Established in 2018, the MSC Centre for the Poor is located in the city of Butuan in the Philippines, and focuses on harnessing the gifts of the natural world to combat poverty, unemployment, and the exploitation of the ecosystem – work in which “everyone is called to be a partner in the contribution of healing our land”.
The Irish Province of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart have a long-standing friendship with the community at the MSC Centre for the Poor, and community leader there, Fr Richie Gomez MSC, has recently been in touch with an update on the work going on in the centre, following their most recent “Be a Food Security Frontliner” campaign.
“An alternative lifestyle that is good for the well-being of all”
The goal of the community at the Centre is “to promote an alternative lifestyle that is good for the well-being of all”, with a co-operative running across the two MSC Centre for the Poor locations, one in Butuan City and one in Del Monte Agusan del Sur. Focusing on the development of a self-sufficient community, where those involved nurture the earth and reap the benefits in return, the current programme incorporates the following goals:
- The development of healthy soil and fresh organic produce, to contribute to a plentiful and nutritious diet for members of the co-operative.
- The development and use of safe, ecologically balanced technology to tie in with the concept of organic sustainable farming employed by the MSC Centre for the Poor.
- The development of a deeper consciousness of managing waste with the aim of a zero-water lifestyle in all kitchens across the co-operative.
- The development of income-generating projects and additional efforts to raise the quality of life of the rural poor.
- The continued raising of awareness of the necessity of caring for the environment in response to the ongoing climate emergency.
“From the tiniest seeds to a grown tree, from the fertilization of eggs to completely matured animals, from planting to nurturing, growing, and harvesting, all of these processes are realized because of tender love and care, whether by nature or by a responsible steward,” writes Fr Richie. “We have to stop abusing and poisoning the soil, water, air and our bodies, for us to allow the natural regeneration process of our environment.”
The MSC Centre for the Poor community are continuing work on the establishment of a fair-trade system based on an inclusive economy, whereby nobody will be left out through “farm to table connections” that bypass large commercial traders. Consumers are educated about the lives and work of the farmers that grow the produce they buy, and all of this produce is grown organically, without chemical interference.
“We have a sincere desire for change – not to make false promises but to be true to our conviction for total transformation from ‘ego-system’ to ‘eco-system’,” explains Fr Richie. “We value the collective efforts of our co-op members through the establishment of their own farms, and we bring them together at the Centre’s Trading Post Harvest Facility. Then, we become the green producers and bring our products to the green consumers.”
The MSC Centre for the Poor is conscious of upholding their responsibility to the consumer, noting that each member of the co-operative must “fulfil its obligation to produce and supply with the corresponding demands. Each member of the co-op is tasked to be part of the responsibility and must be prepared for the assigned crops or livestock productions.”
“As long as there are people who believe and trust in us and in regaining one’s relationship with the environment, this work will sustain.”
The community at the Centre for the Poor benefit greatly from a wonderful team of volunteers. “Volunteerism is one of our core values to meet our goals, as we believe that by helping others, we help ourselves.”
“As long as there are people who believe and trust in us and in regaining one’s relationship with the environment, this work will sustain,” continues Fr Richie. “We are an emerging social enterprise that allows individuals to create regenerative livelihoods that nourish the soul and take care of the planet.”
“The honing of the land to its full potential will create multiple revenue streams, while we will implement a model of an assets-based community. This is a closed-loop system that generates and replenishes the earth’s resources without creating waste and ecological harm.”
The MSC Centre for the Poor also operates a “Living Museum” of farmland in Del Monte Agusan del Sur. “Our farmland will be stewarded by the members of the co-op who are ready and willing to embark on a pathway of alternate living,” says Fr Richie. “The goal is to allow for choice around intentional community and to create the opportunity for lifelong learning for everyone.”
“Our priority is to meet the needs of each member and the land. We will create a full-featured settlement that allows all of the functions of everyday life. The community will provide a place to live, make things, enjoy leisure, and honour social connections. We will encourage individuals to find their own niche for self-expression, livelihood, and growth. Everyone will have the opportunity to co-create the change they seek.”
“A fertile community allows for the emergence of a new culture rooted in a deep connection to nature and the self, collective consciousness of ecology, and mutual respect between all living beings.”