It's December again and most of us begin the shopping trek for Christmas presents for family and friends. But others have been working on presents all year long for people they don't even know - couples in crisis, children who can't afford to go to school, families with no decent housing or medical care. For these 'others', Christmas calls, and they respond, every day.
Peter Dumlao is currently ANCOP Overseer and Area Governance Team member for Metro Vancouver Couples for Christ (CFC), a worldwide movement for the strenghtening of Christian family life, that started in Manila in 1981.
ANCOP is acronym for Answering the Cry of the Poor. A non-profit organization, ANCOP is one of CFC’s major ministries, in charge of managing its social outreach undertakings and work for the poor.
"Today, Couples for Christ has missions in over 100 countries, including Canada, and has over a million members. The 5,000 members of CFC in Canada are mostly Filipino Canadians, including its various family ministries such as Handmaids of the Lord, Singles for Christ, Youth for Christ, etc. We support people needing help all over the world, not just Filipinos, or Canadians, and not just Christians," explains Peter.
ANCOP's various undertakings include:
Children Sponsorship Program - for poor children in Nigeria, Ghana, India and the Philippines. Donations go to provide school supplies, uniforms, and other school needs. In the Philippines, $38 a month supports an elementary school child, and $76 a month supports a college student. Ancop Canada currently sponsors 3,128 scholars, comprising mostly of children in the Philippines and Africa.
Cornerstone – an ANCOP education program conducted in partnership with Ateneo de Manila. It uses a two-pronged approach that aims to reach out to slow readers among elementary students and provide tutorials to enable them to qualify for Child Sponsorship, as well as to inculcate values formation. Among high school students the program seeks to reach out to student leaders and offer Christian leadership and values formation training.
Shelter - building houses and villages for less fortunate Filipinos. Since its inception in 2001, ANCOP Canada has built and funded 527 homes in over 30 villages and is expected to complete another 100 shelters in 2017. Donations fund the blueprints and construction materials, while government provides power and utilities. Land is typically donated by private owners. Labour is provided by the future occupants of the homes in collaboration with volunteers from Ancop and professionals in the construction industry, who are responsible for the supervision of the projects.
Medical Mission - free medicines and medical services including simple surgeries are provided in different areas of the Philippines by doctors, nurses and other medical volunteers from Canada.
In Canada, the work of Couples for Christ includes the "Migrant Workers Ministry". The program intends to bring together individuals and families in the middle of migration and provide formation programs to help address the needs brought about by separation from families and traditional social supports of home countries. Its ultimate objective is to preserve and strengthen families, and to bring about healing, reconciliation and renewal of family relationships broken and torn apart by the challenges of immigration.
"Many Filipinos who go abroad typically leave a spouse and children behind. Often, the strain and isolation brought about by separation at both ends cause spouses to stray into relationships with other partners resulting in estrangement. It is always the children who ultimately absorb the serious consequences of separation. We work not just with Filipinos, but other migrants with similar problems, like Mexicans," says Peter.
More than a million Filipinos leave the Philippines annually to work abroad, and in Canada, the Philippines is now the top source country for immigrants.
Peter himself came to Canada in 2005 with his wife Ayee, two daughters and only son. A corporate banker by profession, Peter and Ayee have been members of Couples for Christ since 1991 in the Philippines.
Since 2001, Couples for Christ Canada together with its different individual and corporate partners have given away an estimated $6.0 Million in cash to disadvantaged people - indeed a generous year-round Christmas present to the world.