“I just want my child to be healthy,” is a most frequent prayer request among the mothers and families we have visited with here in the Philippines. With 24,000 babies under the age of 5 dying each year around the world from common childhood diseases, most of which are preventable in our day and age…this is reality. With the enormous cost of health care in these developing countries, the burden is enormous. Tuberculosis affects families all over the Philippines…and with large extended families living under a tin roof it spreads in rapid succession from adult to child.
Before us stand nearly 20 different young mothers, on Day 2 in the Philippines, with a wealth of small children that come weekly to participate in the Child Survival Program of Compassion International where mothers with children in utero to age 3-5 years are given the skills necessary to develop and thrive in a poverty stricken nation. They ran up to us, greeting us with such exuberance, and wrapped cute bracelets around our wrists. What an overwhelming blessing to be so warmly welcomed despite the fact that we are foreigners. We who intended on being a blessing are instead recipients of Jesus’ love that is not limited by color or nationality.
How frequently I take for granted the simple knowledge we have as mothers into the importance of basic child development and health. We have such easy access to health care that my children’s health is rarely a concern. We have such enormous access to hands on materials to help equip our children, even the simple things of crayons and paper to allow them to develop their creative instincts. These simple blessings are foreign to these women before they enter this program.
These precious mothers have no knowledge as to the impact of lovingly touching and holding their babies, to the hands on experience of developing hand and eye coordination through drawing and other creative play to basic health knowledge of nutrition. I was dumbfounded to hear that in some countries, mothers will not even name their babies for the first year, nor look them in the eye, or really love on them in the likely event that they will die within that time period. Fear of health is so consuming to them and understandably so.
At this program we witnessed mothers learning basic health and nutrition skills. They were given hands on instruction on how to prepare a healthy meal and the gift of the raw materials to take home to prepare it for their family. Homemade clay was assembled to give them opportunity to sit down and play with their little children in their basic development. Mothers are taught how to start income generating skills of opening their own little storefront at the entrance of their homes to sell snacks, small sanitary supplies, and other cheap items. Through this means they can help support their families. They also have access to health services with regular child check-ups and vaccinations.
They have the same basic needs as our own family. They love their children and desire the best for them. Our children need love, nurturing, health, and developmental play experiences and most importantly the love of God in just the same manner. These mothers long for support and community. They need fellow mothers to come alongside them and encourage them in their role. They desire companions in the journey. And here in this place they are joining forces in becoming more empowered and knowledgeable mothers in nurturing their children.
One mother of four young children shared how their family was struggling to survive financially when her young infant son came down with pneumonia. With tears filling her eyes she shared how Compassion came alongside her and offered her medication. Through their involvement in her life, she began attending Bible studies that they offered. Her husband was very anger at first but as he witnessed the transforming changes taking place in her life, he wanted it to. They both came to a saving knowledge in Christ Jesus. All from simply extending a hand in offering a little health care for a child.
The children we observed were thriving. They were healthy and happy. They snuggled with their mommies. They delighted in doodling and coloring. Thankfulness abounds on these mothers faces. Just to have a little support, to be a recipient of love extended, to be taught and have the ability to learn. They are simple gifts. Simple needs. And we can be the hands and feet to meet them. What a joy to observe the national church mobilized to meet these needs in their community.
Don’t miss out on hearing the stories of all the Compassion bloggers here. Do you desire the opportunity to be the hands and feet? Sponsor a child for just $38 per month or help rescue a mother and child with a $20 monthly gift.