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CSC children come from all kinds of backgrounds. Some were abandoned - others were surrendered by their birth parent(s). Still others were orphaned. Some were found living on the street, while others came from government hospitals where they were abandoned after birth. Some came as infants - others as teenagers. Some stay with us for only a few months while others will spend their whole lives at CSC. Some have special needs. But all our children know they are loved and appreciated, and that while at CSC they will be safe, well fed, and given a chance to be healthy and happy and to know that God loves them.
Most of our children come from Cebu City or other areas of Cebu island. We also admit children from surrounding islands and provinces. Some of our children have major physical or mental disabilities. Although we will do all we can to find adoptive families for all our children, some of these special children will spend their entire lives at CSC. Regardless of their limitations or challenges, they will find acceptance, understanding and love at CSC.
About half our children at any given time are part of a sibling group at CSC. Over the years we have had sibling groups of two, three, four, five, six, seven and nine children. Our policy is that we will not split up sibling groups through adoption, so we really have to rely on God to provide families for them. We have placed together groups of siblings as large as nine into forever families!
In everything we do, the best interests of the children are our focus. They are our only reason for being, and we strive to give them the best possible care. For a more detailed picture of some our kid's experiences, please select from the stories below.
Going to the local dumpsite to try and earn a living by finding saleable items is a desperate move for a young teenager. But hunger, despair, and the responsibility of caring for younger siblings can cause a young person to do what he would otherwise not dream of doing. Such was the case for Jonathan.
When both of their parents died within nine months, Jonathan and his three younger siblings were dispersed between relatives, none of whom really wanted them or could provide for their basic needs. Being unwanted is a very difficult thing for a young person. But being hungry and unwanted is worse. Jonathan watched his younger siblings become sick and malnourished. He had to drop out of school because there was no money for supplies, and trying to learn on an empty stomach is just about impossible. So Jonathan started going through garbage at the local dump, looking for plastic bottles or any scraps of metal that he could sell to purchase food for his family. But the dump can be a dangerous place, where infections and disease are very real risks of the trade.
Jonathan and his siblings would often go to a nearby church for shelter. The pastor and his wife were kind to them and the congregation would sometimes provide them with food. They enjoyed going to Sunday School. It was the only safe haven that they knew. The pastor’s wife is the sister of one of the CSC house mothers, so she called us and referred these four children. She and her husband have several children of their own and they could not continue to provide food and shelter for these kids. It was a difficult decision for the staff to make, considering that Jonathan was already 16 years old, and the prospects of finding an adoptive family for all four seemed pretty remote. But they decided to take them in, trusting God for their future.
The first weeks were spent in trying to get the kids well. Jonathan was very sick upon admission and had to spend some time in the hospital. The youngest child, Jesse, was also very sick and needed medical attention. Eventually they were able to join the other children at the Shelter and begin school. Jonathan was aware that the younger children might be placed for adoption without him, because of his age. He went to live in the CSC Teen Home while his younger siblings moved into the Cherne Home.
Jonathan was thrilled to be in a situation where he and his siblings were safe, well fed and where they had a chance to go to school. He was able to concentrate on his studies as he prepared for high school. CSC’s intervention in their lives had produced happiness, health and a sense that things might be okay for this family. But the future was still uncertain for Jonathan.
The children made good progress at CSC. The staff prayed for them and that God would make a way for them to have a family through adoption. Later that year they heard that there might be a family interested! They are a large family with lots of adopted children and a wonderful faith in God. But because of the number of children they already had, it was not certain that the Philippine government would approve them. Paul Healy went to Manila to talk to the Adoption Board and everyone continued to pray. A couple months later the staff was informed that the couple had been approved, and that Jonathan would be included. It was a miracle of God’s love and grace.
When it came time to tell the children of the news, they were brought to the school library to meet with the staff. When the news was broken Jonathan began to cry, thinking that he would not be included. That was cleared up quickly and then the floodgates really opened. God had worked in a way that seemed impossible! They were going to have another chance at a family. They were wanted!
Merlinda was the oldest of three siblings. They came from a broken home and had been abandoned by their birth parents. Their grandmother sent them out to beg to provide food for the family. They were sickly, scared and hungry.
Eventually the government intervened and placed the three kids in a subsidized foster home. Although they were safer in that home, they were not treated well. They were not allowed to sleep in the house with the “real family,” but were made to stay outside in the playhouse. They would eat out there after the family had finished eating. They were second class citizens, an inconvenience for the foster family that was only interested in the money they were paid to take in kids.
A concerned government worker eventually saw what was happening and referred the three kids to CSC. When the jeep pulled into the CSC compound they were overwhelmed by the grass, the flowers and the beautiful houses. Although they saw the kids going in and out of the houses they wondered where they would be staying. It took Merlinda and her younger siblings quite a while to realize that they were on the “first team” at CSC. They had their own beds in the Cherne Home, and they could eat with the other children. It was almost too much for them to believe.
