clinic, providing not only care, but crucial health education in areas such as nutrition and hygiene.
The heart and soul of the foundation is in its scholarship program. Initially catering for 120 children before needing to downsize due to costs, the scholarship program provides a clear pathway for local children—many of them coming from very disadvantaged backgrounds and living on the streets—from elementary school through secondary and into tertiary studies. The foundation is partnered with De La Salle University, 15 minutes up the road, which means the students can consider study and work towards them.
One student who is doing just that is 19-year-old Brent. After his mother passed away when he was just 12 years old, and with his family no longer able to afford his school fees, Brent was fearful that he would end up out of school and on the streets like many of the other children in his neighbourhood. “It was a great financial struggle when my mother died,” he recalls, sadly. “But now because of Our Lady of Sorrows I am able to continue my studies. The foundation has helped me with my values and self-confidence.”
Brent is now on track to complete an undergraduate degree in science with a major in information technology. He hopes to use his training to help the foundation. “It would be a great opportunity and a great honour to work here. My ultimate goal is to help other kids like me to study too.”
Leonore is immensely proud of the progress that Brent and others have made on the back of the faith and values formation the foundation has provided. “Whatever good these children encounter, it is because of God,” she says. “They are strong through adversity because God is with them.”
The challenge now for the Our Lady of Sorrows Foundation is to continue their life-changing programs and expand them to incorporate more of the thousands of children and families in need in the neighbouring barangays, or neighbourhoods, of Pasay. With your help as a Children’s Mission Partner, Leonore and Father Socrates can make their dream a reality.