You know when you flick on the TV during a commercial break to see sad, poor looking little kids and (more often than not) a well-known celebrity urging people to donate or sponsor a child from Africa or India?
Would it be fair to say that the good majority of TV viewers adopt one of two scenarios:
1) Take the break time to get up from the lounge to retrieve a drink or food or;
2) Remain on the lounge sighing a sad ‘awwww’ when viewing the images, but then going about their lives like nothing happened.
After all, given our somewhat sheltered backgrounds, it would be understandable that, seeing such images on TV, may not create a strong reaction towards what is happening on the other side of the world.
Living in Manila is like one of those commercials. Every day when we walk to Starbucks, take the bus ride to the theatre, or walk to Fitness First on the way to the shopping centre, the WICKED cast and crew are reminded of the poverty so very evident in this city. We see little children walking around homeless, though happy, but not seeming like there is any hope or promise for the future for these young lives.
This article is not meant to be a sob story but, I have to share with Aussie Theatre readers the enormously positive and uplifting experience that was had when a few of us from the WICKED cast, (Ellen Sutton, Mitchell Fistrovic, Danielle Evrat, Emma Hawthorne, Rachel Cole and myself) had, when we got to visit Gentle Hands orphanage.
On my arrival in Manila, I researched a few orphanages to ascertain which ones were close enough, and what we could do for them, such as donating money, useful items, or our time. I chose an orphanage about 45 minutes from where we were staying by the name of ‘Gentle Hands’, a non profit organisation housing 80 kids from 1 month old right through to 18 years old, whose organisation depends on the generosity of donations. Some children at ‘Gentle Hands’ have been almost ‘dumped’ on the doorstep, or even born in the orphanage to mothers who could not take care of them and have had no choice but to leave their baby behind. Some of the children have been abused, have lived in terrible living conditions and have not been properly cared for.
On deciding on the orphanage I wanted to visit, I asked the amazing cast and crew of WICKED if they would be willing to donate money so I could go out and buy necessary supplies. This led to other cast members wanting to be a part of this venture. We ended up raising so much money, (some of which we have not spent yet and will spend on other charities in Manila) and we set out to buy food, toiletries and school supplies! Everyone in WICKED was so supportive and generous in their donations and I can’t thank company management enough for organising a bus to and from the venue.
On arrival at ‘Gentle Hands’, we were met by a very friendly, spirited lady, and a very focused and hearty Canadian woman, Charity Graff, who has had four children of her own and has adopted two from the Philippines. Her parents started the organisation and she moved over here with them at the age of 17. (For more information on ‘Gentle Hands’, please click on the link below which will take you to their website).
We were taken into a very loud, busy and bustling centre and greeted by so many tiny faces smiling and soon hugging us. Drawn to them immediately, we cuddled and fed beautiful little bubbies from 1 month to 1 year old. We read to the older kids, played games, or helped them with their Maths homework, (which definitely reminded me that I had forgotten most of my high school maths since leaving 5 years ago…yikes!!) We played games with the children, danced around the room with them and Mitch, my friend and fellow WICKED cast mate, played half an hour of full-on basketball, at which the boys at ‘Gentle Hands’ were exceptionally good.
I asked Charity a few questions about the orphanage and she said that all of their income is from the generous donations of individuals and a few churches. To give you an insight into what their expenses outlay is per month, last month was $20 000 yet they were only given $5000 in donations. Somehow they made it through, and Charity revealed that she calls on God as her source for strength, grace and wisdom.
Families from Australia, New Zealand, United States of America and other countries from Europe formally adopt some of the children from ‘Gentle Hands’ but there are many more who remain in this orphanage. There are 30 workers at the orphanage who help teach, feed and play with the children, as well as providing them with love and security. The children are all educated and learn to read and write.
One thing that really resonated with me as being truly amazing was that Charity and her family live on the top level of the Centre. They are so completely dedicated to what they are doing for the orphaned children of Manila, they want to be there for the children 100% of the time. Charity told me that it’s such a pleasure to have people visit ‘Gentle Hands’, donating their time and often volunteering to teach the children something that they do not know. She said she wanted people to leave here feeling not empty and sad, but hopeful and inspired.
Gaining the opportunity to actually meet these children and to see what good is being done for them in their lives has given me a rare and unforgettable experience. The fact that they can read and write, play and laugh and feel safe with all of their brothers and sisters has made me realize how important it is for people to donate to such charities. It has also made me more appreciative of my own upbringing and background and how important love, safety and protection really is.
[pull_left]the knowledge and experience we were given today can now be used for good[/pull_left]
Charity commented to all of the WICKED cast members who visited ‘Gentle Hands’ that the knowledge and experience we were given today can now be used for good. Though each of us will continue on our individual journeys in life, we can still help people in need.
There’s a quote “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, and in this case it couldn’t ring more true. So if I can encourage as many AussieTheatre readers as possible, or organisations who subscribe to AussieTheatre, to donate some money to these charities we, as a whole, will generate greater results and continue this good deed of helping. We can continue to build hope of the future for these children by supporting those who need it most. I believe that we have the power and the opportunity to do something about poverty in countries less fortunate than ours.
For more information about Gentle Hands Orphanage, visit their website gentlehandsinc.org