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From gathering crumbs to building lives 

By Santosh Digal

Manila: This has been the principle of helping and empowering the poor an as anti-poverty eradication strategy for most dioceses in the Philippines, South East Asia.

Repeated small or big acts of goodness towards neighbor bring hope, love, and fullness of life, especially to the poor, says Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Archbishop of Manila.

He said this in a message in reference to Pondo ng Pinoy (PnP or funds of Filipinos), as it marked 14 years of existence in service of the poor in the country.

“Fourteen years ago, PnP began as both a renewal and a community foundation. It had the vision to embody a Filipino community where God reigns. And the love of God is experienced in small acts of God. This vision remains urgent and relevant,” he said.

“Poverty continues to manifest its disturbing faces daily. We see it on our streets, often in corners of our communities and cities. We experience how poverty also equates to powerlessness. This weakness is seen in the lack of opportunities for education, livelihood, decent shelter, and lack of access to health and proper nutrition. We see increasing numbers of homeless people, of malnourished children unemployed and people living below the poverty line,” the cardinal said.

PnP’s vision provides an opportunity to touch others and save for others. PnP inspires others to do so, so others may have a better chance at education, livelihood, and a better future. Studies show only about 32 percent of Filipino households have savings.

PnP is a not-for-profit organization founded by former Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales in 2004 creating awareness of the plight of the poor that calls for acts of compassion, solidarity, and sharing. PnP is a mechanism for a small contribution from Christians giving daily as little as 25 centavos (smallest Philippino currency denomination), to live and concretely manifest this solidarity. These small amounts, saved daily in used bottles and other recycled containers are collected periodically and pooled into a common account.

Between 2014 and 2016, the foundation continued to break new grounds with more than Philipino Peso 27 million (US$ 519730 in approved grands benefiting more than 53,000 direct beneficiaries, said Anthony A. Badilla, executive director of PnP.

Besides, PnP gets major donations for individuals and corporate houses, but its major funds come from small, regular contributions from parishes, schools, church organizations and individual supporters from 30 member dioceses and apostolic vicariates. PnP is governed by a Board of Trustees composed of eight bishops, three religious and four lay persons.

PnP has four thematic areas: health and nutrition, alternative and practical skills development, livelihood and housing. It develops a partnership with others for development.

According to Philippine Statistics Authority, as of 2015, there is a total of 101.57 million Filipinos. 21.6% or 1 in every 5 of the population lives below the poverty line. Poverty incidence is highest among farmers at 34.3%.

Along with a focus on funding projects, PnP nurtures the faith of the giver at the core of its empowerment strategy, that the giver develops a culture rooted deeply in love of God and neighbor, especially the poor. This connectedness drives personal transformation to compassion, solidarity, and sharing, and impels the Christians faithful to reach out, touch and change the life of others.

“We envision PnP becomes a catalyst and an embodiment of that personal transformation,” said Badilla.

For last 14 years, PnP has proved a vital link to people in need, aggregating millions of pesos from children, farmers, fisherfolk, vendors, micro-entrepreneurs and ordinary employees, and providing a lifeline to malnourished children, poor urban dwellers, indigenous peoples, farmers and fisherfolk, the sick, the elderly, children and youth with physical and learning difficulties.

“It is our effort that Christians of every age promote and fulfill the commitment to love and make that love manifest in a daily commitment to share their resources to help build of disadvantaged people,” Badilla said.

PnP is about building lives. To advance livelihood and learning, urban and rural projects are being provided with funds not only to construct buildings but also to strengthen social structures, organising people to help each other, provide access for people to be healthier, increase their understanding of the world around them and make informed decisions about their present problems and future stakes as member of communities.

“The foundation integrates formation of a deeper understanding of faith and situates individuals as actors in holistic personal and community transformation. It continues to believe what builds is not the amount. It is the consistency, dedication, and steadfastness of building on smallness, the daily regularity, the faith, love, spirit put in giving,” he added.

“From gathering crumbs to building lives begins with a belief that we all can contribute, even in a small way, to make a difference. That leads us to encounter others and reach out,” Badilla said.

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