It is amazing how quickly the last two years have gone by since I went back to the Philippines. At present I am back home for a short visit, as I have to attend a two-week meeting in Navan this month.
I was asked to write a few lines for this issue of the Nuacht Chláir regarding what I do in the Philippines, so the following might give you a little idea.
I live in a town which has a population of 35,000, about 80% of whom are Muslim. Over the years, there has been a lot of tension and fighting between the Muslims and Christians. Because of this we work in this area in an effort to build up relationships and break down prejudices between the two communities. This we do through different projects in the parish.
Basic health care is badly lacking in many rural areas and medicine is very expensive and, as a result, many people cannot afford it. In response to this, the Parish set up a health clinic, which you—the parishioners of Claregalway—helped set up and maintain through the money, which you sent out to me last year. About 15–20 patients—both Muslims and Christians—are treated there daily.
Also in the Parish we run a co-educational secondary school with 550 students. It is one of only two in the country that has integrated education as half the pupils are Muslim. The school has helped students break down prejudices and enabled them to become friends with people that they previously hated. Again, thanks to your financial support, ten of the poorest students in the parish have been given scholarships that will cover all their secondary school education. In the Philippines, you have to pay for education.
Finally, through the employment schemes that are now up and running in the Parish, over 350 people (previously unemployed) have now completed various training programmes and are now self-employed. As a result, their families have a regular income for the first time ever.
These are some of the activities that are going on in my Parish and your generosity has helped support all of the above and have helped over 1,300 people in the last few months.
So, on behalf of all these people, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all very much.
May we, of the Nuacht Chláir team, wish Fr. David an enjoyable break from his Mission. We look forward to seeing you again in Church in Claregalway before your return. May God Bless you in the wonderful work you are doing in the Philippines.