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Operation Blessing

During the height of Typhoon Ondoy aid efforts, I came to know Operation Blessing (OB) and met its head, Dr. Kim April Pascual. I was impressed at how her tightly-knit team worked hard to bring aid and hope to hundreds of thousands of Ondoy victims, and they did this not by simply giving out bags of goods. Their relief missions also include medical outreaches to treat the sick in evacuation centers, mobile water purifiers to ration clean drinking water, trauma counseling for affected residents, community cleanup of flooded homes, and livelihood assistance for families who wanted to start fresh after Ondoy. Amazed and inspired at how they did all these efficiently, tirelessly, and humbly—without the loud appeals from celebrities, or huge fundraising gimmicks. While others help because it feels good or it is in season, Operation Blessing always helps, with or without disasters, because at their core is genuine compassion that ignites change in a person and uplifts him from hopelessness. This is what I witnessed with my own eyes and what convinced me to partner with them. Operation Blessing also invited me to Payatas to see how they are investing so much in the young lives of this urban poor community through a holistic project called “Bless-a-Child”, had a great bonding time with the Bless-a-Child kids who were enjoying their nutritious lunch that day. For 10 months, Operation Blessing ensures these underweight children are fed well until they achieve their ideal weight. Plus, Operation Blessing takes care of their preschool education and regular health checkups. With their bodies and minds well nourished, these children are indeed blessed! They are already on the right track because Operation Blessing has started a wonderful work in their young lives.  OB continues to bless more kids by partnering with Orphan’s Promise. Together, they improve the well-being of vulnerable children in the Philippines. I tagged along when they visited an orphanage in Pasig, where they installed new beddings for the orphans and provided them new supplies. The children we met there were so playful and lively, as if they won’t let their sad plight ruin their innocence and joy. As a mother, it pains me to see these kids run short of parental love, but there is Operation Blessing who is ready to meet their immediate needs and, more importantly, shower them with care. It is also their mission to seek out remote, unreached, and underserved places in the Philippines—places where the elderly and the sick have never seen a doctor in their lives, where families are still waiting and praying a way out of poverty, or where children already forgot the last time they received gifts. In Bohol where I saw how Operation Blessing empowered mothers and grandmothers to be the champions of their homes. In Pangapasan Island, I remember how Arsenia, a grandmother and breadwinner to her five young grandkids, erupted in thanksgiving when we gave her a new boat so she can continue fishing and diving for seaweeds. In an upland village called Cawayanan, several women were entrusted with pigs for hog raising, others with raw materials for making bags. I learned that one of them was a battered wife, and I was extremely glad that the livelihood project from Operation Blessing will be her way out of a miserable life.

With all these adventures that I had with Operation Blessing, I came to realize this simple truth: it is not the amount or size of help that we give these people that mattered, but the smile that came with each gift, the unmistakable love and concern whenever we spend time with them, and the assurance that Operation Blessing and its generous partners will help them every step of the way from a life of poverty to a life of fullness. 

If you, too, want to be part of this wonderful organization and make a lasting difference in other people’s lives, please visit Operation Blessing’s website at www.obphil.com





Cannes 2012 - The Ecumenical Jury

In Honour of artistic quality which witness to the power of film to reveal the mysterious depths of human beings and the complexity of our society, The Ecumenical Jury has a particular perspective on such films.
This jury is invited in by the Cannes Film Festival since 1974 to recognise and give a special award prize to a film that captures this essence in the official competition.
Focus and important attention on films with directional visions, messages, stories that convey dimensions on spirituality with our existence, expressing the values of justice, human dignity, respect for the environment, peace and solidarity are the main objectives of The Ecumenical Jury.
Important values, prevalent in various cultures which are also recognised in Christianity.

This year's winner for this very respectable and highly regarded award went to the film "Jagten" (The Hunt) by the Danish film maker Thomas Vinterberg.
The film brings us to life in a small town where myopic mindedness or provincial simplicity may prevail amongst its dwellers.
A small group of town folks who practically grew up together, know each other and are actually quite good friends with each other.
Unfortunately such blissful simplicity and close friendships are quickly disrupted when a youthful and innocent flippant remark or implication by a child triggers havoc and destruction within strong close friendships.
A small yet very awkward situation which becomes a horrifically serious accusation.
Questions are raised on certain ideas and concepts of truth, trust, credibility, complexities in human behaviour and relationships.
The small issue which becomes a big problem which then gets rectified in the end but yet leaves a bad after taste which brings forth disturbing side effects of the whole notion of the situation that questions humanity and its behaviour.
Indeed a moving film that may raise continuous and lengthly discussions about issues in life, and the way we humans are or can be like.
Press relase for Cannes 2012 Winner - The Ecumenical Jury

Mads Mikkelsen - Credits: Photographies by Press-Image.net and afp.com/Loic Venance 

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HOLLYWOOD UNITES FOR HAITI

Cannes Festival is also the reunion of successful people who exchange a little bit of their fame against press attention, not for their own benefit but for generous actions. The focus this year was on Haïti situation and the media was invited to give a bit of attention to that country, but seemed to be more interested by the personality of Sean Penn, long time supporter of actions there.

