BREAKING the cycle of poverty in poverty-ridden countries takes patience, dedication, hope and one organization, called “The Free Child Movement.”
The Free Child Movement was created on Guam to bring hope and a future to destitute and orphaned children, to advocate for their rights while pursuing their freedom from the bondage of slavery, prostitution and poverty.
Last year, Cara Flores-Mays, while working as a part-time English teacher at Guam Adventist Academy, had a classroom conversation. She and her students were talking about service, travel and learning when a serendipitous plan was hatched.
“I picked an NGO [non-governmental organization] that a friend of mine worked for and looked at the most affordable project which happened to be in the Philippines,” Flores-Mays said.
Within a few months, 17 students raised over $10,000 to cover their travel expenses for their first trip to an orphanage in Pampanga, Philippines.
“Upon our arrival, we were impressed by what we found. International Children's Care houses children in nice, simple houses with a mother, father, and up to 10 children. They grow their own food, attend a small school on their property -- and have the option of college or training. These children are the unwanted, unloved -- those who came from such dire situations that they might have been considered disposable at one time,” Flores-Mays said.
The group found two brothers who were found on a trash pile. No one seemed to know what happened to their parents. There was another group of siblings who came from an extremely abusive situation.
“These siblings have seen things that would give adults nightmares. Their lives have been threatened by the extent of the abuse. Now they play piano, flute, and sing songs with the other children. They are safe,” said Flores-Mays.
These children are now being taken care of, but the group met some who were not so lucky. These are the mountain children who live with relatives who dig for coal to sell at the market which is miles away, said Flores-Mays.
“There were those living at a government orphanage not far from the children's village. These toddlers' cries haunt us to this day. It's hard to forget their faces, their outstretched arms, and their hunger for human touch. I watched many of our students break down in tears as we held the children,” said Flores-Mays.
Those children had no family, no supervision, no signs of love. One child was strapped to a chair, another was tethered to a bed. He was blind. His only contact with the world was a wall and the end of his wooden cot.
“I sobbed as I pried the arms of a toddler from my neck. That was the moment when many of us vowed that we wouldn't forget - that we would come back,” recalled Flores-Mays.
Today, the group’s goal is to fund another planned trip. They are attempting to raise $10,000 to finish the school building that they began constructing last year.
The team also wants to bring along a few medical doctors.
”All the checks aren't in yet but it seems that we are only a couple of thousands away from reaching our goal. We will return to Pampanga this year in a team of 15. Two doctors, five adults and eight students,” said Flores-Mays.
The group will participate in medical outreach, construction work, and make a financial contribution that will help them to complete the new school building.
“There were hundreds of kids at that orphanage. We can't save every child but every child deserves to be saved. We have to start somewhere,” said Flores-Mays.