Project 35: I’m back for this!

Let’s keep things going. :)
by Najee Chua on August 13, 2019

Hello! Welcome back to {hello, happy heart ♥}!

I know, I know. 

I’m virtually a stranger — my last post was in 2015, afterall. Four years passed like lightning, but I come before you bearing good news (that I really want to share) with a special request (at the end of the post)! 

October 2018 – I began attending a weekly house church in an underserved community located in Mandaluyong City, largely because I wanted to ensure that my capstone thesis would be grounded on something solid, which means that it’s something I’d do regardless of academic pressure. Thank God – your girl passed her thesis February 2019 – and getting to hang out and learn from women leaders in a house church is still a weekly highlight for me. 

I’m honored by their presence and blessed by how they deepen and challenge my love, wonder, and commitment to God, just by sharing their perspectives and experiences. While I would love to share with you my personal learnings and reflections, I’d rather do that in person because I feel like it’s a conversation better suited offline. 

Let’s schedule a meeting, yes? You can also just ask to collaborate in prayer with me and I’ll keep you updated. Even better, accompany me and I’d love to introduce you to them. Several guests (including family members!) have accompanied me on Monday afternoons – and this makes me really happy. :) 

In the meantime, let me give you some context: I connected with a faith-based nonprofit called Bukang Liwayway (BL) that primarily provides educational support for underprivileged kids through scholarships, trainings, and discipleship. You should totes check them out, they’re awesome.

Naturally, parents are not completely detached from that sponsorship process so they become involved in BL, too. These are the mothers I spend my Monday afternoons with – moms of scholars – which means I am not in direct contact with the scholars themselves. It also means that I am not directly involved with the core activities of the nonprofit. The people I spend the most time with are the mothers (about 3-15 of them, depending on weekly attendance) and they open their homes, their lives, and their pockets because after every sambahay they insist on feeding their guests. I can’t speak for them, but I personally feel that I’m back in the Book of Acts. 

Despite the harsh inequalities they face daily (a BL leader once commented that their community is marked by chaos, and up until today I don’t think I can fully grasp the gravity of what she means), these mothers put up a valiant fight not just for survival but for faithful living. It’s remarkable and I wish I had the words to do them justice. 

One Monday, during thanksgiving time, some moms shared how grateful they were for the recently concluded BL family retreat, and how beautiful it was to see families praying together, sharing, and forgiving. After hearing good feedback from retreat participants, I inquired as to why the rest of the mothers weren’t there, or why some moms didn’t bring their whole families. I was told that these opportunities for spiritual refreshment and equipping are optional and that despite fees being subsidized by BL (camp fee thus amounts to P300/pax), some families still cannot afford to go, or cannot afford to bring every member of their family. 

“And even if some families wanted to go, by the time they finally have cash on hand, the logistics and administration would have already been finalized and closed.” 

This information dug into my ribs. The mothers started talking to each other about how they used to keep a collective fund where mothers-in-need can easily borrow money without exorbitant interests. I blinked at this, wondering what they meant. I’ve always just heard about the 5-6 lending system, but to have my mom-friends talk about it as an everyday reality made me wonder what other options they had. It was only then that it clicked: This is why I occasionally see men in turbans enter the community in little motorbikes! How blind can I be? 

I asked for more information about this collective fund, why was it discontinued, and would it be possible to bring back? After several more Mondays, and laying down and agreeing to basic ground rules, the mothers brought back their Sambahay Fund, to lend financial help without charging interest to any mother in our sambahay in case of emergencies. To date, we’ve raised more than P2,000 pesos over several Mondays, and some moms have already borrowed (and returned!) money. The Sambahay Fund also doubles as a savings fund, as mothers are allowed to “withdraw” the money under their account.

What else was there for me to do, right? I didn’t think it wise to give a large sum of money for this fund – and at that time, I also didn’t have a job and subsisted on the allowance my local church provides me for support. So, I did what any self-respecting follower of Jesus does, I turned to His power made alive through His (imperfect, but beautiful) bride. 

I sent out a prayer letter introducing Project 35*, a fundraising campaign that aids and supports these faithful and hard-working mothers. This fund was initially allotted for (1) spiritual equipping – such as family retreats; and (2) medical emergencies. Long story short, we achieved the financial goal of P35,000 (AND MORE) before the campaign deadline last August 5, 2019! Praise God with me! THANK YOU FRIENDS + FAMILY WHO DONATED — YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE! HUHU. HUHU. 

But wait, there’s more – excess funds will be allocated as seed money specifically for future income-generating activities, because we do want to address the mothers’ desires to have self-sustaining projects for themselves and their families. This is exciting stuff for me, because I initially entered this community with my own agenda for a project. These days, though, I’m learning to listen better, and adjust to the volatile circumstances the mothers find themselves in, while encouraging their assets and respecting their leadership.

When people find out that I visit a community in Mandaluyong with underprivileged women, they immediately assume that I am the one “leading” them. While understandable, it’s also quite telling, no? Because I am from a different socio-economic background, a different educational background, I must be the one leading, right? Look, my friends, I understand. All our lives, this is the economic, social, and cultural climate we grew up in. The haves are always the givers, and the have-nots are always the receivers. To a certain degree, this is realistic, but we must also face the reality that we are prone to undermining those we consider impoverished. I’m still learning, so we’re in the same boat. I’m trying to learn more; I’m trying to learn better.

But here’s something to start: The gospel tears down the walls that threaten to keep us apart, more than it builds up the walls that promise to keep us safe. (And we discover, we are truly more alike than we are different.)

SO WHAT’S THE REQUEST, YOU SAY?
THANKS FOR ASKING BWAHAHA! :D

Would you kindly consider contributing to Project 35? 

  • PRAISE + PLEAD
    • Thank God for His unwavering faithfulness and ask for His will to be done in the lives of the moms! 
    • Plead for the Holy Spirit’s stirring to lead the church into spaces of urban and rural poverty. 
  • PLEDGE
    • Comment on this post. I’ll revert back to you via email personally and furnish you with more information on how to tell the mothers that they’re not alone.
  • PURCHASE
    • Amanecer Naturals partnered with us to fundraise for Project 35! YAY! 

Head on over to their page HERE and purchase their PROJECT 35 soap. 100% of profits go to the moms!

  • PROMOTE
    • Share this page with friends who might be interested :D
    • Share Amanecer Naturals and COMPEL your friends to purchase the Project 35 soap bars! :)) GO!


Here’s to making more hearts happy, and even more so, here’s to always (always) fighting for joy. <3

Thank you so much, 

Najee


* Project 35 because the mothers live in Block 35. I’ve pledged a little more than P3,000 for Project 35 myself, won’t you join me? :)


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