Children of Asia: Changing the World, One Child at a Time
by John Nicko M. Coyoca
Dream big. Start small. Scale-up.
As in most stories that matter, it all began with a dream. The dream is to create a lasting change in the community and to change the world, one child at a time. The dream is big, but for this group of people who believed that the children are the future, no dream is too big if they start small and then scale up. As they dream, they further believe that the only way to do it is to do it together.
Children are said to be like seeds to be planted and that when cultivated well will bear fruits. Cultivating them goes beyond telling that they’re the future’s hope. They need to be equipped with the necessary skills for their potentials to be maximized, thus, putting a premium on their education as the ultimate key to development. Children of Asia believed that the best way to build the future is to invest in our children. With this, they pool their energies, resources, and skills together to bring about a better future for the underprivileged and disadvantaged children by providing them the support they need. By expressing their love to the children especially to those who have less, they witnessed a cycle of love going full circle over and over again.
It was in 1991 that Children of Asia, a French, non-governmental, humanitarian organization was established. Its primary aim is to give support to those children who have less. This paved the way for several children from poor families to have access to education, which eventually becomes their springboard towards professional integration. Seven years later, the Children of Asia – Philippines was created by French actress Charlotte de Turckheim. Turckheim was said to have worked with approximately 100 street children from the Cebu City Task Force on Street Children while shooting a film in Cebu years ago. It was at that moment that she realized that she had to do something and set up a program with Children of Asia to provide support for these underprivileged children in Cebu. The organization hopes that by providing the disadvantaged populations with sustainable access to quality education and involving the family and community in each child’s education, they’re allowing these children to build themselves a better future and to escape poverty in the long term.
With Children of Asia’s goals that include supporting disadvantaged children towards a better future, the Drop-in Center Ermita (DICE) has been established in Barangay Zapatera, a barangay known for having one of the highest poverty rates in Cebu City. With DICE and Children of Asia’s long-term partnership, they’re able to bring about a number of children being supported with education, professional integration, psychosocial needs, and child protection. Over the years, this humanitarian organization has proven that strength comes from individuals working together towards a common vision. It has come a long way, from fighting malnutrition and providing educational sponsorships to underprivileged children on Cebu Island to serving as a mechanism for addressing priority needs with an integrated approach on Non-formal Education, Health and Nutrition, and Psychosocial Welfare and Development for children 3-8 years old. They indeed champion Quality Education.
Children of Asia – Philippines provides crucial educational opportunities and vital services to vulnerable children from the poorest families in the slums of Cebu city. This support allows them to escape from poverty, empowering them to build safer, brighter futures for both themselves and their families. Driven by the motivation and enthusiasm of the team, the ambition is to support more and more children in Cebu. The commitment is to carry out this dream following its current values, vision, and missions. Drop-in Center Ermita (DICE) maintains the children at the heart of its actions. With engagement, respect, and responsibility as its guiding principles and driving forces to move forward, the organization’s projects and services revolve around strengthening the social support provided to its beneficiaries and their families, consolidating the close ties between the association and its members and donors, and making each child a responsible actor in his or her community.
In very stressful environments, such as the slum of Ermita and even in other municipalities and cities outside Cebu, children need the psychosocial support gained through participation in an engaging and supportive environment. This paves the way for the Drop-in Center of Ermita to continue its mission of being a child-friendly space. For years, they have been steadfast in providing comprehensive educational sponsorship for over 700+ children. With education as the organization’s heart-print of service, they have provided elementary and high school supplies and uniforms, school fees, projects, and tutorials to the organization’s beneficiaries. Furthermore, to equip them with the skills they need to enter the job market in the future, the beneficiaries were given numerous training such as IT, soft skills, career orientation, and professional mentoring programs.
With COVID-19 affecting almost all walks of life, Children of Asia’s goals and commitment remained steadfast, even getting stronger with the demand for more hearts and hands to help the vulnerable children. The pandemic, though it challenged them had stimulated innovations in the organization. One of these innovations is the implementation of the Project DICE against COVId-19 that aims to provide emergency response, enabling the community to protect and support the children especially those greatly affected by disheartening circumstances because of the pandemic. The project started last September 2020 that helped around 150 children. Children and their families participated in an online art poster-making competition, with themes relating to positive parenting, health and hygiene, and COVId-19 protocols. These were presented as a Digital Exposition in collaboration with various cultural networks. Children of Asia – DICE is a grantee of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. – Dolores Aboitiz Children’s Fund for their project that addresses issues on early childhood care and development focusing on health, nutrition, and psycho-social needs.
Ms. Barbie Romero-Guardiario, Deputy Country Director of Children of Asia – Drop-In Center Ermita when asked about her favorite experience working with DICE shared that it was seeing a cycle of care and love through the older Children of Asia students from the Ermita Educational Program getting involved by volunteering themselves in their projects or by simply helping set up their venue, host the program, and being good role models that inspire the DICE children to value education and community service.
“What keeps me working with DICE is my aspiration for the children to have the best childhood possible by meeting the DICE program’s goals and objectives. DICE provides a safe space to play, learn, and express themselves and implements lessons especially about resiliency, valuing themselves (health, hygiene, and protection), their education, and positively contributing to their families and their community,” Ms. Barbie added.
For Children of Asia, the dream may be that big but with their collective efforts, no matter how small but done consistently, it greatly amounted to significant results. It is with this that they were able to transmit this notion of responsibility to their beneficiaries so that they feel fully involved in their lives despite the daily difficulties they face. The dream, which is to change the world, one child at a time, is now becoming a reality.