Florida Senis Rafer is the program officer at Caritas Australia’s partner organisation the Socio-Pastoral Action Centre Foundation Inc (SPACFI) based in Camarines Norte, The Philippines.
To launch Project Compassion, Caritas’s annual Lenten fundraising appeal, Mrs Rafer spoke to Year 8 students about the work SPACFI and Caritas Australia deliver in The Philippines.
She shared the story of Shirley, a Manide woman and mother of four who like many indigenous has faced poverty, discrimination and exclusion.
“When Shirley gets the bus, she has been told by non-indigenous people, ‘Don’t sit beside me, go and sit on the roof’,” Mrs Rafer told the students. Thanks to Caritas Australia’s supporters, Shirley has been empowered to fight this discrimination, and was able to secure training as a health worker and assume a leading role in her community helping to pave the way for a better future.
Indigenous people in The Philippines often face discrimination. Caritas has been working with indigenous communities to empower them to read, which gives them freedom to be able to register and vote in elections.
Many older indigenous people can’t read, meaning they are not able to understand signs to get them safely to evacuation sites when typhoons hit The Philippines. A simple solution Caritas has helped with has been creating coloured arrows that direct those who cannot read to the nearest evacuation site.
For more than two decades, Philippines-based international aid and development expert Mrs Rafer has served on the frontlines of the battle to end poverty, advocating for, and assisting some of the world’s most marginalised people.
“I find much fulfilment in my role walking alongside a community in great need, assisting them in positive ways to be agents of their own development,” Mrs Rafer said.
San Clemente supports Caritas’s fundraising efforts in a big way each year during Project Compassion. The school runs the event Globally Called, which allows Year 8 students to research different countries and discover the huge difference Caritas is making in communities. The conclusion of the project is a day where the Year 8 students become ambassadors for Caritas, sharing what they have learnt and raising money.
Teacher Leticia Wakely was excited to have Mrs Rafer at the school to speak to the students and launch Globally Called. “This is the sixth year we’ve done Globally Called and this is the first year we’ve had someone from one of our countries of focus with us,” Ms Wakely said.
“Last year, we set up stalls at the school, but Globally Called was never meant to be at school. We want to take it to the streets,” she said. “We want to educate people that are not part of our community and introduce them to what a Catholic non-government organisation does.”
The date and location for the Globally Called public event will be announced soon.