HOPE

HOPE – by Alexander von Wiedenbeck

 

Hope dies last – so they say. But is that really the case? Can there be hope, when children live in cemeteries and have to spend the night in graves? Can there be hope, when young girls, barely eight years old, are molested by their uncle or grandfather? Can there be hope, when children search from dawn to dusk in rubbish dumps for usable materials, so that if they are lucky they will get a meal at the end of the day? Can there be hope, when a girl forced into prostitution already has two abortions behind her?

The answer – a clear YES – is faith, hope and love, which impel the children. Hope for a better life and the pursuit of happiness drive them and give them their strength. In the midst of all the chaos, poverty and dark shadows, it is this hope and this unswerving faith, which one can see in the children’s eyes and feel in their hearts. They keep on going, they struggle, they never give up, and we shouldn’t either.

 

A foreword by Gisela Wirtgen

 

Visiting our Filipino aid projects together with the photographer Alexander von Wiedenbeck was a bit like going on a journey back to when our “Aktionsgruppe Kinder in Not e.V.” first started. I remember our first few evenings in Cebu City really well. We had spent the whole day out and about at the city’s rubbish dumps and cemeteries, had seen the suffering and misery of the children living there, were confronted with the inhumanity and injustice of their existence. That evening Alexander asked me whether there was anything that could be done to help. I had asked myself that very same question 34 years ago too.

When I received a petition from a Filipino Father at the start of the 1980s I had no idea that this cry for help would change my whole life. Back then, I travelled to the island of Cebu to get an impression of the situation there for myself. The image of a little baby disfigured by rat bites in a run down Nipa hut burnt indelibly into my memory. What started back then in Germany as an initially small, private aid initiative has grown over the years into a large organization.

The trip with Alexander ended in the small provincial community of Alegria where my work began back then. I saw Alexander’s eyes light up when we were welcomed by more than 800 school children beaming with delight at our St. Peter Academy; when mothers and their children who had been helped at our hospital greeted us gratefully; when the farmers proudly presented their agricultural products to us; when the families flocked together at our health centers and preschools in the mountain regions. I think it was at this point, if not before, when Alexander became aware of everything that can be achieved here with donations.

The photos that he took during our trip together very impressively highlight how much there is still to do though. They show children searching for anything edible among the rubbish dumps full of hospital and hotel waste. Children playing barefoot among shards of glass and pieces of metal. Mausoleums that have become the very last refuge for entire families. Boys and girls sleeping on bare gravestones. Alexander was there in the midst of them with his camera. Besides the horrific reality, he also captured the hope in the boys and girls’ eyes though. My personal favorite is a photo of a group of children posing full of fighting spirit and strength. Each one of them is a little character. The photo shows their strength, determination and confidence and motivates us to continue focusing our commitment on supporting children and young people in future too.

I would like to sincerely thank Alexander for giving the people living in the shadows of existence a face with his impressive photos.

 

Gisela Wirtgen
Founder of the Aktionsgruppe Kinder in Not e.V.