Through a grant from Stop Hunger Now, Stop Hunger Now Philippines recently donated meals and stainless steel cooking pots to the Salesians of Don Bosco in support of their feeding program in BayaniJuan, Calauan, Laguna.
BayaniJuan Southville 7 is a 107-hectare community owned by the National Housing Authority. This is a resettlement site housing more than 10,000 families (50,000 to 80,000 relocatees) that came from various parts of metro Manila slums, survivors of Tropical Storm Ondoy and a bulk of informal settlers along the Pasig river.
Generally, a healthy child gains approximately 2 – 3 kg of body weight each year from the age of one until adolescence. However, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute reports that among children in Laguna aged 5-10 years old, an all-time high of 28% are underweight. Regional prevalence of stunting among this age group is at 25%, while wasting is at 11%. A proper diet in this period can protect children from the mental retardation and physical stunting that can result from malnutrition (UN Inter‑agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, 2011).
Sister Marlene Rodillas together with a crew of volunteer mothers prepare food every day for 1,500 starving children in the community. Every day, Sister Marlene has to worry about procuring enough ingredients and firewood to keep the meals coming. But lately, finding food is not their only problem.
Sex-for-food has become a social ill in the relocation site. Men from nearby towns come to BayaniJuan to pick up girls and pay them noodles or a can of sardines in exchange for sex. Fr. Salvador Pablo, the head of the Salesian community there said that prostitution starts as early as 11 years old. He also reported high incidents of deaths among infants due to malnutrition. Children have remained stunted and plagued with various illnesses. In worst cases, a number of children have resorted to suicide due to hopelessness.
Sister Marlene laments the fact that the parents are not there to take care of their children. They are out looking for means to provide food on the table.
The Salesians currently feed around 2,000 beneficiaries daily by stretching two cavans of rice, 120 kilos of vegetables and 5 kilos of meat (chicken or pork) as far as possible. Unfortunately, there are 20,000 children suffering from hunger on a daily basis in BayaniJuan.
“We cannot give up on the children,” Sister Marlene urges. “Feeding them gives them a fighting chance. The food that we provide gives them hope.”
Our work in the region has only just begun. You can support Stop Hunger Now Philippines’ and the children of BayaniJuan. Click here to connect with our staff on the ground to find out how.