By Christina Alejandro
Sometimes situations seem so bad that you feel whatever you do won’t make a difference at all. But in my life, some things changed some things for the better.
I first heard of Brother Joe Dean from my mother. She told me he was a man who, with his wife and family, opened their apartment gate to the homeless, the street children. They would feed them, sing with them, tell them stories, play with them, teach them about goodness. Their lives got so intertwined with these people that Joe Dean’s kids even developed respiratory illnesses from them.
I marveled at how one family sought to make a difference in the lives of these homeless children, numbering in the thousands in Metro Manila. How could they stand being shunned by their neighbors due to the noise from and smell of the children? How could they exchange a life of security and normalcy for an uncertain future dependent on the generosity of others, just to care for these poorest of the poor?
One Christmas, my friends and I decided on a project called “Heart and Bowl” for Bro. Joe Dean’s motley group of children. On a Saturday morning, we gave them meal, games and entertainment. That was the first time we met Bro. Joe Dean.
He was a robust cheerful man with the looks of a trim Santa Claus and a Visayan accent. He stuck out like a sore thumb among the sun-browned complexion of the children but he certainly spoke their language and they called him their “kuya”.
Bro. Joe Dean thanked us profusely as if we had given them not just momentary joys but a lifetime of memories. He told us how he started with just one child, feeding him, and how the others just came, how their numbers increased to the hundreds, and how they would come regularly to see him.
|“Ang Paglipad ng Mga Ibon” by Blessel Carlos*|
Deep in my heart I felt, how could this kind of situation go on without much funding or support? I secretly expected it to fail eventually. Little did I know that Bro. Joe Dean had more than human resources to take on this mission of caring for the street children. He was a man of deep prayer. He was serving with great gratitude and joy for this calling from the Lord.
Bro. Joe Dean and his family moved to a new home where the neighbors were more welcoming of the children. A restaurant chain agreed to give their leftover food for their cause and Bro. Joe Dean would pick these up late at night after closing time from their different branches. The front of their apartment now has a new name, “He Cares Foundation,” to show the children that God cared for them even if no one else seemed to.
Sometimes, when you plant a seed and forget about it, it still grows. Sometimes you don’t even know that you had planted a seed!
After a year or so from our first visit, I got a group of three friends to plan a project to regularly help with the feeding.
One of my friends rallied her Singles Prayer Community to hold monthly feeding days, masses and value formation lessons in the foundation along with free medical check-ups and treatment for the children!
Another friend took the foundation’s mission to heart. She prepared a formal proposal to her company to sponsor the children’s education and got her company’s approval for scholarships! She also organized a pool of volunteers to tutor the children. Today this company sponsors more than a hundred of the He Cares children!
One day at our family gift shop, a good friend in college saw one of the coin banks for He Cares Foundation at the cashier. Believing that the foundation must be legitimate and worth looking into, she visited and visited and visited more. With another classmate, she produced a short documentary video about the children which was shown on TV and used for presentations to corporations and possible benefactors. She became one of the most dedicated volunteer workers and council members. She does a great job liaising for the children’s needs. What my friend was doing meant a lot to me too. With her intelligence, credentials, work experience, she could be earning a lot for herself during her extra time and saving for her future. Instead, she had chosen to work for people who could never repay her efforts.
The Foundation has been in existence for 7 years now and I have seen it grow tremendously in the past 3 years with amazement. It was soon approved by the Department of Social Welfare as an accredited foundation.
Livelihood sessions (also for the mothers of the street children), dental missions, summer camps, prayer meetings and other events were held in the caring center. A vehicle was made available at an unbelievably low price so they finally had a means of transport.
Since I was dabbling in website authoring during the days I met Bro. Joe Dean, I made a site that features what the foundation is all about. A Christian community in France saw the site and adopted it as their means of social action. They sent a young Frenchman to work with Bro. Joe Dean for a year. He would send pictures and reports for the community to evaluate. Their dream is to build a permanent shelter for the children who cannot be found homes for.
Fighting to change the children’s way of life–drugs, prostitution, crime, sickness and extreme poverty were overwhelming, but the people who have reached out to care have also been overwhelming.
Bro. Joe Dean says he sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night and prays for our family and for others who have helped the children. Though he has gone through many tragedies with these children his heart is full of joy knowing God has been there all this time and it is His work after all and all Bro. Joe Dean needs to do is keep on keeping on.
I guess it’s true that “anyone can count the seeds in an apple but only God can count how many apples are in a seed.” Let’s keep planting seeds where we can, no matter how little and inconsequential they may seem, and at the right time, we may yet see a rich harvest.
He Cares Foundation is located at 4-A Road 9 Cor. Road 1 Project 6, QC. T 454.0985 and 928.8910, M 0917.401.0752, Bro. Joe Dean Sola.
*Ms. Blessel “Bleps” Carlos is a full-time graphic designer. She graduated from the University of the Philippines with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts major in Visual Communication.
Ang sabi ni Bleps: “Para sa akin, ang mga ibon ay para na rin yung mga taong na-inspire ni Bro. Joe Dean. Dahil kay Bro. Joe, natuto silang lumipad at mangarap habang sinasaboy ang mga buto sa kanilang paglipad. Sinisimbolo ni Bro. Joe ang mga puno sa paligid kung saan nakuha ng mga ibon ang mga buto.
Sa makulay na kabundukan, pinakita ko lang kung gaano kasaya ang mga bata kapag sila ay nakakalaro sa bahay ni Bro. Joe. Sa palagay ko ay pakiramdam nila ay para silang nasa fairy tale pag naglalaro kina Bro.Joe. Makulay, masaya, at may pagmamahalan, di tulad sa lansangan na magulo at parang walang pag-asa.”
The Best Volunteer Experience Winning Essays, 2004
Pinoy-Rin Inc. and the PNVSCA