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Lee Sinje’s World Vision Visit to Bohol, The Philippines

The child gazes at this stranger in front of her.

She has strands of blondish hair and a petite frame hidden under loose clothing.  Her tiny hands rest on her lap as she sits cross-legged on the floor.

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“I’m six,” says the child. When her parents and 7-year-old brother go to the dump site close to their home to collect garbage, she cooks and takes care of her four younger siblings.

She often feels hungry as she only gets two meals a day.

I hand the child some chocolate biscuits and she eats all of them immediately.

Tears swell in my eyes but I am determined to refrain from crying in front of her.

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I am reminded of my mother’s family who was also very poor.

My grandmother had to carry two big baskets of sarong to sell at a hilltop, and every trip would last an entire week before she returned.

My then 7-year-old auntie has to wake up early every morning to cook, wash and take care of her five siblings.

“If we were hungry at night, we would mix the burnt rice in the pot with sugar water and drink it,” said my mother.

Once, my mother nearly died because my grandmother simply could not afford to take her to the doctor.

But fuelled by her optimism and strong will, my grandmother single-handedly raised all her six children.

I can still remember the times when she took me to the temple to offer alms to the monks or visit poverty-stricken families living at the hilltop. Her selfless acts of love helped her to raise and protect her family.

She is the source of my compassion for the needy today. Through her, I learn how to love the people around me, and I have seen how a selfless act of love can light up one’s life and even the world.

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This is my fourth World Vision visit, and it’s a first for my husband. We are in Philippines, a country comprising more than 7,000 islands, with a population of over 90 million. Forty-one percent of the population lives below the poverty line, earning less than US$2 a day. This means that there are more than 40 million people who suffer from hunger every day.

The sun’s radiant ray shines through the crystal-clear sea water creating a breathtaking view of the sparkling coastline.

The leaves rustle as we take each step.

Finally, we arrive at an organic farm developed by World Vision in collaboration with the local community. We put a handful of earthworms into the organic fertilizer with our bare hands and join the farmers in harvesting at the organic rice fields with our sickles. The setting sun slowly lights up the youthful smiles on the farmers’ faces.

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We decide to spend the night at a villager’s house, showering with the cold water that was carried from far away, eating the chicken the family had raise in their backyard, and sleeping in beds covered by green mosquito nets. In the dark, I can see the moonlight streaming through the wooden plank walls.

The living condition of the villagers has greatly improved with the support from World Vision. No longer are they living without electricity and water; they have started growing organic plants to increase their income and, at the same time, protect the environment; some of their children are World Vision sponsored children and they enjoy going to school.

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I am overwhelmed by the kindness and passion of the villagers. Their homes may be simple and shabby, they may not be dressed in fine clothing, but they have the ability to impart the purest kind of love that touches the bottom of my heart.

On the other hand, our lives are built around concrete homes in dazzling cities and we are pampered by so much luxury. Yet, our hearts have grown distant from each other.

We own everything. We own the whole world. But the truth is, what do we really possess?

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It is the second last day of our trip. We are at a dump site located in a suburb on Bohol Island.

The smell of rubbish which has been accumulated over the last 20 years is utterly nauseating. A group of children are playing in an abandoned dump truck. This rubbish dump is the main source of income for the community here. The adults and children wait for the dump trucks to arrive every day. Once the rubbish is unloaded from the trucks, they will proceed to scavenge for things that they can sell.

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Afterwards, we visit a poor family who makes a living by scavenging rubbish.

We follow a trail in the bushes and arrive at a shabby wooden house. It is built out of branches and boards. There is only one room.

A one year-old boy is standing in front of the house with his feet soiled with faeces. His sister, who is only six years old, immediately takes him into the house and washes his feet as soon as she spots us approaching. The boy’s other brother and sister, aged 3 and 4, are sitting by the door. Their parents and their 7-year-old brother are at the dump site collecting rubbish. The 6-year-old sister is left to look after her three younger siblings.

