Family Swim event for adoptive families Feb. 11 at CIHS

Giving homeless children a home

By Elizabeth Sias

Not all children are blessed with a roof over their heads and a loving family.

The Children’s Shelter of Cebu in Cebu City, Philippines, provides a loving home with medical, educational and placement services for homeless Filipino children. Photos courtesy Children's Shelter of Cebu

In Cebu City, Philippines, people from one organization have made it their mission to make this a reality for all children, regardless of background.

The Children’s Shelter of Cebu came into existence in 1979, after Cofounder Marlys (Danielson) Healy visited the Philippines on a mission trip with her father. She was astonished by the plight of the street children she saw in Cebu City and began to share with pastors and missionaries she met there about her desire to do something to help those children.

Through successive trips to the country, she eventually developed a relationship with and married Paul Healy. After a generous donation, the two were able to purchase the land where the shelters stand today.

The U.S. offices for the Children’s Shelter of Cebu were in Cambridge for 20 years, and only recently moved to Arden Hills. U.S. Director Matt Buley said the organization thanks the community for that time.

A Family Swim will take place at the Cambridge-Isanti High School pool from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11 for adopted and blended families. The cost is $2 per person or $5 per family.

“The family swim is a chance for kids to be with other kids who have been through something like them,” Buley said.

Today, the organization has four homes in the Philippines on the main campus in Cebu City, as well as the Children of Hope School.

Children enjoy the graduation ceremony at Children of Hope School

“We exist to glorify God by demonstrating His love to the Philippines as we provide a loving, Christ-centered home with comprehensive medical, educational and placement services for homeless Filipino children,” is the organization’s mission statement, according to its website.

From the two decades the Children’s Shelter of Cebu spent in Cambridge as its stateside location, Buley estimates at least 30 children were adopted into families in the community.

“Adoption kind of spreads. It’s neat to see how many people from Cambridge have adopted children from our shelter,” he said. “There have been a variety of adoptive families, mostly through church connections, and then people realize it’s not as foreign or as difficult as they’d imagined.”

Judge James Dehn introduces himself to the children at the Children’s Shelter of Cebu in the Philippines.

In January, a group of 10 people from churches in Cambridge visited Cebu City.

“We had really a dynamic group of people go over there from, and they were there to invest in the kids and the staff,” Buley said.

One was a physician who helped take care of the kids, doing some check ups and examinations, Buley explained. One was Judge James Dehn, who finalized many of the adoptions for Cambridge families. He had the chance to meet the judge in the Philippines who does the surrenderings, allowing the opportunity for adoption.

The group did a variety of activities with the organization, while they were in Cebu City, including fundraising to build a new playground and a dedication ceremony.

Typically, Buley said, between 80 and 90 children are in the care of the Children’s Shelter of Cebu at any given time, depending on the number of referrals they have. Kids leave when they’re placed in adoptive families, while some with special needs may stay with the shelter.

About 65 percent of the children are adopted, and many others are eventually returned to their birth families, who may have surrendered them for a number of reasons.

“This is all about giving homeless children a loving home, and so I can’t think of  a more important kind of work you can do,” Buley said. “It’s about them getting a second opportunity at life in every conceivable way, in terms of their safety, education, and in terms of their family. That’s the great thing about adoption; it’s an opportunity to be claimed and loved by a mom and dad. That’s what it boils down to.”

The Family Swim takes place at the Cambridge-Isanti High School pool from 3 to 5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 11. Cost is $2 per person or $5 per family. For more information on the Children’s Shelter of Cebu or to get involved, visit www.cscshelter.org.

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