When Brisbane couple Maureen and Paul Toohey decided to spend two weeks of their holidays, including Christmas, with the Good Samaritan Sisters in the Philippines, they were amazed by the generous response of family, friends and colleagues.
“When people found out we were going, many kind donations came in,” said Maureen.
Among those supporters was the couple’s daughter, Louise and her fiancé, who invited their friends to make a donation to the sisters’ work in Bacolod instead of giving engagement party gifts.
Maureen said these donations made a huge difference to the many families the sisters support, especially the children from the local squatter settlements on the outskirts of Bacolod.
“These donations paid for over 200 gifts and meals for the children for Christmas,” she explained.
During their two weeks in Bacolod (December 14 to 29), Maureen and Paul helped out at the newly-established Good Samaritan Outreach Centre and the Good Samaritan Kinder School. They visited the squatter settlements of Boulevard and Mambuloc, and the jail where Sister Anne Dixon ministers. (Maureen and Anne are sisters, so the visit to Bacolod was also an opportunity for them to reconnect.)
“We were totally amazed by the work [the sisters] do!” said Maureen.
One initiative that the couple became very involved in during their stay was “Cupcake for a Cause”, an income generation project which grew out of one of the first programs run at the Good Samaritan Outreach Centre.
“Every Wednesday morning Sister Grace [Marcelo] has been teaching a group of women how to bake cakes. It has been a huge success, with the women now able to read and follow recipes, use an oven, mix ingredients and decorate cakes,” explained Sister Anne Dixon.
“With Christmas close by, Grace came up with the idea of holding ‘Cupcake for a Cause’ – the idea being to bake 1,000 cupcakes and to sell them. The money made would be split between the women.”
Anne said the event was a “huge success” with 1,466 cakes baked and sold. “And of course the community participation was wonderful,” she added.
It’s now hoped “Cupcake for a Cause” will become an annual event.
For Maureen and Paul, both secondary teachers at Catholic schools in Brisbane, their Philippine experience was “humbling” and “a good reality check”.
“The Filipino people are very poor, but incredibly happy and kind,” said Maureen.
So positive was her experience, Maureen would “love” to return to Bacolod sometime in the near future.
“My youngest daughter would like to go, so we might do it together,” she said.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Samaritan Sisters’ foundation in Bacolod. If you would like to support the work of the sisters in Bacolod, contact the Sisters of the Good Samaritan Foundation.