What do you know about hope?

There are so many things I have been aching to share about my experiences with the Buhay Makulay Children’s Project this year. Each activity with the children leaves me in awe – of the resiliency of every Filipino child I’ve met, the gift of service so many kind hearts are willing to provide, but most of all of the steadfastness of God. I am bursting with stories, anecdotes, personal revelations. But I fail to carve out time to write them out, to find the right words that will sustain the power of the things I’ve seen, heard and learned.

In the past eight months alone, we’ve worked with thousands of children and hundreds of volunteers in five different communities, in as many different provinces of the Philippines. There are three more communities and hundreds more children lined up for the rest of the year. This is all in celebration of the eight years we’ve been facilitating the Children’s Fair for underserved communities. Even more than that, this is all in celebration of the enduring hope we have in God. Buhay Makulay’s vision remains: children at risk transformed into children of hope.

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Two girls eating their lunch in front of one of our three hope trees. Children’s Fair in Calauan, Laguna. August 23, 2014. 

Yesterday’s Children’s Fair in Calauan, Laguna, stands out for many reasons. Here are a few: We had the boldness (and spiritual whisper) to invite 1,500 children to the fair. (The most we’ve ever done was 500, and that felt like a reach!) Unlike some earlier locations this year, I have a professional and relational history with the community, and feel deeply invested in their growth. Close to the fair day, we also felt stalled by fences in our flow of finances and the lean-ness of our confirmed team of volunteers. The night before the fair, I was still greatly overwhelmed by the basic idea of managing thousands of people. And on a very personal note, I’ve been going through some private hurdles that have made the season coming up to the actual fair more challenging perhaps than any other point in my life. It has made this present season the most stretching, breaking and disorienting of all.

And perhaps all of that’s what made yesterday even more meaningful. Since traveling to Leyte in May, and understanding the depth of the super typhoon’s impact on the locals’ everyday life and oncoming future, a giant shadow of a question has plagued me: What do you know about hope, Tanya? What do you really know about hope?

The people I had met in Leyte survived a type of devastation I have never witnessed before. To hear of it makes your heart ache and tremble. But still it’s nothing compared to being the very person that has to walk through the devastation, one persistently painful inch at at time. And thus I questioned, what did I even know about hope? Why am I the person called to share this message?

And of course I know hope. I carry hope so preciously in my heart. But I wondered if the heart that carries it has been challenged enough. How would I take the punches, if the devastation had come knocking on my door and not Leyte’s, or Iloilio’s, or Cebu’s? I can’t say.

So once again, in preparation for speaking to 1,500 children yesterday about this very hope that they should carry in their own hearts, I found myself facing this question head on. What do I know about hope? I continue to search my heart. I continue to search God’s.

One thing is certain – that I am the one learning from each time I take the microphone to greet the children at our Children’s Fairs. Majority of the thousands of kids who’ve come to us, have walked (not ridden a car or train) from their homes, in their best (but worn or hand me down) clothes, through dusty streets, days after their last shower, on much less than full stomachs to get where they sit in front of me. That journey alone is one of hope.

More of this in future posts. Stay tuned, speak soon.

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Me at the microphone, sharing stories with 500 children in Leyte. Children’s Fair. May, 2014. 

 

 

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Challenge Accepted: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge + Other Intimate & Worldwide Battles

I knew it was only a matter of time before the challenge knocked on my door.

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Friends, if you are able, do more than just throw a bucket of ice water on your head. Let this viral wave of social media activism deepen in significance and impact. Don’t get me wrong, I believe every effort counts no matter how small (I enjoyed this read: Think The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Is Stupid? You’re Wrong.) But with every effort, give it your best shot. 

It’s not about the money, although money will help. And it shouldn’t be about the novelty of the challenge, the vanity of posting a video that features just you, or because you can’t help but get on the bandwagon or be dragged along by it. 

Read up on the disease. Strike up conversations about it beyond the comments that follow someone’s recent posting of their Ice Bucket Challenge video. Check out the research being done.  Find out if there are people in your own circle of family, friends, friends of family, or family of friends that may be directly affected by ALS. 

When I told my brother yesterday that I had been nominated for the challenge, I didn’t even know how to explain what ALS was, and neither did he. Let’s change that about ALS, and while we’re on it: let’s change that about other relevant challenges and crises that humanity faces today. We should be able to talk about what’s happening – make current events matter. [Check out Breaking News that delivers reports on ongoing stories such as: the Ebola outbreak, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Ukraine & Russia’s Political Conflict, the Iraq crisis and the tension in Ferguson, MO, USA. Or Vox, that goes beyond the usual reporting to help you really understand the news in context and present circumstances. For example: Everything You Need to Know About Israel-Palestine or 16 Things About ISIS and Iraq You Need to Know.]

There are real people hurting behind these headlines. There are real people hurting from ALS and other chronic or terminal illnesses. There are real people hurting in your immediate circle of family and friends. 

Look outside your circle of worries and acknowledge the battles that other people face. Remind yourself that everyone has a story that goes much deeper than a scratch at the surface – and each story is distinct, nuanced but also never possibly singular. We’ve all got hurdles. 

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

ALS is a disease that can affect anyone in the world – regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. ALS attacks the nerve cells that control voluntary movement, making moving the arms, legs and face increasingly difficult over time. It is not contagious. (For more facts on ALS, read: What Is ALS. To donate, get to know more about the disease and the community fighting it: ALS Association.)

Here’s my go at the #ALSIceBucketChallenge from earlier today:

And the text I posted on Facebook with my video:

Thank you Gino Ong for nominating me for the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. I will be donating $10 to the ALS Association for their continued research. I would like to nominate Kenya Bryant, David Opoku, Rishi Mandhyan and Nina Skagerlind to take the challenge.You have 24 hours! I’ll donate another $10 for each of you that successfully completes the challenge!

Thank you Chelsea Delfin for filming and Kuya Ricky for graciously dumping the bucket over my head (despite of his fear that any one of the lawyers in my family might file a case against him…)

(Disclaimer: In the video I said that ALS affects everyone in the world, but really meant to say that it can occur anywhere and to anyone in the world. Sorry about the misrepresentation, but I was nervous about the bucket!)