On Tuesday February 9th, 2016, I had the privilege to teach the children of AVANAI CFC ANCOP Village in Manila. Growing up in the Couples for Christ community, I would learn about the program Answering the Cry of the Poor in Youth for Christ. I would also participate in the annual fundraiser walks at the downtown core of Toronto Canada. I was always intrigued by what ANCOP stood for and what the program did for those in need in the Philippines. My interest grew even further when I would hear testimonies of fellow youth who experienced volunteering at the villages first hand.
I then took the opportunity to visit an ANCOP village when I knew I would be visiting the Philippines at the beginning of 2016. As a Catholic educator, I felt called to not only volunteer at the village but to teach the children about God’s love. I felt that it was important for the children to be reminded that they are loved by God no matter what the circumstance, and that they are gifts from God.
On the day of my visit, I was moved to see the ANCOP community come to life. The program I would hear about on the other side of the world, was now right in front of me. It was truly a blessing to see the efforts of the CFC community came into fruition. Houses built by the community filled the village side by side, painted beautifully with vibrant colours. These houses may have not been the most elaborate or luxurious but they were enough to provide the basic shelter needed for daily life . It is truly the faith,efforts, and families of the community that make these houses a home.
As I approached the children, they greeted me cheerfully and welcomed me with a warm smile. I began the lesson with the bible story of Jesus inviting the children to come to him, “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). I explained to the children that Jesus invites them to be His friend and wants them to know that He loves them unconditionally. We then sang the song ‘Jesus Loves Me’ together and the children enjoyed singing and dancing to the song. For the closing activity, the children cut out paper hearts and drew a picture of a time where they felt God’s love. Drawings of their family and friends filled the inside of their paper hearts. I was moved by how they see God’s love through their family and friends and how much they value their loved ones.
This experience has taught me the important value of faith, family, friends and community. Even though the children have never met me before, they welcomed me with open arms. I realized that it was our faith in God that connected us together. The children also taught me to cherish the loved ones around you. They find happiness through their family and friends and not through materialistic things or selfish endeavors. Time with our loved ones should never be taken for granted and we should always make an effort to let them know we love them. Lastly, the power of community was evident in my experience at the ANCOP village. I was able to see the CFC community’s value of charity towards the poor through the homes and smiling faces of the people of AVANAI ANCOP village. The passion of one community can really move mountains across the globe and change the lives of those in need for the better.
If you ever have a chance to volunteer at an ANCOP Village, I highly recommend that you go. Whether if it’s just for a day or even a year, God’s love is truly evident and present in the people of these communities.
Written by : Jasmine Laserna
Watch the video of her experience in this previously published video blog.