Happy home for 50 ex-batang hamog

COUNCILOR Rannie Ludovica with some of the kids housed at Oplan Shelter. | Photographs by PAULA ANTOLIN for the Daily Tribune

Located near a gate of Filinvest 2 in Barangay Batasan Hills is a simple dwelling for about 50 young souls rescued off the streets by the Quezon City government’s Task Force Disiplina headed by Councilor Rannie Ludovica.

Standing as “mother” to the erstwhile batang hamog or children of chilly nights at the non-governmental organization-initiated Oplan Shelter is Lorna Crisostomo who, for five years running, has also served as their teacher.

The kids, aged four and older, were having their share of Yuletide joy when Daily Tribune visited them, the younger ones milling around a Christmas tree with hopes that gifts under them would bear their names.

For Ludovica, someone who has become the face of discipline in Mayor Joy Belmonte’s Quezon City, young people have to be protected from the chaos and danger of the streets.

LORNA Crisostomo is both mother and teacher to the children and teens.

On the prowl

Ludovica warned that criminals are always on the lookout for young minions who would do their every bidding, highly impressionable people easy to lead astray.

Many of the kids, according to Ludovica, need caring, sheltering and “mending” as victims of molestation and exposure to drugs or as the subjects of repeated complaints from barangay officials.

A common denominator for the children and teens in the shelter, an example of how an NGO can partner with the government for maximum beneficial effects, is that they all lacked biological parental care.

That’s what Lorna has been trying to fill with relative success as the children the Daily Tribune talked with had smiles on their faces, their happiness apparent, their downtrodden recent past seemingly forgotten.

Oplan Shelter’s house used to be Ludovica’s former home, Lorna shared, adding that it had been made to fit the needs of one “big, hyper-extended family.”

“This may be my calling,” Lorna, the daughter of a pastor, said. “We’re all family here trying to help one another.” As can be expected, part of the mending process involves teaching the kids the word of God through regular Bible reading.

Not an easy task, according to Lorna, as even some of the kids aged 16, have not gone to elementary school and, thus, could not read well.

23 girls, 27 boys

In all, there are 27 boys and 23 girls under the care of Lorna, with some already in senior high school or graduating from elementary school.

Proudly, Lorna, a barangay anti-illegal drugs advocate, said Oplan Shelter has been accredited by the Department of Education as a learning center.

She recounted taking in one three-year-old boy last year, taken by Task Force Disiplina in front of a mall, barely able to walk. Her mother is in prison while his father simply could not take care of him.

Ludovica said that Lorna, as an anti-drug advocate, is well-suited for the task of taking care of even former solvent boys and those exposed to sexuality at an early age.

“She’s really a mother to them all and the kids are blessed to have her,” Ludovica said.

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