Street children, who used to spend their free time scavenging, begging or working now, fill in their free time with fun activities at SiBuHi Center (Sining, Buhay, Hilom – Art, Life, Healing).
Recognizing that children deserve more than food and shelter, Virlanie Foundation, Inc. created SiBuHi in 1997 to restore the sense of normalcy among former street children. At SiBuHi, the children are encouraged to do what they love through organized and regularly scheduled sessions in music, arts, and sports. Through giving them access to a lot of recreational opportunities, they are able to try different activities and decide which ones they like to focus on. In the process, the center provides them with an opportunity for socialization, creative expression resulting in emotional and psychosocial well-being.
Various activities that occur in SiBuHi are thanks to the volunteers who are willing to give their time teaching the children different skills. The SiBuHi Coordinator and two volunteers for SiBuHil share their stories about working behind-the-scenes at Virlanie and how SiBuHi activities have created smiles for street children.
Ate Dolly: Believer of each child’s talent
“Each child has a talent,” Sophia Dolly Alejandro (often called as Ate Dolly), SiBuHi coordinator always says.
Through time, Ate Dolly has seen how these activities help to normalize and stabilize the lives of the children. “The activities inspire them to make positive changes in their lives,” she added.
Working at the Foundation for 24 years, what kept Ate Dolly serving the streets kids is her love for her job and the people she works with. She is proud of all the successes of the children. She said, “My most unforgettable moments as a SiBuHi coordinator would be during the children’s taekwondo trainings. Five children became black belter. I was so proud! Another big success would be the choir. It’s amazing to see how they are able to experience everything they never thought they will ever have a chance to do. During sports competitions, we come in full support, (I and the house parents and volunteers) we feel like we’re their real mothers. We would cheer for them.”
Ate Dolly believes that investing in the talents of each child is important for their development. “They were able to release their negative feelings through our activities. Even though we are not a direct avenue for therapy, it is undeniable that these activities have healing effects to children,” Ate Dolly said. “The activities also improve their social skills. For example, during their football matches or trainings, they play with other kids coming from other socio-economic backgrounds. They face them fearlessly and with full confidence,” she added.
Ate Let: Dedicated artist to craft smiles
Josefina “Ate Let” Aliwalas, a volunteer artist, has been teaching kids arts and crafts since 2009. Every Thursday, she comes to the SiBuHi center and gathers her students. At the Center, they spend almost three hours of creating beautiful art pieces and crafting smiles to one another. What keeps her going, according to her is seeing that the children are enjoying what they do. “One of my simple joys would be that the children are so excited to join the class; they would come earlier than scheduled. It’s a clear indicator that they really love what they do,” she proudly said.
Ate Let’s biggest challenge is finding ways to keep the children interested. “I encourage them through different ways. I open my sessions to everyone, even to those who were not enrolled in my class so they will discover themselves what it was like to be creating things out of scraps. They get interested and when the next enrollment season for my class would come, they would voluntarily tell Ate Dolly that they would like to be under my class,” she shared.
Ate Let highlighted the importance of opening the children’s eyes to different kinds of art. “First thing that matters to me is that the child should be interested. Sometimes, they don’t know that they are artistic because they are not exposed to art. But when you bring art closer to them, they would suddenly become interested. Some kids even encourage others to join my class,” she said.
Sir Rey: Dreaming for dreams of children
Sir Rey Anthony Palomo, volunteered for Virlanie Foundation in 2011, after hearing about it in a Football Training. When he became the Global FC Youth Center Manager, he made it as his advocacy, along with his wife and two sons, to teach and train the Virlanie kids. Sir Rey said, “I want the kids to see and experience the beautiful game of football together with the discipline and bright future it will bring to the kids.”
Being the kids’ coach for five years, Sir Rey has seen a lot of them grow. “I love seeing the kids gaining self-confidence, learning to dream and having sense of direction through football,” he said. He even dreams their dreams. “I hope and pray that I can bring some of the kids to a college sports scholarship, to the National Team or even help them to become a Professional Football Player which will give them the opportunity to be independent and give back to where they came from.”
Sir Rey also mentioned that his volunteer work has two-way benefits: it helped the children learn football and it taught him and his wife and children the value of sharing and friendship. “It made me complete as a person,” he added. “It has been really unforgettable when we finally got the kids to a Championship Game and were able to achieve it. Each kid has that smile on his/her face full of hope for the future,” he said.
SiBuHi Center is one of the programs dedicated to bring back the smiles to street children. It provides a safe and child-friendly venue for children to freely express their feelings, emotions and experiences artistically and creatively. The coordinator and the volunteers work hand in hand to reinforce the children’s self-esteem and self-confidence through discovering and developing their talents.