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I walk up to the house and sit next to the older sister. I hand out some chocolate cookies to all of them; the older sister instantly gobbles up the cookies, then she crouches and stares at the cookies left in my hand. I give her the whole packet. She takes it and eats the cookies quietly.

The children are hungry. The girl tells me she cooks them food and takes care of them every day. They only get to eat twice a day and they get hungry very often. When the children speak, their faces don’t display any expression… there is no sadness, no joy, no anger – just a faint response.

Have you ever experienced hunger? One hour, two hours… Can you imagine what it feels like to be constantly hungry every single day?

Their bodies are so thin and small but what clear, beautiful eyes and pure hearts they have! They have the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen and they speak from their heart. They should grow up being surrounded by the light of love. But here, these children endure immense suffering and hunger. They have been robbed them of their childlike nature. Every day just seems hopeless.

My heart feels as though it is being pierced with a thousand needles. I try not to cry in front of them. I remember how I prayed for hope and miracles during those sleepless nights when I was a child, and now, I am once again reminded of my childhood fears and insecurities when I look at her; I promise to love this child with all my heart.

My grandmother, my mother and my daughter have nourished my life with their love. Children are all the same – they are little angels that need to be loved and protected. When I held the child, I felt strongly about how love can be extended to others. I now understand that much joy comes from giving.

You probably never knew that with a mere RM65 a month, you can change the future of these children. You probably never realised that your heart can be so close to a child who lives hundreds of miles away from you. You probably never discovered that you have the power within you to give hope to others.

Please join me in sponsoring a child through World Vision. Together, we can create a world filled with love and abundant life.

Written by Lee Sinje, World Vision Child Sponsor
May 3, 2010

李心洁“爱让世界转动”菲律宾世界宣明会慈善探访之旅

孩子望着眼前这个陌生的我。

孩子的发丝泛黄,瘦小的身躯隐藏在宽松的衣服里,纤细的手垂在盘坐的腿上。

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孩子说她今年六岁,当爸爸妈妈和七岁的哥哥到附近的垃圾场捡垃圾时,她负责煮饭和照顾四个弟妹。

孩子说她一天吃两餐,常常觉得饥饿。

我把手中的巧克力饼干递给孩子,孩子接过去很快就把它吃光了。

泪在眼里打滚然后逆流到内心深处,我努力不让自己在孩子面前落泪。

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妈妈说她小时候家里很穷。

外婆一个人提着两个大篮子上山卖沙龙,一去就一个星期。

七岁的大阿姨一早醒来就开始煮饭,洗衣,照顾五个弟妹。

妈妈说她们晚上肚子饿时就挖焦了的饭底泡糖水吃。

外婆说有一次妈妈生病差点死掉,因为外婆没钱带她看医生。

外婆以她无比坚强乐观的超强意志力独自养大六个孩子。

外婆经常牵着我的手到庙里去供养和尚,拜访山上贫穷的家庭,用她无私的爱守护她的子子孙孙。

外婆启发了我内心的慈悲,让我学会如何去爱身边的每一个人,让我看见无私的爱如何照亮一个人的生命,照亮黑暗的世界。

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我第四次参与世界宣明会的慈善探访之旅,老公则是第一次。我们来到了菲律宾,一个由七千多个岛屿组成的国家,住着九千多万人。这里有百分之四十一的人口生活在贫穷线以下,每天收入少过两块美金,也就是每天有四千多万人承受饥饿的折磨。

灿烂阳光照耀在清澈的蓝色海面,泛起水晶般的光点。

风吹树叶的声音追逐着我们的每一个脚步。

我们来到了世界宣明会和当地社区组织一起合作开发的有机菜园,徒手抓起一把蚯蚓放到有机肥料中;我们来到了有机稻田,手握镰刀与农夫们一起收割成熟的稻米,金黄色的夕阳照在村民们纯朴的笑容。

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我们在乡下村民家里过夜,淋着从远处提回来冰凉的水,吃着他们从后院鸡寮抓来煮成的蔬菜土鸡汤,睡在绿色的蚊帐里,在黑暗里看着从木板间透进来的月光。

