While serving as a senior executive of an international energy company, John Drake started traveling to the Philippines. Not far from the white sand beaches and luxurious hotels, he saw orphans and abandoned children living on the dangerous streets. He saw kids scavenging through garbage, begging for food and forced to become sex workers just to survive. In response, John established The Lingap Children’s Foundation—a U.S.-based tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization that provides funding for projects to help children in the Philippines. The first goal was to raise money to build The Lingap Center (translated as “crisis or care center”) where street children and orphans could rebuild their lives. The new building was opened and dedicated in March of 2006. The second, ongoing, goal was to raise the funding needed to sustain the work of The Lingap Center for years to come. In addition, John help established The Lingap Children’s Development Center, Inc. in 2006, which serves as the fundraising arm of the organization in the Philippines. This organization is also a tax-exempt non-profit organization registered in the Philippines.
The Lingap Center provides hope for children who have suffered from child abuse, abandonment, neglect and exploitation. At the Center, we create a safe haven for kids who would otherwise be in life-threatening situations. Our new building, dedicated in March of 2006, houses 100 children between the ages of six and 18. The staff ensures that the kids eat three meals a day, and go to school so they can build a solid future and give back to the community. For the first time in many of their lives, the kids have access to health care and counseling services. They are able to participate in religious services - a practice not traditionally open to orphans or street children. They also have time to play and just be kids. Generous donors in the U.S. and the Philippines have made this possible. Some children stay at the center for a short time until they can be placed into a safe environment. Other kids who don’t have that option stay until they reach adulthood. Our “Place at the Table” sponsorship program ensures that we don’t have to turn away children who desperately need our help and would otherwise be living on the street.
St. Bernard's School & St. John of Sahagun School We recognize that education is the key to helping kids become self-sufficient adults who can share their gifts and talents with their communities. That’s why we have developed a close partnership with both St. Bernard's and St. John of Sahagun schools. All of the Lingap wards are now attending these private schoools, or Toldeo National Vocation School (TNVS), which is a good, public high school. The curriculums at both St. Bernards and St. John's are challenging, college preparatory programs; teachers are well-trained and many students score well enough on their exams to go on to college. While the children do have access to the public school system, it is sad that with the exception of the TNVS high school, public schools in the area are overburdened. Classrooms may have as 90 children with a single teacher and while the teachers are dedicated to the students, they simply do not have the resources available to them to prepare the kids for college. Often, a single book, with many pages missing, is shared by as many as five students. It was therefore, our decison to give the Lingap wards as great a chance as possible, which is why they are attending the best schools we can provide for them. College During the 2011/12 school year, fourteen Lingap wards are attending college. They are majoring in such things as Agriculture; Hotel Restaurant Hospitality Management; Advertising; Electrical Engineering and a host of other career fields. Two of them will graduate at the end of this school year. This is very significant when you consider that not too long ago, these children had no hope and their career choices were that of a street beggar or worse. Now, their futures have taken on a whole new meaning. Our college students are serving as role models for the younger children who are following in their footsteps. One of our graduating students recently contacted John to tell him about the senior thesis that she has to write. She asked his permission to write about the Lingap Center and how it changed her life. It is moments like this that make the Lingap Project worthwhile.
Street Children Education
In 2008, we hired a street educator to go to the city park each day, where she teaches those children who are unable to attend school for a variety of reasons, reading, basic arithmetic and hygiene. Since then, the program has grown to include an average of 85 children each day, in two different locations. Additionally, we provide them with a lunch, which is often their only meal of the day. Many of the children will eat their meal on the spot but sadly, others will carefully wrap it up to take it home to feed their entire family. In early 2011, the program was expanded further, with the assistance of Fr. Rolando Manayon of St. John of Sahagun Catholic Church in Toledo City, to include catechism lessons. We also began a microeconomic entrepreneur training program. This is teaching the children how to raise money on their own. Each child was given startup money, which they almost immediately repaid. The program is thriving.
Third Saturday Outreach
Prior to the creation of the Lingap Center, many of the street children and orphans were not welcomed into the church because it was felt that they would be disruptive during the services. Before to deciding to take on the Lingap project, John met with the parish priest to make a proposal. He asked that the priest come to the Lingap Center at a minimum of once a month to do a children's mass. In return, John offered to provide a soup kitchen to feed all of the less fortunate children who attend. Consequently, on the third Saturday of each month, a children's mass is held, followed by a soup kitchen. Attendance varies based on a number of factors, not the least of which is the weather (since it is held outside). During regular months, attendance numbers range from 200 - 600. However January tends to be the most heavily attended month. In January of 2009, over 800 children attended. In January of 2010, over 1200 attended, January of 2011 saw over 5000 and in January 2012, 1350 were present. We should add that the Lingap wards are now very active in the church. They are the official choir for the local parish and many of them are also altar servers. The children are quickly becoming a very significant, and treasured, part of the faith community. As of July, 2011, 68 children have been sponsored for baptism by John.
In January of 2009, the Lingap Center partnered with seven U.S. Rotary Clubs and three Philippine Rotary Clubs and Rotary International to develop a community library. This was placed at the nearby West Bay Learning Center and it is open to anyone in the area. It includes books, and computer research capabilities. It opened on January 16, 2009 to an estimated 2500 potential beneficiaries.
The Lingap Children’s Foundation has helped contribute to several positive changes within the social structure within the Philippines. The organization’s projects encourage people within the Philippines to re-examine the place of orphans and street children within society. Children who once had no status - and no rights - now have the ability to go to school and church as a result of the work of the Foundation. The organization is gaining visibility within the government as well. John Drake has been recognized for his work by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former President of the Philippines, as well as other key officials. He has a strong relationship with Arlene Zambo, former mayor, and current vice-mayor, of Toledo City. During the April 2006 Dedication Ceremony, the Lingap Center was called “The best facility of its kind in all of the Visayas, if not the entire Philippines” by Teodulo Romo, Regional Director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Mr. Roberto Yango, Sector Manager for the U.S. Peace Corps has also recognized the Lingap Center as one of the best organizations of its kind in the Philippines. This was further demonstrated by the fact they granted the Lingap Center with its second volunteer in a row. Repeat assigments of volunteers is highly unusual for the Peace Corps and demonstrates the impact they believe the Lingap Center has in the Philippines.