Andre Edgar



Ate Sharon and I went unannounced to Andre's home yesterday, the day after we took him and his mum on a successful initial visit to the doctors. 
We had set the wheels in motion for him to have the necessary EEG to monitor seizure activity and other tests to establish if it is cerebral palsy or some other similar condition.
It is clear that there will be an ongoing treatment plan needed and once we get over the initial tests they may be able to access some government subsidies for ongoing medication which is great news.
How they pay for that medication however is another story. While we could continue to provide money it makes more sense to me that we help them to get on their feet and find the ability to create an income themselves.

I wanted to speak with his dad and see what it is that really holds them back. To get a feel for what he would like to do if he was given the opportunity to work and what prevents him from applying for jobs now. I'm not into hand outs as I don't think it fixes things long term but I do absolutely see the value of a hand up.
They are one of the lucky families as they have a 'second home' not too far from the bridge and when we didn't find them at their usual spot we convinced one of the young guys to guide us to where their home was. We made our across the river and then up a small side street. Read: alleyway, lined with dogs whining, cats scavenging, roosters welcoming us with proud crows and children splashing in the water that runs off dirty washing buckets and goodness knows what else. 
As we turned into what appeared to be a small gap between two buildings, less than a metre wide, with washing hanging overhead I wondered what we would find at the end of the path. 

We were greeted at the doorway by Edgar, Andres young father. 
One day on and the smell of urine still lingers in my mind. Andre lay on the the concrete floor, loved and attended too the best they could but their scavenged daily income of less than NZ $3 doesn't allow for many nappies to be purchased. 
The dark concrete 3 x 3m room had a few cardboard boxes stacked in the corner next to Andres bed. 
He clearly had the best spot for bedtime as they had reserved him an old squab for sleeping on. 
There was a broken down couch and when we arrived our young guide scrambled quickly up to the 'loft' at Edgar's command to bring down some old plastic chairs. 
The loft took up almost two thirds of the floor area and was held up at the corner by a rotting wooden support post. It encroached significantly on the downstairs head space and being enclosed with plywood it was in fact the home of another entire family.

Wella, Andre's mum, was not at home and her sister, who also lives downstairs with them, was minding Andre and his little 3 year old brother Edward with dad Edgar. He is a young man yet I see the weight of the world in his eyes. 

He quickly donned a shirt and Ate Sharon began to talk. Her heart towards these people is so beautiful and she spoke in a way that began to soften his initial suspicion.
I spoke a little and she translated. Sharing my heart for being there I explained that in my family we understand the challenges of raising a child with special needs and having my nephew Marco has expanded our heart for others in similar situations. 
You see we understand the pain of sitting and watching as a little body you adore is wracked with seizures and it is my love for my sister, her family and their gorgeous son Marco that moves me closer to the situation with Andre and his family. So I asked Edgar what he would do if he had options and he said 'anything that will help maintain my family. Anything that will mean I can buy them food'. 

We got to the bottom of why he hadn't applied for jobs which in the end seems to come down to a misguided understanding he has about a run in with the police. He didn't think he could get a license or apply for anything that might require police clearance (which is most jobs here) as he had served five years in jail while a young teenager for stealing copper wire from the train lines and then selling it to buy necessities. He was born under the bridge and did less than one year of school so with no skills to read and understand things like clearance papers he has lived misguided for a long time. Yet for all of this he is one man we have noticed in the bridge community who is consistently working when we arrive. Hauling hoes up from the rivers edge where he has been tending his small crops that he attempts to sell, he sits of the edge of the gambling games and doesn't appear to indulge in some of the other common bridge vices. 

With those things discovered and without wanting to raise false hope we discussed that we would like to help him get his drivers license. He already knows how to drive and with a piece of paper to prove it there may be doors that could swing wide open. 
There are jobs available here in the Philippines and it would be beyond amazing to see him filling one of those spaces. And so we have begun, right back at basics, to help him get his birth certificate from the national office and then once we have that we move to the next stage. 
With even a student permit he can then begin applying for jobs and so we hope that we will be able to push the licensing process through before we leave.

So I found the day heartbreaking yet left with a sense of excitement at what may come of this first honest encounter with a man who's family life may be forever altered by a few simple acts of good Love.
There is a filipino word 'Punan'. It means 'if you see something, just act and make a change'. That is good Love.
This week I am in love with a little boy who has moved my heart to action and Punan rings in my ears, echo's in my soul and tingles in my fingers. Punan hand in hand with good Love. 

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