Hi Ophelia, tell us about yourself.
I am Ophelia Cruz – Marcelino, an educator who served Marist School in Marikina City, Philippines for 32 years. I hailed from the historic place of Bataan and settled in Marikina City, Metro Manila when I got married in 1975. Two of my three children are Marist School alumni and my eldest son is presently serving the school as one of the members of its management team. During these long years of service to the institution I was appointed in different leadership functions until my retirement in 2015. Though retired, I continued serving the school as part time teacher in the Senior High School for three years, and served with greater passion because of my direct connection and interactions with the students; touching lives, understanding their uniqueness and individuality and extending guidance in their formation and development prior to their moving up and stepping to the next phase of their academic life in college. At the onset of the pandemic brought about by Covid – 19 virus until this time, I am no longer engaged in teaching. This period of the pandemic at first shut myself off from the outside world, however, the absence of busyness and activity-filled days helped me to reflect deeply and re-connect with my interior self and see without horse blinders a wider perspective how else I could extend help and assistance to others while in the comfort of our home, when senior citizens were at first restricted to go out during the lockdown. This situation did not become a hindrance but opens another opportunity to be of service to other young people who needed most a loving and caring attention. A contemplative life at this period of the pandemic, indeed, helped me to surface more creativity, resourcefulness and innovation to go through the process of viewing life in another angle, not of disappointment and frustration but shifting gears and grab whatever is on hand, the basic, essential and only those which are important and necessary. I also had more time re-connecting with nature in my personal space, my garden, where I appreciate more the plants, the presence of the bees, the butterflies, praying manties, birds and even the worms as I dig into the ground. The important things that co – exist with me, which I overlooked before, I take notice now. Gardening gives life to my life in solitude at this time of the pandemic.
Continuing my inner journey, I decided to volunteer to Marcellin Home. When Br. Edgar Ceriales, FMS, the Coordinator of the Province’s Volunteer Program called for volunteers, I readily informed him of my willingness to do volunteer service specifically in Marcellin Home considering my past exposures and experiences in the field of guidance and counseling. Months before the pandemic I was able to immerse myself to the place. In my short stint living with the Brothers’ community in Marcellin Home and in the company of young people, I found myself inadequate and lacks skills in understanding them better because of communication barrier. I speak English and Tagalog which the children understand very well, however, I failed to fully understand them because during our conversations most of the time they speak in their own mother tongue, Ilonggo or Cebuano. Honestly, my intention to serve them as a volunteer guidance counselor did not work and found myself not effective because of this limitation. Br. Edgar Ceriales, FMS, instead, challenged and requested me to perform two important tasks that would directly benefit the children; first, to conduct needs assessment of the Residential Care and Services Program extended to the children and young people in Marcellin Home, and second, to formulate a Comprehensive Residential Care Program based on the results of the needs assessment conducted. These tasks prompted me to observe activities, do research, conduct interviews and meetings with the significant people in the Center. The Needs Assessment Report was submitted to the East Asia Provincial Council for further review and approval. Their approval gave way to the next phase of the assignment, which was the formulation of a Comprehensive Residential Care and Independent Living Program in Marcellin Home. As volunteer, I continued on single – handedly in the formulation of the enhanced Program in the light of the outcome of the Needs Assessment, the institution’s Vision, Mission, Goals and Objectives. Unceasingly prayed the MEMORARE, and with the inspiration and intercession of our Good Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Marcellin Champagnat, the task was completely done and approved.
Officially, Marcellin Home or Marcellin Academy has an existing Residential Care Program and my contribution as volunteer is to enhance what the institution has been doing for the service of the youth under its care. The COMPREHENSIVE RESIDENTIAL CARE PROGRAM IN MARCELLIN HOME/ACADEMY is a program designed to assist the CICL, CAR and OSY in their holistic development and formation and supports their pro – social development. It is an enhanced program based on the existing services. In general, the program was designed to strengthen Marcellin Home/Academy’s Residential Care Program focusing on the following components; Health Care, Psycho – Social and Spiritual Formation, Education & Technical Training, and Independent Living. The services are responsive to the needs of the students. The program design is constructive, facilitative, and positive. Child – friendly strategies and approaches are adapted in observance of the Juvenile Justice System and in adherence to the provisions of related laws in the Philippines, like, RA 9344, RA 7610, PD 603, RA 10630, and Manual on Handling Cases of CAR and CICL is ensured. The beneficiaries of this program are students in Marcellin Home/Academy, who are:
1. CHILDREN AT RISK (CAR) mainly from General Santos City and also from other municipalities and provinces, who are between 7 to 17 years old. This includes:
- Street children – children in the streets;
- Abandoned/Foundling children – refers to children who were left and unattended by their family for at least a continuous six (6) months;
- Physical abused/battered children – children who were inflicted with physical injury or harm which includes but not limited to laceration, fractures, human bites, strangulations, and similar acts;
- Neglected children – children who were deprived of their basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and parental care.
2. CHILDREN IN CONFLICT WITH THE LAW (CICL) This category includes:
Juvenile Delinquents below the age of 18 years;
- Children involved with the justice system as the accused.
3. OUT OF SCHOOL YOUTH (OSY)
This category includes;
- Orphaned Youth from the ages of 18 – 21 years who have set reasonably clear personal goals in life, and show the personal, study and work discipline to be beneficial influence and service to other disadvantaged children and youth.
Promising Youth with irresponsible/impoverished parents, from the ages of 18 – 21 years, who have set reasonably clear personal goals in life, and show the personal discipline and willingness to render services in exchange for the program benefits he will enjoy. These children have been exposed to various difficult, unpleasant and challenging experiences early in life as described on the above classification. Marcellin Home under the leadership of Br. Crispin Betita, FMS, with the staff, works very closely with the different government agencies, local government units and non – government organizations in delivering the services for the welfare and best interests of the youth in Marcellin Home. As volunteer, my short – lived stay in Marcellin Home touched my heart to the core having known the difficult life that the children went through before they become residents of the institution.
This volunteer work helped me deepen my love for the children especially the most neglected, those who are not loved and difficult to love. Volunteerism is a path worth taking, it is a response to God’s call, knowing that the support, help and assistance one can extend could mean a lot to others, even change their own lives for the better.