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Preventing poverty

Here on Samal Island I swim twice a day minimum, snorkeling over the coral shelves with the tropical fish. Most days I see some kind of animal in the sea that I have never seen before. Over a year and a half of association with the Roman Catholic Church I have seen places where the church is not realizing its hope under Vatican 2 of helping the poor. It happens that my own interests and experience put me in a unique position to assist in two of these areas. When I came to Mindanao I resolved to quit working in agriculture and stick to the areas that I know the best. My missions here have been in offering information and resources regarding alcoholism recovery (primarily AA http://www.aa.org/?Media=PlayFlash and Al Anon http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/home ..and church intervention aka Father Vernon Johnson http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernon_Johnson ) and also legal rights of single mothers aka abandoned children. You may wonder where this mission came from?

When I arrived in the Philippines I first stayed with a single mother in Golden Acres south of Manila who I had been corresponding with. She had been abandoned with two small children by a Filipino who had promised to marry her but had not. It was the first I had heard of Filipino drunkards abandoning their own children. Her name was Grace and she worked in Quezon City as a house cleaner, commuting about two hours each way by jeepny. She has since gotten TB, possibly from the pollution involved in the commute? I considered marrying her to "save" her and her kids from poverty. My friend replied that I could save her one family or save many by helping to make small farmers more productive. Since then I have met dozens of women with similar stories. The Philippines is the global leader per capita in single mothers. An old foreigner seems to them a possible way out of poverty. Finally I did some research, visiting the PAO (Public Attorney's Office) and Senator Pia Cayetano, who was the author of a law making it a crime to abandon your child. I also have taken up these two missions because they are related to poverty and because I did not feel effective in my efforts to assist in agriculture. My only success was in Palawan, an effort still in progress (and for many years since reforestation with narra is a key part). I have been successful in these two missions, having started an AA meeting on Samal Island and provided AA and Al Anon literature and information to churches and schools. The Catholic Church (mainly Redemptorists) and Romeo Lagahit (for the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor) have assisted me in this. My thought is that someone like Father Vernon Johnson is needed here in the Philippines! I have also managed to get many women to initiate legal proceedings on behalf of their children against the fathers. I should add that in my opinion the church needs to connect the mothers to the PAO so they can learn their legal rights. One reason for selecting these missions is that the church is not doing enough. I will go to an AA/Al Anon convention in CDO beginning of February and then continue my missions in Davao area.

Rowland Lane Anderson

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