It was Divine Providence that called me to extend a helping hand to the marginalised street children of Manila. As a seminarian, I went to the Philippines to help a Jesuit priest start a foundation for less fortunate children. Initially, it was for a period of two years. However, I realised soon after that their underlying problem was not the lack of material things (food, clothes, or having a bright future). It was a matter of love. At that point of time, I knew that my stay in Philippines to serve the poorest of the poor has to be for life.
ANAK-Tnk strives to improve the lives of the slum children in Manila. However, our journey of facing destroyed hearts has not been easy. This is because there are so many children that have been objectified by deviant and perverse adults. The deepest wound in their hearts is the sexual abuse, as they lost all their innocence and trust in people. They may see their lives as unworthy of living, and love.
Fr Matthieu with a child along the streets of Manila
We once organised a police operation to entrap a paedophile who abused many victims. The police caught him red-handed with a minor in a hotel. But due to corruption, the abuser was eventually released and he managed to disappear! At that time, I was highly discouraged as he was not brought to justice.
Our greatest challenge is to lead these children into forgiveness. Because it is impossible for men to do this, we leave it to God who can do all things. Our mission is to prepare the children for the Lord to heal the wounds of their hearts. What a wonderful reward it is when we see these children grow up to become parents themselves! When they shower great and beautiful love to their own children, we know that Christ is truly present and His love is transformational.