In the coming weeks and months CSC was able to give Merlinda a gift that helped transform her life. We were able to give her back her childhood! Merlinda hadn’t had one. Even as a young girl she had been responsible for her younger brother and sister. She was charged with bringing home money from begging and with doing housework. Instead of playing with friends, she was standing on a street corner holding her baby sister and asking for money from passing motorists. Instead of going to school she was cleaning the house or worrying about the health of her siblings. At CSC she was able to turn so many worries over to our caregivers. She was able to go to school. She had friends to play with and a beautiful playground where she could run, fly kites and play tag. She learned to play the clarinet and was able to participate in the school Christmas program. She had a chance to learn about a loving Heavenly Father and a Savior that loved her very much. She was a child again!
Sometimes kids ask very difficult questions. Our CSC children are no exceptions. One of our girls came to CSC from a situation of desperate poverty. Both her parents had died. She had suffered from a severe abscess in her jaw area that affected the jaw bone, and caused muscle and tissue loss. It also destroyed her teeth on that side of her mouth.
Maribelle was able to attend a camp with the other CSC children, sponsored by one of our supporting churches in the States. A team came to Cebu and we brought the kids off site for four days of recreation, Bible classes and craft activities. Maribelle was happy to be there, and responded to the presentation of the Bible lessons about God and Jesus. One evening she had lots of questions for her counselor. She wanted to know more about God. Was He good? Did He love her? When the counselor told her that He was good and that He did love her very much she thought for a moment, then asked, “Then why did he make me ugly?”
We are used to caring for children from tragic situations in life, but these questions always reach right inside of us and grab at our hearts. We had never thought of her as ugly! She was a beautiful young lady with an attractive personality. The abscess on her face didn’t make her ugly in our eyes, but it did make her feel that way. Perhaps she had been teased by playmates, or told by the adults in her life that she was unattractive.
A few months after the camp we were able to provide Maribelle with plastic reconstructive surgery. The surgeon moved some tissue, muscle, and fat around to better shape the area near her jaw. The results were remarkable. The staff will not soon forget the look on her face when the bandages were removed! Her smile made everything worthwhile.
The challenge for those caring for Maribelle and the other children is teaching them that they are beautiful because of what is inside of them. No matter what scars, disabilities or bad experiences they have had, God loves them and so does everyone at CSC. For Maribelle this has been a process. For even as she feels that her face now looks much better, she has learned about inner beauty and about God’s love. Nobody is ugly in God’s eyes.
Maribelle will soon be adopted, and her parents will continue the work with her. Their unconditional love for her and her three siblings will be a window to heaven and the nature of God’s love for her and all of us.
One afternoon our staff received an urgent message that there was an extremely ill child in a squatter village near the city bus terminal. So one of our nurses, one of our social workers and Marlys Healy went there immediately to assess the situation. The government workers brought eleven month old Jason to our vehicle. It was hard to believe that Jason was even alive, as he was so emaciated and malnourished. His bones and veins were barely covered by a thin layer of skin and he was so weak that his cry was a mere whimper. He was severely dehydrated so he didn’t even have tears. His mother was out begging when we got there, but we took him anyway, with the assistance of the local officials. There was no time to wait for her return. Our hearts were breaking as we rushed him through the crowded streets of Cebu for an exam at our doctor’s office. We wrapped him carefully, as he was so frail, and gave him milk very slowly. His little tummy was not used to real nutrition. The desperate mother had been giving him watered down rice water, which was somewhat better than nothing.
Later, when the mother returned, she heard that we had her son at the doctor’s office, so she went there right away to watch the exam. I can’t imagine what she must have been feeling as she watched her son slowly fading away from her in the dark and filthy shack she called home. There he was being carefully examined by our compassionate and tender pediatrician in a safe and clean clinic, just a few miles from her village where her son was literally dying. (The doctor was so moved by meeting Jason that he didn’t charge for the exam.)
When Paul pulled into our yard at the Shelter an hour later, the mother was about to leave with the government officials. She was there to see Jason’s new home, and she met some of the Aunties and Uncles that care so tenderly for our children. She walked straight over to the window of the vehicle and there was genuine peace in her eyes as she stood outside, thanking us for rescuing her son. Maybe she slept a little that night, knowing that Jason would no longer suffer the pain of starvation, but looking around her at the other eight kids must have quickly brought her back to reality.
Jason was admitted to the hospital the following day for severe pneumonia and diarrhea, and after receiving medicine for de-worming, he passed an awful worm that was robbing him of any tiny amount of nutrition. In the days to come he made remarkable recovery. He remained weak for a while, but eventually started putting on weight as he was given good nutrition and lots of tender loving care. Within a few months he started moving around on the floor. Before long he was crawling and interacting with the other children. His progress was amazing!
