Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, coordinators and volunteers for Pastoral Care for Children (PCC) - Philippines continue to visit families in various dioceses.
The coordinators shared their experiences, especially in this time of the pandemic, and how they continue to do the activities in the program.
Coordinators and volunteers make efforts to provide pastoral support for pregnant women and children amid the pandemic, Sister Jennibeth Sabay, a staff at PCC Philippines, said.
“I was amazed to know at how most of them are taking the risk of continuing the basic activities like home visitation even with all the restrictions due to ongoing pandemic,” the nun said.
Recently, the PCC held a national convention. Some of them shared that they had to escape from their houses because their family members would not allow them or the barangay (village council) officials forbid them.
“I thought that it was quite risky. But of course, it is also their determination and passion to do the activities for the needy women and children. Visiting and monitoring of pregnant women and children continued in most areas except those who had many Covid-19 cases and had strict lockdowns,” said Sister Sabay, a member of Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Castres (CIC).
Some volunteers are senior citizens and are prohibited from going out on health grounds. But some senior citizens continue despite the order to stay home.
The volunteers continue to monitor children’s weight, visit the pregnant women and follow them up. They also bring some packs or food for them, explained Sister Sabay.
Some dioceses also face challenges as some parish priests forbid them to continue the pastoral visitation to families. However, the others continue.
“I admire their courage, dedication, and passion. We also remind them to take the necessary measures or follow health protocols for their safety and the safety of the beneficiaries,” the nun said.
Despite the situation, most of them plan to expand and reach out to more families with malnourished children and pregnant women.
“It is good that we have the PCC application that can be downloaded on the cellphone. It's an interesting app that is helpful for the volunteers when they monitor and visit the families. However, it is still under construction as PCC International is still translating more content to English,” said Sister Sabay.
“I appreciate and continue to support in my simple ways to help in this PCC program and its vision and mission,” she added.
The mission of PCC is to accompany especially the poor and malnourished children.
The nun explained that the leaders are encouraged to look for more poor, pregnant women because the earlier they are accompanied and monitored, the better the chances of their babies to be born healthy.
“Pastoral da Criança” (original Portuguese name of Pastoral Care for Children) was founded by Dr. Zilda Arns, an active Catholic lay leader and pediatrician in Brazil, South America, in 1983.
It was a response to a challenge launched to help save thousands of children from the death of preventable diseases such as dehydration caused by diarrhea.
The PCC-Philippines started in 2004 through Sister Terezinha Kunen, Brazilian of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Castres (CIC) through the invitation of Bishop Benjamin Almoneda of the Diocese of Daet, where the PCC program was first implemented.
PCC follows up on pregnant women and children until they are six years old, facing the challenge of saving children's lives and contributing to their development.
It aims to work with the poorest families facing more difficulties living in challenging conditions.
PCC works to help transform the lives of mothers, families, and communities through essential health, nutrition, education, and citizenship training based on Christian values. Its primary activities include home visitation, volunteer leader’s monthly meeting, and celebration of life.
The volunteer leaders undergo training based on the Leader’s Guide and are assigned to no more than ten families.
During monthly home visits, learning and sharing are done on topics that are suited to each family, like health, hygiene, breastfeeding, diarrhea prevention and management, respiratory diseases and other conditions, home-accident prevention, cheap nutritionally valued food, herbal medicine preparation, and use, waste management, and environmental care.
More than 500 PCC volunteer leaders spread in 12 dioceses in the Philippines.
More than 5,000 children are accompanied through the PCC program scattered in various dioceses: Iba, Balanga, Cubao, Novaliches, Antipolo, Gumaca, Bontoc-Lagawe, Sorsogon and Butuan, and the Archdioceses of Manila and Palo-Leyte.
PCC holds a national office at Pius XII Catholic Center in UN Avenue, Manila.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.