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In recognition of the United Nations International Day for Street Children on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020, Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP, writes about her ministry to street children in the Philippines through the Adrian Dominican Sisters School on Wheels.
By Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP
April 8, 2020, San Fernando, Pampanga, the Philippines – Pope Francis summoned each of us to move out of our comfort zones and bring the Good News to the frontiers of Earth. In his pastoral exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the pope called us to bring Jesus to the very heart of the world so that people may know about God, hope, salvation, love, and everlasting life.
I have been reaching out to children on the frontiers in my native Philippines through my ministry with the Adrian Dominican Sisters (ADS) School on Wheels. The ADS School on Wheels meets the practical needs of the street children.
Together with our volunteers, we meet the children in the marketplace – where they perform everyday labor – and at the city government hall, which has become a meeting place or school for them. We teach the street children and other interested children how to read, write, and count, along with religious education.
Our ministry to the street children has three objectives: to develop a culture of acceptance and equality among children from a disadvantaged environment; to strengthen social functioning and potential through education; and to change society’s negative impressions of street children.
As a social worker charged with reaching out to the street children, I witness their daily struggles. They try to work through socially acceptable ways like selling eco bags and flower garlands. Others work for minimal pay as parking lot attendants, car washers, and fish vendors. They are forced to work to survive.
In this ministry, we deal with the most vulnerable sector of society and we strive to protect them from all forms of abuse, trafficking, and violence. But we want more for them. We want them to dream and to realize their dreams outside of life on the street. We give them opportunities to work toward their dreams, no matter where they come from, their religious affiliations, or their associations.
Engaging in this ministry is transformational. It changes my perception. The street children’s situations allow me to dream for them and to help them to realize their dreams in God’s time. I believe what they need is acceptance, opportunity, and the hope that they can overcome poverty and their lives on the street.
Dr. Jose Risal, our Filipino national hero, once said, “The youth is the hope of our country.” His words are technically and figuratively true. When the good traits of the children are nurtured and developed, they might become teachers, architects, engineers, priests, Sisters, the next national hero or President of the Philippines, or even the next Filipino saint. If these children are included in the development efforts of the United Nations, their dreams will be realized. It takes one individual who believes in them to make a difference.
Feature photo: Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP, speaks with a group of street children as part of her ministry.