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Mission Trip Field Report from Iligan City, Philippines (February 2010)
Susan McCarson

Nothing I had seen in pictures or heard from other people prepared me for the
  Iligan City, Philippines - Dumpsite Photo 1  
  The mountains of brightly colored trash, showing some of the children who came to greet us and some of the structures (homes) built on top of the trash.
(Photo by Susan McCarson)
 
scene in front of me. Nothing! When I was told that people lived on garbage dumpsites, the closest frame of reference I had was the Ewells in "To Kill a Mockingbird." The Ewells would be wealthy in Iligan City. This city is located on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.

The bumpy dirt road led us into the dumpsite. On both sides stood mountains of brightly colored garbage – pink, aqua, yellow, white and green dotted the landscape – remnants of millions of colored plastic sacks. Numerous structures built on top of the heaps of garbage, large pigs, numerous dogs and cats, goats and children of all ages came into focus.

As I emerged from the van, I was greeted by the children, adults and the stench of
  Iligan City, Philippines - Dumpsite Photo 2  
  Small child sitting among the trash. Through “Feed Hungry Children” the lives of children like this are changed for eternity.
(Photo by Susan McCarson)
 
garbage in a humid and hot area of the world. Here there is no landfill, no sanitation department, and no government assistance program for the poor. I was a
  Iligan City, Philippines - Dumpsite Photo 3  
  Small child sitting among the trash. Through “Feed Hungry Children” the lives of children like this are changed for eternity.
(Photo by Susan McCarson)
 
foreigner – a spectacle some had perhaps not seen before – and because of this, I was welcomed into their lives.

Pastor Rudy was the guide and translator, but it was the people who showed me where to step so I would not sink in the muck. Pieces of discarded carpet, worn out backpacks and the endless supply of plastic bags became the stepping-stones into the culture of the people of the dumpsite.

I came to the Philippine Islands as one in a group of four. In 2001, Ras Robinson and the Fullness in Christ Ministries
  Iligan City, Philippines - Dumpsite Photo 4  
  Kathy Bohlin passes out sweet bread to the residents at the garbage dump while Pastor Rudy looks on.
(Photo by Natalie Lovenburg)
 
in Fort Worth, Texas, began a ministry to educate and nurture the children of this site. I wanted to learn more about the situation first hand; however, at this precise moment, I began to doubt my decision to travel halfway around the world. My nice and tidy middle class life suddenly seemed opulent, wasteful and extravagant. As an educator of 34 years, I knew about poverty – or so I thought.

How do these people survive? By profession, they are scavengers. The children and adults scavenge daily for metal, plastic
  Iligan City, Philippines - Dumpsite Photo 6  
  Natalie Lovenburg attracts a crowd of children who live at the garbage dump who have gathered at “Kid’s Freedom Center,” a ministry of Throne of Grace Fellowship and Fullness in Christ Ministries where the children come to be fed in body, soul and spirit.
(Photo by Aaron Bryant)
 
containers, or anything that can be sold to recycle centers and junk shops. They also scavenge for cardboard, fabric, wood, and other materials used for building their homes. There is a code among the forty plus families that scavenge. Garbage trucks arrive several times daily. The families rotate on their turn to scavenge. No one scavenges out of turn. No one steals from another. Each awaits their turn for survival. There is an unwritten code among these people – a code as prevalent as Hemingway’s Code Hero. While I stood, surrounded by small, hungry faces, the garbage trucks arrived. A group of people, several large pigs, dogs and cats all rushed to the trucks. Children as young as two hold some type of hoe or
  Iligan City, Philippines - Dumpsite Photo 5  
  People are sorting through freshly dumped garbage. (Photo by Natalie Lovenburg)  
stick and begin to sift through another man's trash for the means to survive. A hog and a human scavenge side by side.

The goal of Fullness in Christ Missions is to stop the cycle of endemic poverty one child at a time through education (body, soul, and spirit). Education is not free in the Philippines, and sponsors from around the world send $30.00 each month to Sponsor A Child. The total amount goes to the Philippines to feed, clothe, and educate the
  Iligan City, Philippines - Dumpsite Photo 8  
  Bags of rice are handed out regularly at “Kid’s Freedom Center.”
(Photo by Aaron Bryant)
 
children. While we were watching the people scavenge, I asked Pastor Rudy what I thought was a valid question. I asked if the parents of the children (few have both a mother and a father) disliked the children attending school because it would elevate them above their elders. He shook his head as though he did not understand my question. He explained that many of the parents did not want their children in school for one simple reason. They were needed to scavenge or to care
  Iligan City, Philippines - Dumpsite Photo 7  
  Susan McCarson finds a beautiful baby at “Kid’s Freedom Center” at the garbage dump. Both enjoy some extra lovin’.
(Photo by Natalie Lovenburg)
 
for younger siblings when the adults scavenged or went into the city to sell the items they have gathered from the garbage. The answer was simple and straightforward: Every person is needed to work for the family to survive.

With no available water, I wondered how the people kept clean. Many of the people we saw wore clean clothes and appeared without the layer of filth imposed by poverty that I expected to see. Even their makeshift homes were somewhat tidy. Pastor Rudy explained that there was a public faucet nearby for showering and washing clothes. Some also go to the ocean to bathe. Several women at the dumpsite made extra income by taking in washing. Another unwritten societal rule was revealed.

It was not until the worship service held that night did I realize the full impact the sponsors had on these children of the
  Iligan City, Philippines - Dumpsite Photo 9  
  “Kids Care Center” at the garbage dump was built as a ministry center to feed the children and their families in body soul and spirit. Lives are changed daily at this ministry center. (Photo by Aaron Bryant)  
dumpsite. With bright faces and cheerful hearts, they gave testimonies of the power of education. The scholars, as the sponsored children are called, have goals to complete school and to attend college. Many want to become nurses or teachers. Through Fullness in Christ Missions "Ministry To Children" and "Feed Hungry Children" programs, working closely with Pastor Rudy and his wonderful church and helpers, these sponsored children’s lives are literally being transformed. Many said they hoped to someday provide scholarships for other poor children.

Poor in finances; wealthy in hope.


Readers of “What the Lord is Saying Today” a daily e-mail from Ras and Bev Robinson, currently sponsor 547 poor children on 4 islands in the Philippines. Join thousands of readers and receive a free subscription to “What the Lord is Saying Today.” Find out how you can change the life of a child (or children) for eternity. Give to Fullness in Christ Missions: Ministry To Children.

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