Manila, Philippines – On Saturday, September 8, 2018, leadership from the Church of the Nazarene Philippines-Micronesia Field dedicated and launched the Shechem Children’s Home. The Shechem Children’s Home represents the first assessment center in the Philippines for victims of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC). After a time of worship, the partner organizations and Shechem staff were introduced. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed to formalize the partnership between the following organizations. The Philippines Church of the Nazarene and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries will own and administrate the home. The International Justice Mission will provide all legal counsel and protection for the children and the home, along with Trauma Informed Care training for the staff. And, the Philippines Children’s Ministries Network will provide a community social worker and additional resources for the home.
The Shechem Children’s Home fills a vital gap in the process of rescuing victims of OSEC. With a staff composed of a social worker, a psychologist, a counselor, a medical doctor, and nurses, critical care can be provided to survivors while professionals assess how best to aid in the survivors’ recovery and reintegration into safe settings. Philippines-Micronesia Field Strategy Coordinator Stephen Gualberto said, “The comprehensive assessments to the child and his or her family is critical in determining the permanency plan for the child, be it reunification with relatives or reintegration through another avenue such as adoption, foster care, or independent living.
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Field NCM Coordinator Leody Echavez shared about the challenges of sexual exploitation in the Philippines. “We often think of sex trafficking as adults filming videos for other adults, but this problem has taken on a new face. Now parents and relatives sell sexual videos of their own children, sometimes under a year old. Over 80% of the time it involves a direct relative.” He went on to add, “The Philippines is particularly vulnerable to OSEC, not only because of poverty levels, but also because most children speak English, and can, therefore, take instructions from predators.”
“There’s a continuum of care for victims of online sexual exploitation,” said Atty. Reynaldo Bicol Jr., Manila Field Office Director for the International Justice Mission. “The recourse now is to rescue a child and immediately bring them to a shelter, regardless of the situation. With the assessment center, our hope is that [Shechem] will serve as a model on how to properly care for children who are being rescued.”
The board and staff of Shechem ask for continued prayer as they seek physical needs for their ministry, and as they seek financial partners who are willing to participate in this valuable ministry.