First – – a little background on IFL (the Institute for Foundational Learning). IFL was founded in the Philippines 20 years ago by Rev. Patricia Capwell. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing education and training to the people and children of the Philippines. This Christian based education and training (amongst many other services that they provide) has helped to lessen many of the socioeconomical problems with which this country has been afflicted…most of which are caused by extreme poverty. IFL is based out of Cabuyao, Laguna, where there is a school system serving children preschool aged up through high school. The program currently serves over 75 children and is run by over 30 full time and countless part-time volunteers.
The family with which I am traveling was brought to the Philippines, and to IFL, two years ago to spend their Christmas giving to the people of this country, rather than receiving in the secular manner to which we are accustomed in the US. It was during this trip that they developed a heart for the people of the Philippines and they made the decision to start the lengthy international adoption process. And so it was only fitting, that after receiving their son, they would spend their remaining days in the Philippines at IFL, whose children and people spoke to them in such a spiritual way.
Part of the mission work that IFL does is a feeding program for the children in the slums along the riverside in Cabuyao. In order to be accepted into this program, the children must be weighed and measured against a weight-for-age standard for malnourishment. On Monday morning I was given the opportunity to attend the weighing, which was set up at the base of the slum community.
When I first stepped out of the car, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take pictures. I hadn’t even entered the living areas at this point, but seeing the children was very difficult for me. Many of the children had scabies, one little girl had a severe cleft palate and there were many children bare bottomed and sitting on the dirt and gravel. After being reassured that it was ok to take photographs – – that nobody would be offended or that they would feel like I was exploiting them or their situation, I began doing what I do best – – photographing kids. And it became quickly apparent to me that despite their difficult circumstances, these children aren’t much different from the children I photograph any other day. They were joyful, rambunctious and lively…and they were very excited to have their photograph taken by me, who as a pale skinned blonde, probably looked quite strange. As we walked down into the slum areas, perched at the top of the high riverbank, I was taken aback by the living conditions – – and while I know the conditions in this particular slum pale in comparison to many other poverty stricken areas in the world (some even had televisions!), this was such a stark contrast to the life that we’ve all become so comfortable with in the US. And something I won’t soon forget. It is sad that we sometimes need things like this to gain a little perspective in our lives…to really grasp how truly blessed we are. I miss those three little girls of mine terribly and you can rest assured that they will get the biggest hug they’ve ever gotten when I return to lil’ ole’ State College on Friday…