Children in Batang Pinangga live in different houses, play in a common playground, eat together in the common dining hall, and freely walk around the compound. Distances between these places are at a shouting distance.
“Heeelgaaa, come home quick.
Jooocheeen, let’s eat.
Eating time, play time, call time.
It has been like that since the children’s houses were named after the couple Helga and Dr. Jochen Range, from Germany, who came to help Batang Pinangga in its starting years. Both worked with Amnesty International, a human rights international organization, who then founded Aktion Wasserbueffel, e.V in order to support self-help projects initiated by the poor sectors in the Philippines, and particularly the sugarworkers in Negros Island in the 90s.
The engagement of Aktion Wasserbueffel has been ongoing until the present, from start-up projects in the past, to renovations of children’s houses, water supply, education, support for house parents, and support for the independent-living program at the BP Half-Way House.
When they come to visit, they bring books to the children, mountains of ice cream overflow, more sweetened with tight hugs, like parents coming home to their children.
When Helga passed away in September 2014, it was time to mourn.
When Jochen went to visit once more, without Helga this time, but with Kathi, their daughter in-law and the new Chairperson of Aktion Wasserbueffel, sadness was overflowing.
Yet there was Helga’s spirit, in the heart of her visiting family, in the books that came, and in the mountains of ice cream once again.
Helga’s name echoed when one child is not yet home.
Or Jochen’s name is called when a child is not on the dining table on time.
Over the years the names have turned more like children than a house name. It was Helga who keeps the surroundings clean or Jochen who loves to stay longer at the playground than sleep.
And so over the coming years it shall be this way.
*Dr. Jochen Range still works with Amnesty International. His wife Helga Range died on September 6, 2014. Aktion Wasserbueffel, e.V. is based in Juelich, Germany.
For info visit http://www.aktion-wasserbueffel.eu/