Archive for September, 2010

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Quezon City, like most of metro Manila, is a cloud of exhaust, a cacophony of roosters, stray dogs and permanent traffic, a wet blanket of heat. But step through the doors of Samaritana Transformation Ministries, and you find yourself in an open-air courtyard with a stone labyrinth set in the grass, a soothingly trickling fountain, and the airy feel of freedom in every room. Women sing as they cook or clean, and others laugh as they make earrings or greeting cards to sell in the Philippines and the U.S.  You may also see women working on their English language skills, sharing past hurts in Tagalog Bible studies, quietly talking in individual or group counseling, or more recently, gathering together for yoga or strength training in our newly-formed Freedom Fitness group (more about that later).

Samaritana has been sending volunteers and staff out to the bars to build relationships with prostituted women since 1992, when then-seminary student Thelma Nambu and other friends met to pray for, visit, and befriend these poorest of the poor, lowest of the low who make the worst kind of living by selling themselves each night for the equivalent of $2 or $3. The ministry was inspired by the story of Jesus meeting an outcast woman at a well, and showing her the way to a new life that didn’t involve men using and then discarding her. Bringing that story to life today, Samaritana is a haven for women who have left, or want to leave, their lives on the streets.

During an orientation meeting for new volunteers, we learned about Samaritana’s extensive programs: in addition to the daily schedule for “women friends,” there are scholarship programs for children, medical missions, police training (to educate them about sex trafficking and to view prostituted women as victims, not criminals), partnerships with faith-based and secular feminist NGOs alike, and visits to squatter communities to spend time with new women friends who have not yet left life on the street—just to name a few.  To hear the women’s stories of abuse, poverty, and shame, it’s astounding that anyone can recover, and yet we see daily proof that healing is, in fact, possible. The same young women who have been pushed to the edges of society (both culturally and geographically) are now giggling as they watch Nate wash dishes (kitchens are generally women’s turf here) or teach us how to eat fish and rice with our hands.

Healing from lives of abuse and shame is slow, hard work, but it’s clear that Samaritana has spent every bit of the last eighteen years figuring out how to best serve these women, and that God has blessed that work.  We’re honored to be a part of it, and grateful to all of you who have supported us (and Samaritana) in our work here!