Today Jason is a happy, healthy and hardy two year old. Every time we look at him we are amazed that a tiny malnourished baby with one foot in the grave was rescued and restored by the loving hands of Jesus through the staff and workers of CSC.
When I was five years old, I first became aware of the emptiness inside of me, and I wanted something to cling to, to keep me from being afraid of that emptiness. I felt that if I stopped clinging onto that something, I would be lost forever. That something was my family. I would have done anything to keep my family together even if it meant sacrifice. I had to quit school, couldn’t play with the other kids and didn’t have friends. I had to stay home and take care of my little brothers and sister.
The most important people that I had were my five siblings. They were my number one, the treasure of my heart. I had to repeat 1st grade 3 times, because I needed to take care of my other siblings. My parents fought a lot. I didn’t want my brothers and sister to be frightened, so I would usually shout at them, telling them to quiet down, and they would quiet down and both of them would leave the house in different directions.
There was one time when neither of them came back for two days. I thought they already left us so I had to work double; I had to find food for my siblings and take care of them at the same time. It wasn’t much of a problem though, because they were very satisfied eating the food that I cooked, even though I didn’t do a good job with it. I loved those kids and I thought having all five of them was all I needed.
Until one night when I arrived from the market, I realized that my siblings were not in their beds where I had left them, and I could not find them anywhere in the house. Then I saw my mother in the corner, crying hard. When I saw her crying my knees weakened and I fell on them and started crying too. What she was doing made me understand that my father had left us, with my other siblings.
I felt like I had lost everything. I remember feeling hopeless, that nothing could ever revive me again. My mother came to me and hugged me as if she would never let me go. I hugged her back, telling her that I wouldn’t ever leave her.
Several days later I realized that my mother was pregnant. We were so worried about how to feed ourselves and the baby inside her. We wandered around the city for days, sleeping on sidewalks with an empty stomach. Then my mom decided to ask her friends if we could stay with them for a week and they gladly accepted us in their warm house.
One night as I was sleeping, I heard my mother groaning in pain. So I stood up and checked on her. When she fell back to sleep, I went to the window and started looking outside. Then I saw a very bright and beautiful star, shining. It reminded me of a story I had heard of a baby boy who was born once upon a time. There was also a bright star that was over him. Somehow that made me pray my first prayer, asking Someone Great out there to take care of the three of us.
After I prayed I heard my mother crying in pain. She told me that she was about to give birth. So I hurried downstairs to call for help. It took me a while to come back with someone to help us, which made me very scared. After an hour my mother gave birth to a healthy child. Then I felt a gleam of hope starting to come back, because another treasure was given to me. I took the baby boy into my little arms and named him Steven.
To make the story short, my mother left both of us in an orphanage and I felt betrayed but I still missed her and loved her. That caused me at first to be very defensive of my brother and of myself, and afraid of the people around us. All kinds of negative thoughts appeared in my mind, like insecurity and being a loser because I failed to hold my family together.
But the Lord Jesus Christ was so good to me that he proved to me that all of the things that I had thought in my mind were wrong. I accepted Him as my Savior at the age of nine, and He released me from those feelings of insecurity and emptiness. He has given me a bright hope, the assurance that He has come into my heart and has promised to live there forever.
Starting then I can visibly see His blessing to me and my brother in that orphanage. The Staff and workers loved us as their own family, provided everything we needed, and protected us from evil. They were dedicated servants of God, and were channels of God’s love to all of us in the orphanage. The orphanage is called Children’s Shelter of Cebu. CSC will always be my home. I have lived there for ten years and all I have ever received from CSC are the visible manifestations of God’s love. I can never deny that I had experienced some struggles in living at CSC, however, just like every family, God uses struggles to shape each and every member of the family.
God also extended his blessings towards my studies; He gave me wisdom and made me go back to school at the level that was exactly right for my age. It didn’t even seem like I had missed 3 years of schooling. He also blessed my brother and me, when a family adopted Steven in 2004. He is now living in Minnesota. About four or five years ago, a very loving couple decided to commit in sponsoring my desire to study in the Western World. And about two years ago, I came to Canada to study at Trinity Western University. Each day of being here in Canada is a gift from my sponsors (who I also consider as my parents), from my CSC family (who are all over the world) and most especially from God. God has blessed my life so amazingly that if I could share to you all the things He has done for me, I’m sure it would take me a lifetime and I still wouldn’t be finished.
I even thank God for taking away my family, even though it hurt. But I see that if He didn’t take my family away from me I wouldn’t be part of the best family there is in this world, my CSC family. He took what was special to me, but made me part of something so much greater and more special, that nothing and no one in this world could ever give me more.
Former CSC Resident