06/05/2023, 12.27
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Manila: Food, shelter, dignity. Catholic foundation to help the homeless

by Santosh Digal

The Arnold Janssen Kalinga Foundation helps hundreds of needy people in the capital city. Leading the work is the priest Fr. Flavie L. Villanueva, of the Society of the Divine Word. For many of those assisted, the programme has 'changed lives', opening hearts and minds and 'restoring lost dignity'.

Manila (AsiaNews) - An assistance programme that "changed my life. It has opened my heart and mind, restored my lost dignity" thanks also to "service and generosity" towards others.

This is the story of redemption, and rebirth, told to AsiaNews by Kuya Allen, one of the many homeless people involved in a care and assistance programme promoted in Manila by Fr. Flavie L. Villanueva, a priest of the Society of the Divine Word. Allen enthusiastically joined the Kalinga Foundation's 'Open Hearts and Minds' rehabilitation programme and is now serving others in need, cooking and serving food. 

He hopes that his story of being homeless and able to redeem himself can be an example for others in his condition. And, at the same time, he confesses to missing his remaining children in Leyte, an island in the Visayas archipelago, some 565 km south of the capital.

Set up in 2015 by Fr Villanueva, the charity's full name is Arnold Janssen Kalinga Foundation Inc. and borrows its name from the German saint (5 November 1837-15 January 1909) who founded, among others, the Society of the Divine Word. In its first phase it provided food for at least a hundred homeless people every day on the streets of Manila, which has now risen to over 200 who can also benefit from a bed and shelter in the dozens of centres set up in the capital. The mission? To bring joy, solidarity and warmth to those living on the streets, without a home or family.

In its name, it encapsulates the meaning of its work: 'Kalinga' is formed from the words 'Kain-Ligo-Nang-Ayos' and means 'a hot meal and a bath a day', an activity that took its current form in 2017 with the official registration with the government on 8 March. For many marginalised people it represents a symbol of hope, as Fr Villanueva explains, who hopes for 'a society where no one is left behind and where everyone is treated with dignity'. 

Following the oft-repeated words of Pope Francis, the foundation's members want to offer "opportunities for those on the peripheries of society, the hungry and thirsty, the outcasts and the abandoned," the priest continues. In addition to a meal and a hot bath, they are offered the chance to complete their education (whether primary or secondary), learn a profession, and benefit from spiritual and human development paths.

The guests are people who have been abandoned or have fled from their families, former criminals or people who have been released from prison and have nowhere to take refuge, all united by the '3Hs': help, home, hope. It relies on the contribution of women, men, volunteers such as the young Lilibeth Ma Grace Calderon who sees in the centre an opportunity to "meet Jesus and serve the last ones".

Moreover JR Torres who, thanks to working in close contact with the last ones, has rediscovered the value and beauty of faith. One of the "most significant lessons," he recounts, "was to never give up and to trust in God's plans, no matter how challenging life may seem at a given moment.  "I realised," she concludes, "how important it is to strive to be a good person and spread positivity in every way possible."


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