Chameleon, the invisible lizard
SECOND WIND - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - November 26, 2016 - 12:00am

What is a chameleon? It is a variety of lizard that changes colors to disappear into its surroundings so it is not seen by its predators. In other words, it becomes invisible. Chameleon is the English spelling. The French way is without the h — cameleon.

Cameleon Association is the name of a non-government organization (NGO) that helps rehabilitate little girls from age five and up who were victims of sexual abuse. They are given education, health care and interesting special programs like the sports and circus program where they are taught by 17 circus trainers who have perfect circus skills. Right now, there are 50 girls in the Rehabilitation Center who go to school and undergo psychosocial interventions to prepare them for reintegration into mainstream society.

I almost entirely picked up that paragraph from the brochure of Cameleon Association. It looks simple enough but suddenly the facts flesh out in your head. Some of the girls were five years old when they were molested or raped. Most often, the assault was incestuous — by their father, uncle, brother, cousin.

What would you feel if your husband raped your five-year-old daughter? I fill with rage. I would kill my husband. Can you imagine what his act would do to our child? It would permanently damage her spirit and soul. How could she possibly be saved? I hope the predator is at least in jail before his warp damages other children.

The problem gets worse because most of these children’s families are poor. So the French lady who set up this NGO has to raise money to support every child until she graduates from school, to extend economic empowerment and health programs to the families, to teach them livelihood skills to increase their income. So the assistance is not just for the child, it is for the whole family.

Laurence Ligier is the name of the founder of Cameleon Association. You pronounce her name as Loranz Lidyay (a soft g). She first came to the Philippines in 1992 for a humanitarian mission in Aklan organized by a French NGO. She knew nothing about the Philippines before then. Two years later, she returned and spent half a year living in a slum area of Iloilo. She learned how to speak Hiligaynon. She was shocked by what she saw and went back to France to study courses in development and humanitarian management and graduated with degrees in law and sociology. She saw an enormous need to help little girls survive sexual molestation.

She raises money for her projects mainly abroad. And she has received outstanding awards for her work here in the Philippines.

How did I get involved? I teach writing in The Sunshine Place. One of my students is Rita Dy, the current president of Zonta Club of Makati Ayala. She had been tearing her hair out organizing this project. So I volunteered to come to their press conference.

Apparently, the United Nations and Zonta International, including Zonta Club of Makati Ayala, has a global campaign called 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. It begins on Nov. 25 and ends on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day. This campaign was created in 1991. Its signature color is orange, which stands for the brighter future we face in a world without gender-based violence.

For this year, the Zonta Club wants to raise money for the Cameleon Association by involving hotels and restaurants. Each of them will promote a dish for 16 days. Revenues raised from these dishes they will donate to the Cameleon Association.

The hotel partners are Conrad Hotel, Diamond Hotel, Discovery Primea, Fairmont Makati, Radisson Blu, Hotel Cebu, Raffles Makati, Park Inn Clark, Park Inn Davao, Pico Sands Hotel Nasugbu, Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay. If you are going to eat there, ask them for the food they will donate to the Cameleon Association and please order it.

The restaurant partners are Apartment 1B, Azuthai, Bamba Bistro. Chef Jessie Rockwell Club, Fireside Grill and Bar, Kettle, Makati Garden Club, Milky Way Café, Mozu Café Bar, Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay, Tender Bob’s, Top of the Citi by Chef Jessie, Wildflour Café and Bakery. Please go there within the next 16 days and order the food with the orange mark. Revenues from that will be donated to the Cameleon Association.

Why am I so eager to support? I ran into a lawyer friend of mine at the press conference. She said her youngest client was a 13-month-old baby girl whose father came home drugged and raped his own little baby. That threw me, filled me with rage.

I will help anyone who works against incest and violence against women and children immediately.

Furthermore I appreciate that they chose the name Cameleon. See, the lizard has the ability to change and merge with the environment and that embodies the way they want to help the children who are victims of incest. I think that is simply wonderful.

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