MANILA, Dec. 31, 2016 – Working often into the wee hours of the morning to convince homeless kids to leave a hard life on the streets, volunteers of the Tulay ng Kabataan (TNK) foundation received high praise from Caritas Internationalis president Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who spoke about the group’s efforts during his Advent recollection on Dec. 12.
“They (the volunteers) are fueled by faith and strong hope… You have this people, this foundation, they hope. It’s so hard to take care of the kids,” said the prelate who spoke to thousands gathered at the SMART Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City for the annual recollection organized by Jesuit Communications.
“We hope intensely for people, especially for the youth who have become drawn into vices, drugs. Other people see them as [being] beyond hope. No. We declare with John the Baptist: we hope even more. That’s a person. That’s a life and should not be declared ‘hopeless’, said Tagle, who also heads the Archdiocese of Manila.
“If you embrace [those people] with hope and faith, you will be surprised,” he added, noting the difficult work TNK’s volunteers have to do, especially in the first month a street child moves into one of the foundation’s shelters.
“[They are] so unruly, but they (the volunteers) provide them with shelter, a community, with love,” explained Tagle, who has personally visited TNK’s kids on several occasions, also helping arrange Pope Francis’ “surprise visit” to the TNK Intramuros shelter during his papal visit to the Philippines in January 2015.
Tagle told the inspiring turnaround story of one of the former street kids, a deaf and mute child whose parents remain unidentified.
“After one month, they said, he is a changed person. They say, he’s always at the chapel. He always brings the Divine Mercy with him,” shared the prelate. “Imagine if they had given up on him. Now, he is a model of prayer, of sanctity.”
“Even if we don’t see it. Believe. Just do it. Keep on hoping… Instead of dehumanizing [them], hope. God can do wonders,” he stressed.
Founded in 1998, TNK currently has three programs to alleviate the effects of poverty, hunger, and abuse: street children program, the scavengers’ program, and the slum program.
Interested parties may find out how to get involved by visiting the TNK website. (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz / CBCPNews)