村民们的生活在世界宣明会的帮助下有了很大的改善。他们不再生活在无电无水的日子里;他们开始学习有机种植提高收入同时保护自然生态;他们的孩子因为成为世界宣明会的助养儿而可以每天开开心心去上学。

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与纯朴的村民们相处的时光里,我沉醉在那股被善良和热情的爱包围的温暖里。也许他们的屋子很简陋,也许他们没有华丽的衣服,但他们给予我的是最触动内心深处的那份纯洁,毫无杂质的爱,就像他们脸上的笑容。

我们生活在豪华的钢铁住宅里,生活在奢侈的物质拥抱里,生活在绚烂夺目的繁荣都市里,心与心的距离却渐行渐远。

我们拥有了所有东西,拥有了全世界,其实我们到底真正拥有了什么?

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旅程的最后第二天,我们来到了位于波和岛郊区的垃圾场。

累积了二十几年壮观的垃圾场散发出令人作呕的臭味,三个小孩在弃置的垃圾车里嬉戏。这里是附近贫穷村民赖以为生的资源,大人小孩们每天准时站在这里等候垃圾车,然后从垃圾车倒出来的垃圾堆里寻找可以变卖的东西。

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接着我们前往附近拜访其中一个以捡垃圾为生的贫穷家庭。

我的脚步跟着草丛里的小径来到了一间破旧的高脚木屋前。这是一间用树枝和木板搭起来,只有一间小房间的屋子。

一岁大的小男孩站在屋前,双脚沾满粪便。六岁的姊姊看到陌生人的到访,马上走进房间拿块布帮弟弟把粪便擦掉。另外两个介于三岁和四岁的弟弟妹妹坐在门前的角落。他们的爸妈和七岁的哥哥刚好到垃圾场去捡垃圾,留下六岁的姊姊看护三个弟妹。

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我攀上木屋,坐在姊姊身旁。我把包包里的巧克力饼干拿出来递给四个孩子。姊姊很快就把饼干吃完,然后低头望着我手中剩余的饼干。我把整包饼干都给她。她接过去,默默吃着。

孩子显然很饿,她说平时她要煮饭,照顾弟妹。她说他们一天吃两餐,常常觉得肚子饿。孩子说话时,脸上没有喜怒哀乐的表情,只有淡淡的回应。

你曾经有过饥饿的感觉吗?一个小时,两个小时…….你能体会每天饥饿的感觉吗?

孩子们的身躯是如此的瘦小,眼睛是如此的透彻,心灵是如此的纯洁。他们拥有全世界最美丽的笑容,说着最真实动人的童语。他们应该在爱的光环里成长。可是孩子瘦弱的身体却承受着巨大的痛苦,饥饿无时无刻侵袭他们所有的知觉,没有希望的明天一天一天来到。

我的心像针一样刺痛,我努力不让自己在孩子面前哭泣。我想起曾经也是孩子的自己,在无数个无助夜里时躲在黑暗被窝里默默地祈祷,祈求奇迹出现,祈求希望来到。我想起第一次见到女儿,看到她天真的灵魂里住着一个不安的恐惧,我告诉自己我要爱这个小孩,我要把所有的爱都给这个孩子。

外婆的爱,妈妈的爱,女儿的爱滋养了我的生命。所有的孩子在我心中都是一样的,都是应该被爱护的小天使。

当我握着孩子的手时,更能感受无私爱的延伸,更能明白美好世界的诞生是需要让自己幸福的同时,给予别人幸福。

也许你从来都不知道原来一个月区区六十五零吉就可以改变贫穷家庭孩子的未来,你从来都不知道原来你和远方素未谋面的孩子的心可以靠得那么近,你更从来不曾发现原来你小小的内心里住着一个可以给予别人希望的强大力量。

请加入我成为世界宣明会的儿童助养人。让我们一起来创造一个充满爱的世界,一个因为有爱而更丰盛的生命。

世界宣明会儿童助养人李心洁执笔
2010年5月3日