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2 priests start unique concept of caring for orphans

MANILA, Philippines - From the traditional system of handling an orphanage, a unique concept in the caring of abandoned, orphaned and unfortunate children was started by a priest from England and a Filipino priest in the Philippines ten years ago.

The first two Casa Famiglia (Family House) were founded by Fr. James Teeling and Fr. Rogelio Cruz in 1999. 

Father Teeling is the parish priest of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in East Greenwich, England and is also a priest of the Diocese of Southwark, England.  

Father Cruz has been living in the area long before he became a priest and became one of the founders with a great role in the construction of the orphanage. Their vision of caring for the unfortunate and abandoned children is focused on a communitarian environment where the house is situated.  

The first two Casa Famiglia are located in the middle of a community in Sapang Palay, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, which has been a relocation area since 1960.  

“I entered the seminary in 1980 and envisioned putting up an orphanage. Most of them were abandoned children and the others were victims of abuse and were rescued and brought here,” Cruz said.

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Cruz shared the story of the orphanage during a visit at the Ateneo Casa Famiglia-Servants of the Poor Inc. arranged through the British embassy in Manila.  

They are now taking care of 40 boys at the Ateneo Casa Famiglia-Servants, while the second Casa Famiglia houses the girls.

Every child is looked after holistically (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual), according to their needs. But what is different in Casa Famiglia is that the children in the orphanage are considered as the stay-in residents because most of the time they attend school in the same building and go out during free time to play with other children in the neighborhood.  

They know the people in the community, play with their friends outside and even know their barangay leaders.

In the orphanage, the house parents and teachers take care of the children and teach them like they are attending a regular school. 

For the founders, the traditional Filipino’s institutional setting is something that is not beneficial for the growing up needs and development of the children in Casa Famiglia.

They believe in the importance of interaction with the people in the community.  

“Here, the children are in the community. They see the problems outside and they know how to resolve these problems,” Fr. Cruz said. 

Cruz recalled taking care of only seven children when the orphanage opened its doors to unfortunate and abandoned children in 1999 but more were brought to them after a week.  

He said Fr. Teeling continues to help by getting funds from Rome and visiting the country every year.  

The “Tatay” of the stay-in residents, Cruz is proud that one of the children in the orphanage has already graduated with a nursing degree at the Fatima College in Valenzuela through the help of kind-hearted individuals.

Benny Aquino, 19, a Dumagat, who was rescued along with his brothers and brought to the orphanage, is now in college and taking up Marine Engineering at the Technical Institute of the Philippines (T.I.P) in Cubao.

A generous couple is sending him to college and is underwriting his rent in a dormitory but he still goes home to the orphanage on weekends.

Benny is determined to finish college and return to his family in Montalban to help them. He also promised Fr. Cruz to help the orphanage.  

As honorary founding president of Ateneo Casa Famiglia-Servants of the Poor Inc. (ACFSPI) and of Mater Orphanorum-Servants of the Poor Inc. (MOSPI), Fr. Teeling said it is his ardent wish that all poor children in the Philippines receive a good and lasting education.   

He said education will empower the poor children to contribute in a worthwhile way to the democratic development of their country and will enable them to have a deep concern for the lives and livelihoods of all the peoples of the Philippines.

“An educated youth can individually and collectively write a new chapter in the history of the Philippine nation. The economic poverty of Sapang Palay is at present an intolerable situation that should not be allowed to continue and through the education of the poor children and their continued exertions and efforts to improve their situation they will achieve a better life for themselves and their families,” he said.

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