On 25 May 2020, Sr Neriza celebrates the Silver Jubilee of her first profession. Congratulations to Neriza on this happy occasion! Here is an update on her ministry in the IJ Centre in the Philippines.
The Infant Jesus (IJ) Centre in Cogeo, Antipolo, continues to take in children from indigenous families who come from challenging backgrounds where many do not have the basic necessities. The emerging realities with regard to these children are many. These include not having sufficient food; they are often tired and sleep during school hours; they lack the motivation to go to school – with frequent absences and poor school performance.
Sr Neriza, together with a team of volunteers, manages the Centre. The volunteers include mothers who offer their services to cook for the children and young adults who are equally passionate to want to make a difference in the lives of the children and youth by offering their time, skills and experience. A few of the children and youth, now young adults who have passed through the portals of the IJ Centre and have graduated, are coming back to help the children and youth in the Centre.
In addition, many opportunities in the form of activities are offered. At times, the suggestions come from the children and young people themselves. These include learning how to use computers and access the internet for e-learning and communication, community building activities, learning creativity and team work through games. Some learn to play the guitar, sing, dance and are involved in drama, health and nutrition awareness sessions to help them develop a positive attitude towards life, gratitude and resilience as they face challenges in life. Imparting moral and spiritual values is an important component as this will help them find their moral compass and spiritual anchor in their lives. The IJ Centre has become a sanctuary for all who come. The children feel they are loved and welcomed. Sr Neriza continues to meet the Mothers’ Group on a weekly basis.
COVID 19 in Cogeo, Antipolo
The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected all sectors of society and caused massive global suffering. Here, in the Philippines, lockdown hopes to curb this deadly disease from spreading. Mother Earth is happy with less pollution, cleaner air, and clearer sky where the sunrise, the sunset and the moon can be seen. However, poor families are suffering. When the breadwinners do not work, there is no income. The longer the lockdown, hunger becomes the worst enemy of the poor. Day by day, people knock on Sr Neriza’s door asking for food. Their children are hungry. The children come to knock at Sister’s door too with these heart-wrenching words, “Sister, we will not die of COVID-19 but we will die of hunger. Sister, we are hungry.”
Neriza said: “Hearing their cries and feeling so much for the children and their families, I felt I needed to do something. I spoke to my Provincial in Singapore about their predicament. Support and help from the Infant Jesus Sisters, the Fraternity and Friends came almost immediately, in the form of funds for us to buy rice, eggs and vegetables for each of the 100 families that will help sustain them during the lockdown. You can see the joy and gratitude of the recipients. They are so grateful to all the generous donors who have helped them through this difficult time. We do not know what the future will hold, but of one thing we are sure: God will never abandon us.”
'Whatever happens, remain always at peace and trust in God' – Blessed Nicolas Barré