Under the most difficult circumstances, the innovative and hardworking Vincentian spirit flourishes. In the Philippines, a country battered by poverty and natural disasters, several projects of the “13 Houses” Campaign (alongside many other local Vincentian initiatives) are working to change the lives of thousands of homeless people.
These projects diverge in scale and approach, depending on local realities, but share a common goal. This diversity not only shows the power and creativity of Vincentian branches working together, but also how the “13 Houses” Campaign is flexible enough to encompass different projects and aspirations.
This builds on top of 150 years of Vincentian presence in the Philippines, a country which, with 85 million faithful, is the third biggest Catholic country in the world. The scale of the Vincentian work reflects the needs of the country, as a staggering 43% of the total population lived in slums in 2018, according to World Bank data. Also, its geographical location makes it prone to the onslaught of increasingly stronger typhoons, making it a frontier of climate change.
That is why supporting people displaced by natural disasters is such a big focus of the “13 Houses” Campaign in the Philippines, helping to relocate families or making their homes more resilient. For that reason, the Vincentian Foundation, promoted by the Congregation of the Mission, is supporting people displaced by typhoons in Bolusao (East Samar) and Awao (Davao de Oro). The main goal is to empower communities to acquire local land and build new and better houses. The Vincentian Foundation is pioneering a collaborative project between grassroots organisations, local authorities, the private sector and the Church. The plan is to build hundreds of houses for families in Awao, Bolusao and other communities in the country.
These projects go beyond just building houses. They will help the community to develop themselves integrally, and they will address other issues such as health, education, livelihood and spirituality. Having a proper roof over their heads will empower them to live a life worthy of a human being, creating lasting and systemic change.
The AIC is also supporting victims of more recent typhoons. In Naga City, they are helping families to rebuild their houses after they were devastated by three typhoons weeks apart in 2020. The combination of light materials and strong wind caused widespread destruction.
The Ladies of Seton Unit of the AIC Philippines supported the house repairs of 40 families and then focused on 10 families who are among the most vulnerable but have their own land, given to them by the government. Family members who are skilled in carpentry and masonry will help in the construction and provide for their families. They have teamed up with the Department of Trade and Industry for livelihood starter kits.
Finally, the “Just One House” project aims at showing that it can all start with “just one house” helping one family and then develop to reach many. Moved by the deplorable living conditions of a family she visited in a very poor area near her, and noting the absence of other Vincentian branches around her, a member of the Vincentian Marian Youth living in Malitbog reached out to her network of friends and family. In a matter of weeks, the project has raised funds and built 10 houses, and now aims to rebuild a total of 30 houses. It is receiving support from local authorities, the community, and many Vincentians in the Philippines.
Vincentians in the Philippines are showing how to transform lives and create a better future for the poorest of the poor. From small local initiatives to big scale projects, we can end homelessness, one house at a time!