Written by: Rachel Jones and Migueliza Felias
On November 15th My Refuge House celebrated six years of service in the Philippines!
The visitors were warmly welcomed by the joyful smiles of our girls who volunteered themselves as the usherettes of the guests and partners. Donning colorful sashes, the girls brightened the event tremendously—they are the reason we were there after all, and their wide smiles showed that they knew it!
We had the honor of welcoming the Vice Governor of Cebu, Agnes Magpale whose passion and advocacy for women and children have encouraged many NGOs and LGUs in the province of Cebu who are also fighting trafficking. My Refuge House Local Board Members Atty, Floremei Velasco, Sir Romy Mandalupe, Leah Jocson and U.S. Board Member Yuen Chau were also present in the event. Numerous community partners who have all been great advocates of our mission were also present.
The anniversary event focused on three aspects important to our organization: learning from the past, nurturing the present, and unveiling the future. From the beginning to the end, God was honored in everything that was presented. First, the girls powerfully and courageously declared a Psalm as the theme of the day. Next, they acted out a presentation to the song “Dare You To Move” which showed the desperation of their lives prior to being rescued. It was very touching and many of the guests were sniffing their noses and trying not to cry during the presentation.
Sir Romulo Mandalupe, one of our local Board Members shared about My Refuge House’s history. It all Began with the small church in California whose prayers in 2008 have brought about so many changed lives worth celebrating!
One of those precious changed lives, Sandra* was celebrating with us and shared her story of how she is now thriving in the community. “This is my second life,” she said, referring to how she survived from a disease that My Refuge House helped her get care to address, how God has changed her life, and the opportunity she has now to have a good paying job in the community (thanks to some of our partners!) It was a moving moment to witness.
To represent how the present program of My Refuge House is nurturing the lives of our girls, Jacky* shared what she appreciates about My Refuge House. Jacky shared that she is not dwelling on her past anymore but instead celebrating the goodness of the present. She said has become more confident in herself, God is molding her daily, and talked about how excited she is to finish high school.
The last part of the program addressed the future plans and goals of My Refuge House as we move forward to a more sustainable program, which engages local partnerships and financial sustainability.
The transition of My Refuge House leadership to Filipino management was also announced to the guests and visitors during the event. Rose Ann Obenque was introduced as the new Director of Program Operations and Omar Burdeos as the Director of Administrative Operations.
In addition to the serious presentation from the girls there was a humorous ad-lib presentation set to an old Filipino folk song that had the audience roaring. And then they gave a reenactment of Noah and the Ark—complete with their own homemade Ark. Filipinos are naturally talented, and the girls love showing off some of those talents!
One of the biggest highlights of the day was thanks to our partners We Step Into The Light. This wonderful organization which uses art to inspire victims of sexual violence on a global level. Their mission is to promote healing for survivors and advocate for violence prevention through art and personal story. Some of you may have seen their art on display at our Benefit Dinner in Southern California earlier this year. Artists from California connected with our participants at My Refuge House and then painted beautiful scenes representing a memory, dream, or passion of each girl.
The smiles and excitement of the girls when they unveiled their art pieces was beyond description. To express their appreciation for the gift they received, each of the girls told us what their painting meant to them.
The girls shared how their painting represented them:
- One girl’s painting depicted her hopefulness for her future
- Another girl’s represented her value of her family
- Another girl shared how nature makes her feel calm and relaxed
- One girl shared a painting that represent her new life
- And another girl’s showed the freedom and thanksgiving that she feels
The anniversary was a celebration of the learning brought by the past, the nurturing of the present and the unveiling of the hopeful future! The tambourine dance that the girls presented as the finale is My Refuge House’s gesture of thanksgiving and praise to the founder and perfecter of My Refuge House– God Himself.