Less attention was given to Hollywwod Unites for Haïti, a charity started by actor Jimmy Jean Louis when he was unknown from international audience, and involved in The Heart Fund's new program for Children suffering from heart diseases.

FACADES was there and would love visitors to make a tour on their website, and maybe further... www.hufh.org

Operation Blessing
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8th March 2012 - Fashion for Charity in London

Paris for Couture, London for Fashion; Making a name with London fashionistas to become a brand on the other side of the Channel. This path is known and has been followed by many, and it has made London an attractive platform for designers in search for media attention.
Ayala Foundation with the support of generous donators made this possible for promising fashion designers from the Philippines with Fashion for Charity, an event held at the Victoria Ballroom in London that FACADES had the chance to attend and is pleased to relay in its Fashion section. One of these unfortunately very few private actions that enrich our culture and that gives to "global" a positive meaning.

In order of appearance from top left to bottom right: Carey Santiago (1 & 2), Michael Cinco (3), jasper Garvida & Mich Dulce (4), Rajo Laurel (5), Randy Ortiz (6), Lesley Mobo (7), Juan Escario (8), Lulu Tan Gan (9), Wynn Wynn Ong (10).
Credits: All Videos by JEJ

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The Art of Survival

A private view featuring a performance by Turner Prize nominee Spartacus Chetwynd attracted an audience as diverse as the works on display when The Art of Survival opened at the SW1 Gallery in Victoria. 
Blood red hands reach out from a sea of unseeing faces; blank eyeless masks that, to artist Michael Crossan, have a special meaning. His disturbing three-dimensional installation dominates one wall of a unique exhibition in the heart of Victoria. From a distance its rugged landscape resembles the Union Jack, but as you get closer the ‘landmarks’ become faces with empty eye sockets.
The Art of Survival is a showcase for the work of former servicemen who all, at some time in their life, were in crisis. Some have been homeless; some have had drug and alcohol problems, suffered from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or mental health issues. But they have one thing in common; they are all ex-servicemen and they have all been helped by the charity Veterans Aid.

Many years ago Crossan served in the Royal Highland Fusiliers, an experience that he recalls fondly. After leaving he travelled, spending five years in Greece, painting murals in theme clubs. Gradually he developed a relationship with alcohol that nearly killed him. He was in detox when he rediscovered his love of art and hooked up with Phil Rogers, the man who was later to become VA’s addictions’ counsellor. When Crossan ‘came in’ from the streets it was to the charity’s East London hostel, which became home until he got on his feet again. Like many of the veterans at New Belvedere House he was helped to beat his demons through a re-connection with something creative. 

Art, in its various forms, is encouraged by the charity whose philosophy is to explore bespoke solutions to individuals’ needs. Some veterans paint, some sketch, write poetry, draw cartoons, build models, take photographs or make furniture. The Art of Survival was conceived as a testament to their personal journeys.

Some of the work – like Travis Freeman’s restored Lambretta scooters - is overtly about resurrection. Other pieces, like Crossan's Brothers in Arms, deliver a different message. 

“I was trying to convey in the piece what it’s like to be homeless in the middle of a crowd.  When you are on the streets you are invisible.  To ‘Joe Bloggs’ you are not there. The general public get uncomfortable when they see something that’s not pleasing to the eye. They see homeless people as a threat. People think its called Brothers in Arms because of the military connection, but it’s bigger than that. It’s about humanity. And that’s what Veterans Aid is all about. It exists to help ex-servicemen  - but what it does comes from the heart.”

Some of the work on display is traditional. Photographs, oils and pastels – some donated by well know supporters such as Jane Frere and Tom Stoddart  - augment the veterans’ works. Other pieces reveal an affinity for working with wood and iron. Behind each there is a story. 

The 80-year-old charity operates from a series of crowded rooms above a hairdressing salon in Buckingham Palace Road, not far from the offices of VBID (Victoria Business Improvement District). It straddles the two worlds that collide in this lively area – just yards from Victoria Coach Station where so many of the UK’s helpless and homeless are delivered to London. It is equidistant from the smart SW1 gallery where curator Owen Ward hosts the work of aspiring and established artists and creatives. 

When VBID discovered what its ‘neighbour’ did it became a supporter, and through its relationship with Land Securities who own the SW1 Gallery, an offer was made – to donate a week’s gallery time to VA’s ‘artists’. 

At a private view, attended by guests as eclectic and interesting as the artists, half the artworks on display were sold. Some of the contributors were too stunned to speak. The titled and the formerly ‘unentitled’ mingled to form a human tapestry as rich as the surrounding artworks. 

Crossan said “Last night, when I came up the escalator to the gallery I saw it all through the window – the work of all those guys – it was unreal. We’ve all been through emotional and physical hell and survived. It was suddenly real. It was there - our artwork, Travis’s scooters, in this amazing gallery. I thought, ‘it just shows what can be achieved when someone gives you a helping hand’. It was one of the best nights of my life.” 

SW1 Gallery, 4-8 December 2012. 12 Cardinal Walk, London SW1E 5JE  www.sw1gallery.co.uk  020 7963 4024

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