01/03/2018, 17.14
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Catholic volunteers help the homeless in Manila

by Santosh Digal

Some 4,000 to 5,000 homeless families live in covered sidewalks, under bridges, or in cemeteries. Kariton Empowerment Center (KEC) is a charity whose goal is to empower homeless families, “helping them to help themselves”. Some of the beneficiaries tell their stories.

Manila (AsiaNews) – In order to protect human dignity in light of the social doctrine of the Church and the values ​​of the Gospel, a group of Catholic women are working in Manila to empower the homeless.

Led by Sheba Martinez, a professor of theology at Miriam College and coordinator of the project, volunteers from the Kariton Empowerment Center (KEC) are involving homeless families in livelihood programmes, and exploring the possibility of organising cooperatives.

The group takes its name from kariton, a wooden cart that the homeless push during the day to collect recyclable rubbish along the roads and which serves as a shelter at night.

According to the latest estimates, some 4,000 to 5,000 families live in covered sidewalks, under bridges and in cemeteries in Manila.

KEC aims at rehabilitating and empowering homeless families by "helping them to help themselves", by organising self-help groups, and by allowing them to deal with their situation in a more creative and responsible way.

KEC firmly believes that all people are created to live a life full of dignity and rights. Globalisation and the existing global free market system have increased the gap between rich and poor, depriving people of resources and wealth.

The group is committed to grassroots globalisation, raising awareness, helping people to rise from poverty, and fighting for an alternative and just society.

“I came to know about KEC through a common friend,” said Rose Del Rey, one of KEC’s beneficiaries. “I attended some of their orientation seminars. They enabled me to learn many things. I also came to know that I have rights, and that I need to have self-respect even if I am poor.”

The 22-year-old also learnt “how to cook. Thanks to KEC's guidance, motivation and support I am able to work as a cook at a local eatery. I am also aware that I have human dignity and rights as a person and citizen of the country.”

Christian Cabading also “attended some programs offered by KEC.” Aged 33, he said that he “benefited a bit [from the former]. I know that I need to have some competencies, but I have yet to achieve them in life. I wish that I would no longer do scavenging”.

Abuses and bad company led Peter Rey, 29, to prison. After getting out, no one would hire him, and so he ended up homeless. “I slept on the street and I found friends there,” he explained. “I learnt to do something with the help of KEC”.

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