The Pastoral Care for Children (PCC) – Philippines continues its mission towards vulnerable pregnant women and children amid the pandemic. Even during the pandemic, PCC follows up on pregnant women till their children are six years old. Given the COVID-19 restrictions, PCC volunteers are finding creative ways to assists mothers facing challenges of saving their children's lives and contributing to their development.
The Pastoral Care for Children (originally in Portuguese "Pastoral da Criança") was founded by Dr. Zilda Arns, an active Catholic lay leader and pediatrician in Brazil, 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.
PCC helps transform the lives of mothers, families, and communities by providing basic 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. PCC aims to work with the poorest families facing difficult situations.
In the Philippines, PCC began in 2004 through a Brazilian Sr. Terezinha Kunen's initiative of the congregation of the Immaculate Conception of Castres (CIC). It was first launched in the diocese of Daet, Philippines, through the local Bishop Benjamin Almoneda.
"I arrived in the Philippines in 2003 not knowing English, but I found ways to learn. I was eager to share and start the PCC program as I saw the situation of poor and malnourished children. I started making food supplements and distributing them," said Sr. Kunen.
She translated the Pastoral Care for Children documents into English with the help of generous people in the parish where she was. "We started training and seminars for PCC volunteers in 2004," Sr. Kunen said. Currently, Sr. Kunen is the National Coordinator of PCC at the Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila, Philippines.
PCC activities during monthly home visits involve learning about topics 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.
The volunteer leaders undergo training based on the Leader's Guide and are assigned to no more than ten families.
"The formation helps the mothers. They learn a lot that they can use in daily life," said Perlie Comandante, PCC volunteer community leader in Iba, capital of the province of Zambales, Philippines. She is one of more than 500 PCC volunteer leaders spread in 12 dioceses in the country.
According to Comandante, her service in PCC and the camaraderie formed by the leaders served as her support system and extended family.
"We do home visitation and distribution of food to children at this time of the pandemic. Gatherings are still restricted," Comandante said.
PCC families gather monthly for the Celebration of Life. Children are weighed and their heights measured. However, due to pandemic restrictions, volunteers can only do home visitation following strict health protocols. With the COVID-19 restrictions, coordinators and volunteers are challenged to connect with the families.
"Many challenges are there in this time of the pandemic. The good thing is, although we cannot visit some areas because of the pandemic, the community leaders continue with their activities, visiting the pregnant women and children. Love and mission that's the reason why it continues. And many still need help," said Liezele Bautista, PCC diocesan coordinator in the Diocese of Iba. PCC is present in 10 parishes in Iba, where Bautista is monitoring the activities.
In the Philippines, over 5,000 children are accompanied through the PCC program in dioceses of Iba, Balanga, Cubao, Novaliches, Antipolo, Gumaca, Bontoc-Lagawe, Sorsogon and Butuan, and the Archdioceses of Manila and Palo-Leyte. - Jennibeth Sabay
Jennibeth Sabay is a junior sister of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Castres (CIC), a missionary congregation committed to the poorest of the poor.