REFLECTIONS OF COURAGE & COMPASSION
"At CFSPI, I was given peace even though I had to go through such a terrible ordeal. And at CFSPI, I gained a family. CFSPI gave me hope... and forgiveness."
Cassie has been working at CFSPI for 17 years as a cook and all around staff, and lately, resident barista, For her, it is her second home.
But her journey there began much earlier, when she was only 12 years old. For years, Cassie had been suffering silently-her older brother had been sexually abusing her for years, and she was afraid to say anything because she knew her alcoholic parents could not be relied on to help her. One day, she could stand it no longer, and she told one of her teachers what was going on. The teacher immediately brought her to the DSWD, who then took her to CFSPI. She was one of the first residents of the home in Manzanillo.
At first, Cassie felt despondent about her situation. But soon, she felt happy, because she knew she had found her second home. It was an enormous relief to her, to know that someone was willing to help and care for her. In the home she had left, she was neglected by her parents who spent all their money on liquor and gambling. There was not much love to be found there. They begged her to drop the case she had filed against her brother. She eventually acquiesced. Her brother died at a young age due to his vice-ridden lifestyle.
CFSPI gave Cassie distance from the trauma she had undergone, and the counseling sessions made her feel lighter over time. She went to school, and after high school graduation, she attended vocational school. She focused on the culinary arts, and she attended other seminars with CFSPI's help. As a young, first-time mother, she started working at CFSPI when she was 19. Recently, she attended a barista training course given at the training center.
Now, Cassie is a youthful and energetic mother of five.
"CFSPI gave me hope, peace and forgiveness," Cassie shares. "I was given peace, even though I had to go through such a terrible ordeal. And at CFSPI, I gained a family."
"I learned that you have to love yourself, and to fight for your rights."
Helen was born in Baguio, the eldest of five children. Her parents, both market vendors, decided to move the family to Pangasinan when she was about to enroll in high school. It was then that the sexual abuse started, at the hands of her father For years, she was afraid to say anything until she reached her last year in high school.
When Helen's mother discovered the abuse, she decided to move to Baguio with her children. Once, there, they went straight to the National Bureau of Investigation to file a report, and they recommended that Helen be brought to CFSPI. Her father fled, and to this day, no one knows his true whereabouts.
At first, it was difficult for Helen to be away from her family, though they lived nearby and visited her often. What happened to her was hard to accept, but her house parents and therapists helped her by saying the abuse was not her fault. Group therapy was challenging because she had to talk about and relive the experience. But she reckons it must have been effective, because after a while, it didn't hurt so much to remember. She felt lighter inside. All the therapies they gave her at CFSPI-art therapy, taekowondo, self-defense- helped her, and after a year, she returned to her family. She was able to take her degree in Accounting, with a scholarship CFSPI provided for her.
CFSPI also gave workshops for single parents, which Helen's mother attended. Her mother learned food processing and how to make strawberry jam. She would sell her products at the market.
It was this experience of staying at the residence that taught her how to get along with other people. She realized that other people could also be going through something, some sort of trial. When she encounters different attitudes at her work in a call center, she tells herself, "Maybe they're also going through something." Seeing people this way helps her to not react to their bad behavior.
Helen shares that her time spent at the Consuelo Home truly changed her for the better. "Before I came here, I had really low self-esteem," she says. "I learned that you have love yourself, and to fight for your rights. Now, I know that I am a strong person."
Her belief in herself gives Helen the self-respect and courage to speak up at work. "I stand up for myself, and they respect me because I do good work. So, they can't make me do work that goes beyond my role or what they're paying me. I do my work well, and they respect that. In the ten years I've been with this company, I never received a warning," she shares.
Now the proud mother of two teenage girls, Helen teaches them some of these life lessons. She wants them to be strong women, too. She also cares for her husband who is sick with leukemia. Luckily, her health insurance at work covers his chemotherapy and hospitalizations. But, just like her mother, she sells chocolates and cookies artwork to augment her income.
Although Helen has not gone through a forgiveness exercise for her father, she feels she has forgiven him already. "I no longer think about what happened. It's done, and I'm here now. I've accepted it."