Association Compassion Asian Youth (ACAY) An Initiative of the Missionaries of Mary

Association Compassion Asian Youth (ACAY) is a DSWD-licensed non-profit humanitarian service organization catering to youth at risk. This initiative is under the aegis of the Missionaries of Mary, an International Catholic Movement based in the Philippines. ACAY strives to impart to its partners its characteristics spirit of compassion. It is foremost for the mission to proliferate a humanizing approach to those who are in distress, so that they come to rediscover their personal dignity and set out on the path of self-actualization.

The Missionaries of Mary is a new community of apostolate established as a Public Association of the Faithful in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Balanga in Bataan, Philippines. Founded by Sisters Sophie De Jesus Renoux, Edit Myriam Fabian, and Rachel Luxford, the group is devoted to the pastoral care of Asian youth with special needs, who are marred by experiences of abuse, violence and extreme poverty.

Working alongside lay partners, composed mainly of volunteers and staff, the Sisters administer the Association [of] Compassion [for] Asian Youth (ACAY) which presently consists of two programs, namely: the Marcel Van Program (MVP) and the School of Life Program (SOL).

The Marcel Van Program aims to facilitate the reintegration of male adolescents who have been through the juvenile justice system. Its service components include educational assistance, vocational training, job placement and character formation. MVP graduated its first crop in 2007 and these boys have all broken into their respective careers. Besides aftercare, MVP seeks to effectively carry out initiatives that promote the welfare of children in conflict with the law (CICL), who are confined in various detention and rehabilitation centers.

For the last ten years, the mission of the above NGO has been at the service of marginalized youth in the Philippines. The Marcel Van Program is being offered to children in conflict with the law (CICL) by 2002 and eventually consisted of 2 subprograms namely the Youth Center Program for inmates at youth detention and rehabilitation centers, and the After Care Program which supports the reintegration of former CICL into the mainstream. Further, in the Marcel Van Program, male juveniles in conflict with the law between 16 and 23 years old, in the youth detention and rehabilitation centers are benefited by programs and services offered in collaboration with government agencies and other organizations in the civic sector.

The National Training School for Boys (NTSB) is one of the eleven (11) Regional Rehabilitation Centers for Youth of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under the management of DSWD Field Office IV-A which provides institutional rehabilitation for Children in Conflict with the Law. It is designed to provide intensive treatment nurturing out of home placement for CICL. As of June 11, 2010, NTSB has 166 CICLs manned by 57 staff.  In its effort to undertake smooth reintegration and prepare the CICL with new life challenges has engaged the partnership of a Non-Government Organization – Association Compassion Asian Youth, Inc. (ACAY).

Specifically, the NTSB provides protection and substitute parental care to CICLs, assists the CICL in gaining insight into his behavior and attitudes and redirect counterproductive behavior patterns, enhance their coping capabilities and trust on others, provide opportunities for the CICLs to acquire social and occupational skills and an improve self image and facilitate disposition of cases in court and integration with family and community.

The rise in number of CICLs who were admitted in NTSB, paved way for recognizing volunteers which will help the latter provide additional manpower and resources to promote the welfare of this young people.

According to Ms. Alicia A. Villacarlos, Head Social Worker of NTSB, they need additional manpower to sustain and provide extra activities and services to their clients. Thus, additional effort from their partners in molding and honing their clients as responsible young people is indeed necessary.

Sharing the same mission and vision, NTSB and ACAY became partners which both uphold the government’s mission to care, protect ad rehabilitate children in especially difficult circumstance. NTSB started their partnership with ACAY last 2002, when a group of clients from Manila Youth Reception Center (MYRC) were admitted to NTSB. These clients are program recipient of ACAY particularly their Marcel Van Program that provides after care services. Since 2002 until to date ACAY has been very active in their voluntary service to NTSB. Ms. Elsa Matriano, social worker of ACAY was actively coordinating with the NTSB for their voluntary works in the latter.

ACAY thru its Marcel Van Program conducts periodic counseling, character formation and life skills education to NTSB clients. There were already two batches of search-in training conducted both held in Balanga, Bataan. The 1st one was conducted last April 22 to May 7, 2009 participated in by thirteen (13) CICLs and the 2nd batch was conducted last April 9 to April 28, 2010 attended by ten (10) CICLs. The participants of the Search-In Training and Formation were targeted by the ACAY as potential recipients of their aftercare program.

The training purposely aims to provide training and formation to transitioning CICL by means of high-impact strategies that will remold and improve their social functioning towards their full rehabilitation and reintegration to their families as productive members of society. Lastly, to instill skills for productive social and economic functioning and help them plan for their reintegration to their families and communities. The training is comprise of six (6) components which are: 1) basic educational assessment and training with emphasis on measuring aptitudes and reviewing English communication and mathematical skills; 2) personality development and life skills education; 3) Psychological support for which the team was equipped with mentoring and counseling skills; 4) Spiritual formation; 5) career development; and 6) orientation on ACAY – Marcel Van Program.

The training was conducted successfully meeting adequately the objectives and participants needs. The CICLs were able to participate in each activity designed for the training specifically resulted to boosting their self-esteems. Jessie Reyes (not his real name), a NTSB resident confidently introduces himself and the output of their teams in their workshop.

Part also of the activity is to provide job or career development sessions/lectures as preparation for their future outside of the center. Thus they were taught to prepare resumes/curriculum vitae as well as how to undergo job interviews in simulated exercise.

Spiritual formation which involves catechism and religious activities were also given emphasis to the CICLs. Thru spiritual activities, it allows the young people to find solace in the Christian message. Sister Sophie Renoux gave lectures to the CICLs and provides inspirational and religious messages as part of reflections.

Further, aside from religious activities and lectures and workshops, sports lessons were also provided to them like martial arts and ball games/outdoor games. Engaging in leisure activities benefits both the physical and mental well-being of the person so games and sports are carefully integrated. Thru this, trust is being developed with ACAY volunteers and other staff working with them. On the left, Master Bong, a Marshall Art instructor is teaching LM Cruz (not his real name), a NTSB resident with techniques during their taekwondo sessions.

The search-in training/formation becomes instrumental in imbibing to these CICLs positive attitudes towards life. It has prepared them in their reintegration to their families and communities equipped them with the confidence to face new challenges like looking for employment, relating with peers and managing their emotions. Specifically, the clients were able to ventilate their personal feelings, past traumatic experiences, learned to socialize with others with respect, strengthened their faith to God, improved their academic skills like writing and speaking and finally inspire to live with good manners, with discipline, love and hope. Each participant were required to prepare an individual plan by which this would serve as reference of the social workers in evaluating the client’s performance and impact to the search-in training.

Apart from this, the ACAY is also reaching out to the families of the recipients of their search-in trainings. They made efforts and ensure that parents were also involved in some of the activities of the CICLs to foster interactions between them and make it nourished.

We, in the department along with our partners believe that young people, who are detained, find themselves being plunged into a distressing situation thus, never meant to change a person’s delinquent behavior. The success of the juvenile system is not about maintaining a well-guarded correctional facility but should be measured in terms of how effective it is in redirecting the CICL from risky behaviors and patterns of living in order for them to become fully functioning members of the society.

The NTSB and the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office IV-A is indeed grateful working with volunteers with commitment and undying devotion working with these young people. The plight to social problems has never been a sole responsibility of the government. Thus the support and collaborative effort of public and private agencies, institutions and the like is very much needed to mitigate these problems if not erased.