Sunday, August 29, 2010

At The Center, we are family

A Friend of Tembari Children

THE other Saturday, I was startled to find out that we had more than 100 children who came for the special lunch.

Wagi, the volunteer caretaker, told me he just counted 110 kids who were about to be served lunch.

We have 97 in our official roster of beneficiary children, a big jump from the 78 when I first came to The Center last January.

How come? I asked him, a bit dismayed, knowing that the food I just cooked that day would be shot.

It was supposed to cater for only 97 and the 13 kids who gate-crashed would upset the food on the table.

Hayward Sagembo, the president of Tembari Children Care (TCC), explained to me later.

“Our older kids here at The Center have friends in the village who are street children … they are their peers, they are their buddies.

“And when they are out there, they talk about what they do at The Center and the most common topic would be the food that they would have every day.

“And our children would be proud enough to invite them to come for food, something we usually understood because this is how kids within a peer group behave … they look after each other.”

Hayward said the food The Center serves to the children everyday is drawing them to The Center, although they belong to another facility at the settlement.

This facility is supposed to provide them similar services, he said.

“But the problem is that they cannot provide the services, especially the food that we normally provide our beneficiary children.

“They may have money from donors for this purpose but they don’t deliver the service they are expected to provide, especially an honest-to-goodness and efficient feeding program.”

Whatever happened to the money is everybody’s guess, Hayward said.

“And being here at The Center with their buddies, these street children feel at home …which they don’t feel in the other facility … that’s why they come to join us.”

Indeed, at The Center, we are family. We do our best to give them the feeling of belongingness -- of being among the rest of the kids who have considered the facility as their day home.

Their own home, the one where they live with their guardians, is actually just a stopover place for the night.

The next day, they would be back to The Center to get preschool education from our three volunteer teachers and to have food twice a day – lunch snack and early dinner at 4-5pm. Food like this is not available at home.

While the rest go to their respective elementary schools around Port Moresby and come home to The Center after classes – to have food.

When “uninvited guests” come to The Center during our especial Saturday lunch, we always face the simple problem of how to deal with the situation.

Do we drive them away? It is a cruel thing to do.

Right now, we have SOP – after knowing that we have gatecrashers, we immediately segregate our children.

Since they are our priority, they are served lunch first.

If there’s extra food, and thanks God there has always been, then the gatecrashers would get theirs.

Driving them outright from our premises would be cruel. So, we have to slow down by waiting until every beneficiary child is served food.

Many guardian parents who, long time ago, dismissed the Tembari Children Care faciltiy as a fly-by-night affair are now realizing that The Center is serious in its job of making changes in the lives of its beneficiary children.

The other facilities in the community which are operated by known, well-funded groups where they have earlier enlisted their children have miserably failed them.

They did not get the services promised them when they were being convinced during those days to join the facility.

One proof they see everyday at Tembari Center is the consistency of our feeding activities, and the passion that comes with it, which take place every day, from Monday to Saturday.

The Center serves the children rice, protein food, veggies, fresh milk and cordial drinks. For snacks, they are served biscuits and cordial drinks. These are foodstuff unheard off at the other facilities.

Not to mention the preschool education that the younger children receive everyday

Why are we able to do these?

The answer is quite simple: Our benefactors trust us, one reason they keep on sending their support in the form of foodstuff, materials and on occasions, funds, to help us in our effort of helping the children find sense in their miserable life.

And every week, I would welcome new supporters who have learned about the stories of our beautiful children; they have realized that helping them is one opportunity they have been looking for.

This is one big factor that makes The Center miles ahead of similar facilities in Port Moresby.

We have entrusted the future of our children in the hands of our benefactors who are just too careful not to drop it.

Children playing while waiting for lunch last Saturday.

Children browsing book readers as they waited for lunch to cook. The books are donated by the Rotary Club of Port Moresby.

Penny Sagembo, The Center’s co-founder, marking newly-purchased tin cups used in serving fresh milk and cordial.

Penny leading the preschoolers in singing nursery songs while waiting for lunch to be served.


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