Spotlight on GEMS Heart Outreach Development
(An Outreach Asia partner and coordinator of the proposed
children’s center and fence projects)
When a hungry
and out-of-school seven-year-old boy begged her for a piece of bread to eat, Corazon Buenasflores knew she had to do something.
That’s what prompted Corazon, a social worker and former employee of the Christian Children’s Fund in the Philippines,
to start a non-profit agency dedicated to helping some of her country’s poorest children and families. GEMS Heart Outreach
Development Inc. was born in July 2006 with the following vision: “Empowering children, families and communities in
transforming lives and building total human development.” Corazon chose the name GEMS because she believes all people
should be treated like a gemstone.
Like its partner Outreach Asia Inc.,
GEMS focuses on sustainable programs that build capacity rather than simply provide one-time handouts. With funding from sponsorships,
donations and grants, GEMS president Buenasflores and her two staff members (also long-time former CCF employees) target the
following areas: sustainable health, nutrition and environmental sanitation; early child care and development; family life
development; and educational support. Other programs and services will be developed as needs are identified by the community,
target clients and other stakeholders. This process is conducted with a participatory approach.
GEMS’ target areas are the regions of Cavite (Bacoor, Imus, etc.) and Distrist 1 (Igbaras, Leon, Tubungan,
etc.). These two regions share a common theme – severe poverty. In the Cavite neighborhood where GEMS has its offices,
about 2,000 families live in a filthy, unsanitary 18-hectare area. Many families live in houses made from recycled GI sheets,
lumber and worn-out plywood, often with dirt and mud floors. Diseases are common and easily spread in the area, which has
no waste disposal, drainage, clean water or garbage disposal. Most of the children are sickly and malnourished and many don’t
attend school. Mothers are underweight, giving birth to malnourished children, while fathers struggle to earn whatever they
can as drivers and construction workers (if they are lucky) or else vendors or garbage collectors/scavengers. Vices (gambling,
drinking) are common because so many are idle.
The situation is similar in rural District
1, where 92% of elementary-aged children and 76% of pre-school children are malnourished. Poor housing and sanitary conditions
pervade the area, where most of the family heads are farm laborers or tenant farmers. The farms are rain-fed and the harvest
is minimal, which means families rarely get enough to eat. The only drinking water source is a deep well far from home, so
significant time and energy must be expended to obtain water.
GEMS is a duly-registered, non-stock, non-profit, non-sectarian and non-political organization registered
with the SEC on July 12, 2006. It has fulfilled all necessary legal requirements to work with the local governments. GEMS’
strategies and approaches include community organizing, capacity building, advocacy and referrals, networking and partnerships,
and child and family sponsorships. Its target clients are: children up to 18 years old, families, communities, the elderly
and children with disabilities.
GEMS focus on the poorest of the poor
in the Philippines, where one-third of the 80 million Filipinos are poor, according to a 2004 national government survey.
In most areas, household poverty has been identified as one of the root causes of malnutrition and poor health. About six
of 10 children live below the poverty line, in conditions that typically lack a source of drinking water and proper sanitation.
Outreach Asia, Inc. is proud to partner with GEMS to support its life-changing
projects in Cavite and District 1. The Children’s Dream Center, deep well and fencing projects will help empower the
families of Cavite by serving as an education and development center and a community hub, and by providing a safe and accessible
source of drinking water.
Below: Outreach Asia's President, Mike Peck, meets with
GEMS's President Cora Buenaflores on November 1, 2006 at site of the new Children's Activity Center (subsequently completed
in May, 2007), Bacoor Cavite, Philippines. When we asked Cora Buenaflores, GEM'S founder, why she picked the name
GEMS, she replied, "Everyone in the world should be treated like a Gem"