Tis the season of Sharing @ The Parian Drop-In Center

'Tis the season of 13-month pays and panic buying again! Where did time go? That's what I ask myself every year when the Christmas season arrives. One day it's summer and the next thing you the nieces and nephews and little cousins and (kind of forgotten) godchildren suddenly express their desire for you to buy that new Elsa toy they saw at the mall. I know it's kind of crazy, especially with children. They're literally waiting for Christmas all year long.

While some kids wake up on Noche Buena to find their gifts under the tree, some kids actually have to make do with what little they have. Some don't even have a real Noche Buena. Or gifts. Or a home. So around this time last year, when the Outreach Club at work (yes, we do have an Outreach Club) told us that we'll be throwing the kids at the Parian Drop-in Center a Jollibee kiddie party, the friends and I immediately signed up for the job. :)

The Parian Drop-In Center is literally right across The Heritage of Cebu monument located in Brgy. Parian (obvs). Now, a drop-in center is a place where kids are "dropped in" after they're taken off the streets, thus the name, drop-in center. It's also not a permanent residence. It's more similar to a halfway house, an in-between facility where children are clothed and fed while the government looks for a better place or foster family to take care of them.

The facility is actually not so bad. It's mostly well-kept but like all other orphanages I've visited there's this air about the place that says it needs more care. The kids stay in quarters with bunk beds and there's a space for activities. The youngest we saw was only about 3, the oldest being 13. Some of these kids suffered abuse. Others, abandoned. It really kind of broke my heart to think about what these kids were going through at such a young age.

But the really cool thing? These kids were fighters. When we came in, all I saw was a bunch of energy balls---the kids were just bouncing off the walls and excited. And the party wasn't even in full swing yet! It was really something inspiring. They were just full of life and innocence. They talked about their favorite food and their favorite TV shows. They sang songs and danced like crazy. I've never seen a bunch of friendlier kids in my life.

We also played games. Then everything broke loose when Jollibee arrived:

At one point in the program, the kids were asked to sit on Jollibee's lap and make a wish. Now for these kids who don't have much, you'd expect them to ask for cool new toys, or clothes, or shoes. But what they answered choked the tears out of me:

"Ganahan ko malipay."
"Akung wish kay magkuyug mi sa akung mama"

For kids to ask these simple things? It breaks your heart to bits. Needless to say I had tears in my eyes so we had to feed them by this point or else I'll have spontaneously burst into sobs.

After their lunch, the kids then went on to sing us a popular Christmas carol called "Bro, Ikaw ang Star ng Pasko" which is a story about how Jesus (popularized as "Bro" by this TV show where this kid can talk to God and calls Jesus his bro) is still the star of Christmas. They sang it loud and clear.
I wanted to crawl into a hole and cry. But more than that I really wanted to do so much more for these kids. They had so much promise and kindness and they deserved so much more than what they were getting. 

They obviously deserved so much more than a small party with a mascot. These kids, they deserved a future. It was kind of bittersweet that a small party is all that we could afford. On one hand, I know they were happy for that day and on the other, I wanted give something that had a lasting effect. I could only hope that they hold on to this day where they got something they rarely have the chance to enjoy.

Shortly thereafter we wrapped up and finally said our goodbyes to the kids. The Parian Drop-in Center experience was an eye-opener. This year, the Outreach Club is now rounding up donations for  program at the DSWD Centre for Girls. 

And yes, I've already signed up for it.

Til next time then! See ya! :)

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