By: Rhyan O. Casiño
52 smiling kids behaved and happy with the coming of packed foods, colorful decors and musical instruments, it is gonna be a party for them. But amidst those smiles are stories of a dark past, each of those kids are children in conflict with the law (CICL) ages 18yrs old and below. Their crimes range from theft, curfew, drugs and crimes that are just not worth mentioning. They are being housed in Tahanan sa Kabataan (TNK), Lumbia, Cagayan de Oro City. It is a government run facility for juvenile delinquents. A few months ago, a friend contacted me that she wants to celebrate her birthday with the children of Cagayan de Oro that have not experienced or have been deprived of a birthday party. Her heart longs to reach out to her kababayans especially the less fortunate children but she is now based in New York. After a few exchanges of chat and exchange of ideas Everybody’s Birthday was conceptualized. May 26, 2015 was the target date to implement the project, it is Ms. Sandy Badon-Alm’s birthday and it was celebrated with the children of TNK making this activity as a birthday celebration for the children of Tahanan as well. Volunteer organizations came to help with the activity; Kuya Fish Campaign helped in setting up the decors and programs, Dire Husi Initiatives, Inc. helped in organizing and facilitating and the Dayeg Movement bands helped in bringing local musicians. Ms. Sandy Alm who is based now in New York is a former employee of City Hall in CdO, she contacted Tita Mimi’s for the catering and generously the catering company added additional food for the cause oriented project. It was a fun filled afternoon that the TNK kids enjoyed. The kids got to play games with prizes, they also did collaborative art works expressing their thoughts and aspirations plus local bands of CdO played while the event happened. Among the Gentile Band played acoustic positive music and also bands from the Playmakers organizations of MUST played popular Christian music. The kids were happy to have witnessed them played their music. I happen to ask each of the kids if they have any idea when is their birthday, they all answered yes, I asked them again if they have celebrated their birthday and sadly, nobody raised their hands. It was a very humbling experience seeing the smiles of the kids that will brings warmth to the heart. We don’t often got to see their smiling faces but hoping these small initiatives will bring realization to these kids that there is still hope and that a there are people who loves them, that one day they will realize that amidst of the troubles they have done in the past, that change within themselves can be done.
Changing the world one child at a time.
(The author is a Northern Mindanao Representative for Visual Arts on the National Commission for Culture and the Arts NCCA and also the Executive Director of Dire Husi Initiatives, Inc.)