In 2013, Arms of Love’s mission expanded in Nicaragua and the Philippines, and now also provides for children in our local neighborhoods who are vulnerable to illness, hunger, lack of education, trafficking, and neglect due to extreme poverty and lack of resources. Through our Community Development Programs, Arms of Love seeks to empower families, and prevent them from needing to make desperate decisions.
In Nicaragua, the Community Development Program, formerly referred to as Community Care, started in response to the immense poverty witnessed right outside our doors. Our director and social worker visited the local school to learn more, and assessed the needs of neighborhood children. Through partnership with the school and local leaders, Arms of Love met children and families struggling due to malnutrition and other poverty-related issues taking place in the home.
Hunger affects children in different ways. Teachers, families, and neighbors identified, interviewed, and selected the children to participate in the Community Development Program. Throughout the interviews, common themes emerged. Children exhibited hyperactivity, as well as aggressive and attention seeking behavior. Others were lethargic, lacked focus, and the ability to stay awake. Many children served as part of the labor force to help their families make ends meet, resulting in low school attendance. And all of the children demonstrated poor health and prolonged illnesses due to poor living conditions and malnutrition.
In the beginning, it was only a feeding center, which provided nutritional assistance three days per week. Amazingly, by only addressing food insecurity, we were able to see tremendous growth in the children’s behaviors, academics, and health in just a few months. Nicaraguan staff recognized the needs were greater than only food assistance, and the program was expanded.
Today, the Community Development Program provides nutritional assistance, as well as tutoring support and supplemental classes in health and hygiene, English, computation, music, and Christian activities.
We believe to foster real change in a community, entire families need to be involved. In our program, parents actively engage by attending meetings, serving on leadership committees, continuing collaboration with our social worker, and volunteering within the program. As employment opportunities have become available, we hired several parents to work at Arms of Love as security guards, cooks, teachers, house-keepers, and more. Employment opportunities allow us to further empower our families by giving a hand up and not just a hand out.
In addition, volunteer teams have enjoyed spending time with children from our local neighborhoods. Teams have provided unique activities, including: vacation bible school; educational enrichment; dental care; special outings for the children who have never left Jinotepe previously; and training for the parents and staff.
The program continues to grow! This past year, Arms of Love developed an application process for home improvements and house building projects for families living in extreme poverty conditions. Arms of Love recognized the current program could address many issues; however, when a home is hazardous or lacks basic sanitary conditions, health improvement is nearly impossible. Thanks to donor generosity and hardworking volunteers, families’ lives are being changed.
At this time, our Nicaragua program serves over 30 children, yet there are so many more families in need...more children working in the streets, instead of attending school...and more families fighting to feed their children in a country overwhelmed by
In the Philippines, the Community Development Program, formerly known as Community Care, began in response to a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. On October 15, 2013, the Philippines' second deadliest earthquake in modern history took place...its epicenter, the island of Bohol, where our children’s home is located. Due to structural damage, our children spent weeks sleeping in tents, fearing another earthquake, and enduring many aftershocks.
Then, on November 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall. Typhoon Haiyan is classified as the most powerful tropical storm ever recorded, causing major destruction and substantial loss of life. Due to the infrastructural and agricultural damage, Typhoon Haiyan resulted in 1.5 to 2 million children being at risk of acute malnutrition.
Following natural disasters children are at imminent risk of abuse, exploitation and human trafficking, not only as a result of parents’ deaths and family separation, but because extreme poverty and crisis situations make them highly vulnerable.
In response to this devastation, Arms of Love partnered with churches, local government, and non-profit organizations to create the Community Development Program in the Philippines. Through this collaborative effort we are able to conduct supplemental feeding programs, as well as help families and malnourished children in the four counties on Bohol that were the most impacted.
Currently, we have three programs, feeding nearly 80 children. Our long-term vision is to develop the Bohol campus as a base for many different types of community outreach and ministry to children-at-risk in Bohol and in the Philippines, many of which may be conducted in partnership with churches and other organizations. We are already an approved site for the Alternative Learning System, a government-sponsored educational program for adults who failed to complete elementary or secondary school. Additional programs may include vocational training, community-based agricultural projects, an expanded feeding program, medical care, and community-based programs of care for children who require different types of temporary or long-term support.