Before my trip to Vigan, I told my blogger and froum friends that I will not be able to update and visit them. I told them this the moment that I have been waiting for almost a year. And this activity means so much to me that I cancelled all my other schedules just for this 4-day event that will surely give smiles to the delegates, or should I say, the kids.
This 4-day activity is of course the start of Children's Rehabilitation Center(CRC) Outreach Program here in Ilocos Region. And together with Armie, we volunteered as staff for this program here in our area.
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CRC is a non-profit, non-government organization that serves children affected by state violence. It primarily deals with helping children overcome the psychological effects of war, and children victims of abuse by providing psychosocial therapy, counseling, nutritional, medicine, legal, and educational services. Since 1995, CRC has been settingup community-based programs to serve far-flung areas where there is military presence and and reported cases of human right vilation. in the last five years, CRC has documented more than 800 incidents of human rights violations, affecting some 215, 233 children.
During the activity, I met some children whose parents were threatened by military men and forcing them to surrender because they were advocates of peasant rights. Soldiers continue to visit them in their houses and forcing them to sign papers, and inviting them to their camp. As I talk to these kids, I found out that they were afraid of what might happen to their parents and even to their community. For the previous years, military forces have built camps within the barangays in the different parts of the region. They used the barangay hall and even daycare centers as their station. This forced daycare children to held classes under the trees instead of the center built for them. This activity brought fear to the residents for the military were using them as human shields against the New People's Army(NPA). While in some areas in the Philippines, residents were forced to evacuate because of the fear of being caught in encounters between military troops and the rebels.
I also met some children who were victims of sexual abuse and molestation by neighbors and their relatives. This case required another approach of counseling and therapy. On the other hand, we also held a workshop and session for the parents to understand the situation their child is going through and to guide them on how to handle and help their kids during these times. Most parents today are conservative, treating children as too young to speak about these experiences in life, so it is good that the parents were given guidelines on the proper handling of their young.
At the end of the day, I realized that this activity is not enough for the children to fully overcome these experiences. This requires more theraphy sessions and programs for them. But what made me happy is that all the children went home smiling and telling us, "Sa susunod ulit ate ha?"