On Wednesday 6th December 2018, the Belgian Ambassador Michel Goffin visited the Virlanie-led Open Day Center in Bacolod.
Having arrived in the city on December 5, Goffin accompanied Program Director Sara Vial, Virlanie founder Dominique Lemay, and Enfance Tiers Monde (ETM) General Secretary Johanna Vandamme to the Social Development Center (LGU partnered of Virlanie) and while dropping off the beneficiaries of the day at their homes.
The ambassador also attended a Courtesy Call at the Bacolodian New Government Center with Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia and Negros Occidental Province Governor Marañon.
Over a period of five years, the Belgian Government and ETM has provided majority of the Open Day Center’s funds, donated the Center building, as well as shouldered the cost for its renovation.
During a step-by step visit of the Open Day Center Building in the morning, Mr. Goffin was introduced to the center’s staff, its activities and services, and met a lot of Virlanie’s beneficiaries.
For the afternoon celebration, a large pavilion and festively laid tables were set up in the middle of Cordova Street, Barangay 18 to welcome more than 100 partners of the Virlanie Open Day Center program and especially the honorable guests: Michel Goffin (Belgian Ambassador), Johanna Van Damme (General Secretary of Enfance Tiers Monde), Evelio Leonardo (Mayor), Madeline Diaz (Brgy Caotain), the Virlanie board members, and Dominique Lemay, Founder of Virlanie Foundation Inc.
In his speech, Sir Michel Goffin pointed out the value of the project, stating that in the few months since its opening in March 2018, it had “accomplished miracles” and that he was proud that he could go back to Belgium and report that the money of the Government and Belgium Citizen taxes was spent for a good cause.
Goffin highlighted numerous points that touched him during the previous day when he had accompanied beneficiaries of the Open Day Center to their sleeping places which were “places where ambassadors usually don’t go”.
He also stated that it is very valuable that these street children who “deserve a better life” have the Open Day Center as a place to go and get help during day time.
The Ambassador later proceeded to solemnly unveiling a plaque at the entrance area of the institution as an act of inauguration.
In a written statement in his email he later added that his visit at the ODC in Bacolod was “one of the best visits in many years” and that he was deeply touched by Rocky Gamboa’s emotional testimony.
Rocky Gamboa is one of the Open Day Center’s first beneficiaries. He gave a testimony about his experiences at the Virlanie ODC and how his participation in activities such as Alternative Learning System (ALS), Boys Gudtime, Life Coaching, Dance Class and Capoeira encouraged him in his transition to a better way of life.
He stated that his past was very different. He ran away from home two years ago and lived on the streets and got engaged in drugs and crimes.
Through ODC, he was recommended to a partner company in the Virlanie Network and now has a job in a manufacturing company of specialty food.
“Thank you to the Virlanie Staff for everything. Thank you also to Barangay Captain (Madeline Diaz) for supporting us in the barangay,” Rocky said.
Virlanie Capoeira group, the Dance class and the Virlanie Chorale performed at the event. The performing arts groups worked on their performances for the past two months and were coached by their volunteer partners.
The celebration was closed with a performance of the local barangay’s Masskara Festival Dance group.