Last February 9, 2013, in accordance with the government decree under Proclamation No. 731. Series of 1996, Tugon, a student organization of Ateneo de Manila University that responds to the plight of abandoned and abused children, held the culminating event of the National Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Week. For the past years, Tugon, together with ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking,) has been taking part of this nationwide celebration through organizing this Saturday event that lets the children have fun and join many learning activities together with the Ateneo community. This year, aside from organizing a day at the UP Amphitheatre where the kids can experience the kind of childhood that was taken away from them, Tugon also gave emphasis on a week-long awareness campaign prior to the culminating Saturday to inform and empower people to help the survivors of abuse and potential victims. As a response to this plea, many have applied to become volunteers during this event, especially as facilitators of the 300 participants aged 3 to 17.
As facilitators, we were the ones who were directly involved with the children and took care of them for the duration of the activity. We helped the groups of kids to move from booth to booth (arts and crafts, Mad Science tricks, dancing, ice cream making, balloon animals, and the advocacy booths), covered and led them to the shade when it started to rain, fanned them when it was extremely hot, and fed them when they were hungry. During this period, we felt that it was exhausting and stressful because they were all wild and hyper, especially when they slid from the inflatable slides. At the same time, especially at the end of the day, it was really inspiring to see their enthusiasm despite their history, and it was fulfilling that we were part of making these kids joyfully have fun. Albeit their shyness and reservation at first, we were able to create an everlasting memory of childhood happiness together with these children. Upon accepting and forming a connection with us, it was actually a shock to realize that they have this hovering feeling of temporality, and they are hungrier for the assurance of security and permanence than for care and safety. They need to know that our interaction with them is not merely because of a grade or self-service, but that we sincerely are there for them and will be willing to commit to that – as though they are scared that they will be left alone again.
Through the participation in this activity, more in-depth interaction and a real intimate bond was formed between some of the children and us. Mere observation cannot give us the insight that these young children share to people familiar to them, the feelings of empathizing with their situations, and the amazement on seeing how they can have and show so many different emotions throughout the activity. Only through building close connection and intense involvement with the children can we realize that these kids are not merely kids; their exposure to things and experiences that most kids their age do not often happen, makes these kids special – they are tougher than the average children. Being used to be the one reaching out, social workers have this tendency to underestimate the capability of their recipients. On the case of these children, we realized that regardless of their security issues, most of them actually see themselves as less miserable than how we perceive them to be. They have the better capacity to accept less fortunate happenings in life, because they are accustomed to it. We, being on the other side (the “better” side),may consider their situation as something unbearable while they who have gone through it are more optimistic and hopeful about their future. During the activities we have gone through together for the event, we realize that most of them do not think of their past as an obstruction; instead, they make a new start and pursue the future that they are still capable of dreaming and obtaining, and that we help (or will help) them achieve here on.
Furthermore, for some reason, these kids are really talented. Upon learning of their academic achievements and personally seeing their performance skills in acting, dancing and singing during their intermission pieces, it made us realize that given the chance, these children can really make their own bright future even with their own little hands alone. Also, during opening prayer of the event, the kids can be seen praying sincerely. These children find peace in trusting God – a truth that is unchanging and timeless, – they gain a sense of hope and comfort in the religion. The divine support they found in God, provided them a sense of eternal belongingness that is triumphant over the mortal experience of betrayal. Often being the ones reached out for, they are able to see the better side of humanity through the charity events and divine inspiration.
Because of having a key informant who we were able to direct many questions to, we were able to reach these realizations and insights. Having someone to ask to about these children and the nature of the activity greatly helped in our understanding of the meaning and significance of the whole event and its advocacy. Although being involved in the activity was fruitful and fulfilling, in order to fully appreciate it we have to also grasp the essence of the NCSAAW. Since it involves abandoned and abused or potentially abused victims, their situations are a sensitive matter that requires restrictions on the release of information. Having an authorized person to help us give meaning to our observations greatly deepened our understanding on the subject.
In the same manner, conducting a survey or an interview cannot be compared to the benefit of being involved or participating in the event itself. Since participant observation is more direct and more involving, it gives researchers the opportunity to really experience what they are observing and learn not just the sensuality of the event but also, and more importantly, we live the emotions and spirit of the event by rigorously participating in it.Though surveys gather a larger amount of data, it will not be able to record accurately the immediate feelings and emotions one experiences. By providing a limited set of questions and answers, one also limits the creative integration of different emotions one encounters during an experience. Also, in surveys, researchers can never be sure when the participants give accurate and real answers, or when they are just answering superficially.
On the other hand, a questionnaire is ideal if the gathering of data is on a big scale level. If there needs to be a big sample of respondents for the study, and also if statistics will be necessary, it is better to distribute surveys to groups of people to obtain varied answers in a simpler and faster way. On the other hand, interviews are conducted in a smaller scale than questionnaire; but here, the advantage is the elaboration of the respondent’s answers to the question with the focus on their answers alone with their words and gestures. If it is only answers that are needed, the two ways will give more definite and concrete answers rather than the participant observation, which includes abstract detailing of the experience of the subject.
Reyes, Abigail 114598 SA21 – Y
Tan, Aimee Vilma P. 113827 SA21 – Y