MSC Centre for the Poor, Philippines
- The MSC Centre for the Poor is located in Butuan, a city with a population of around 400,000 people.
- MSCs are working in harmony with nature to bring hope to the region of Caraga, which has the second-highest poverty and unemployment levels in the Philippines.
- In a land that has been ravaged by exploitation, the MSC community use natural resources to give struggling families the chance to build a life of self-sufficiency and dignity, while protecting and nurturing the local ecosystem.
Caring for one of the country’s poorest regions
Butuan is an area of the Caraga region, on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. Recent studies show that Caraga has the second-highest poverty and unemployment levels in the country. Families simply cannot afford to send their children to school, and many of these children are looking for work to supplement their family’s income.
In response to these issues, MSCs in the Philippines have transformed their pastoral centre in Butuan City into an MSC Centre for the Poor.
The Centre opened at the end of 2018, and is the base for many different ministries and outreach programmes, including support for disadvantaged youths, care for HIV/AIDS survivors, clean water programmes, livelihood programmes, social outreach, and emergency response.
The centre has already begun doing great work for the people of the Caraga region, providing the tools to build a better life. However, the pastoral centre used to house the Centre for the Poor was acquired by the MSC congregation in 1985, and is now in real need of refurbishment.
Caraga: A ravaged land
With industries such as banana and palm oil plantations, logging operations, and coal and metal mining consuming the countryside, continuing exploitation of Caraga’s resources is destroying the region’s ecosystem. Rivers and lakes are overflowing, and the first sign of heavy rain leads to flooding and landslides.
Since 2009, almost 800,000 people have been displaced from their homes by flooding, and lives have been lost as a result.
Rice fields are being submerged, damaging the region’s food production, and the coastal areas, once a rich source of fish and marine produce, have become badly polluted.
As local communities, including the indigenous Lumads, fight for their right to land, their human rights are being forcibly violated in the interests of protecting industry on a greater scale. Arrests, harassment, intimidation, evacuation, and even killings have become an unfortunate part of life in the region. The fight to protect the land from the exploitation of its resources has become a fight to protect and sustain life.
Sustainability is one of the primary features of the MSC Centre for the Poor, establishing a culture where the use of natural resources is maximised, without abusing or depleting them.
The Centre promotes the use of rain water, solar energy, and biofuel. It practises a back-to-basics style of living, incorporating organic gardening, recycling and food security, zero food waste, the organic composting method of bokashi, and a one-dish-meal policy.
In promoting a zero-waste style of sustainable, self-sufficient living, the Centre aims to combat both the poverty crisis and the environmental crisis currently troubling the people of the Caraga region.
The primary focus of the MSC Centre for the Poor is the direct development of local communities, building their capacity for self-sufficiency in ecologically sound and sustainable ways.
Working in harmony with the principles of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, the MSC Centre for the Poor draws on the natural resources of the area to sustain community life, while nourishing and replenishing the gifts of the earth.
Children at the centre
Children hold a very special role at the heart of the MSC Centre for the Poor. One of the core values of the centre is to be “a helping hand to the poor, the little ones, and the marginalised in society”.
The Centre caters especially to children whose parents are in jail because of drug abuse. The community provides vital aid to children who struggle with a lack of care, with one or more parents absent. Essentially, the Centre is a champion for those children who have nobody else to look after them.
The MSC team at the Centre are now working to partner with the government in running after-care programmes for those who have struggled with drug dependency and are now in the process of rehabilitation. This will allow them to rebuild their lives, and give their children the care they need.
Caring for our world
A working Earth Kitchen
The community at the MSC Centre for the Poor have created an Earth Kitchen for daily cooking. This is an open kitchen built of bricks, with stoves that are powered by biofuel made from the Centre’s waste. This is just one of the Centre’s facilities which demonstrates the way in which a back-to-basics lifestyle can maximise the use of natural resources without abusing the environment.
The Living Museum of Indigenous Trees
The MSC community in Butuan also aim to reforest a local area, creating a Living Museum of Indigenous Trees. This will incorporate an organic farm, and will apply eco-spirituality as part of the design. The Centre sees this project as an active response to the challenge addressed by Pope Francis in Laudato Si – the care of our common home, and the restoration of indigenous flora and fauna.
Protecting our future
The Centre’s most important focus is the support and development of the local community from youth upwards, while practising environmental awareness. Their ongoing projects aim to:
- Promote and sustain self-employment.
- Work with indigenous Lumad communities, farmers, and fisher folk in growing and using local products.
- Organise skills training for different sectors within local communities, including youth, women, urban poor, and indigenous groups, among others.
- Establish sustainable farms in the communities.
- Practise environmental stewardship and basic urban agriculture through the Environment Management System (EMS) and waste management practices such as bokashi, an organic composting method.
Let’s make a difference
This summer, we’re raising funds to help the MSC Centre for the Poor in the Philippines – a safe space for sharing, healing, and encouraging new knowledge and growth.
If you can, please join our great community of faith and support our Sacred Heart family in the Philippines as they work to build a better world for the future.