Building safe communities

The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society and the Special Program on Substance Abuse & Related Violence of the General Board of Global Ministries led a seminar this month in Manila, Philippines, on how to do community organizing in marginalized locations.

MANILA, Philippines — Calling every child by name is a commitment made by Raven John T. Palma, a participant at the recently held substance abuse seminar here. Church and community leaders from the most populated and marginalized locations of Manila came together to reflect, share and learn on ways to effectively lessen the effects of substance abuse in their communities.

Manila seminar on drug abuse

Participants at the seminar shared their visions of how their communities could improve.

Many participants live in impoverished communities with many people abusing drugs and other toxic substances from an early age. These attendees understand the change that the seminar could bring into their present circumstances.

“The seminar helped me clarify my vision for children and out-of-school youths,” said Nanay Tita Villarosa of the Manila North Cemetery.

Pastors, community leaders

The seminar was conducted Jan. 9-10 by the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) and the Special Program on Substance Abuse & Related Violence (SPSARV), administered by the General Board of Global Ministries. The seminar was presented in partnership with Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation and The United Methodist Church in the Philippines.

The seminar stimulated interest among local-church pastors and community leaders to develop new programs and strengthen existing efforts towards the creation of safe communities that care for addicted individuals and their families while lessening the effects of substance abuse.

District Superintendent the Rev. Dr. Eller Valencia said providing a space for open conversation on the role of the church and community in care and support, especially for children of addicted parents, was a turning point for most of the seminar participants. He committed to “invite three cluster presidents and come up with a district program on substance abuse.”

Realistic goals

Seminar participants were trained on developing small, measurable, realistic goals within a specified period of time to be implemented at individual and collective levels.

Spark Cafe

Ideas for addressing community concerns took many creative paths, as evidenced by this “Spark Café” concept.

In a spirit of communion, participants shared their hopes and immediate plans for the next few days. Most pastors committed to talk to their church councils on initiating new programs. Community leaders committed to talk to the barangay council and parents’ on issues of substance, as Aaron Albemo Mercadez put it.

Development of new relationships at individual, institutional and community levels towards the creation of substance-abuse free communities was at the center of the conversation. Having learned new skills, the participants are hopeful about helping make change in their communities with this beginning at their personal level.

The seminar was led by Kristin Kumpf, GBCS director of Organizing, and Art Mellor, SPSARV executive director.

Editor's note: Albert Otshudi Longe is a mission intern with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, initially serving with the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation, a community-development agency, in Manila, Philippines.

Support Response to Alcohol & Other Drug Concerns through United Methodist Advance #982598.

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