As part of our ramping up towards Humanitarian Forum and Fair 2019 on 1st June 2019, we continue our series of conversations with our inspiring speakers. We spoke with Fr. Matthieu Dauchez, Executive Director of ANAK-Tnk, who will be one of the speakers at this year's forum.
Fr. Matthieu Dauchez is currently serving as the Executive Director of ANAK-Tnk, an organisation that strives to improve the lives of slum children in Manila. He will be sharing about how he has built a support structure for the children by mobilising a global network of well-wishers and how he sees Christ in his encounters with the children.
We asked him some questions about his experiences and thoughts regarding his journey - if you would like to hear more from Fr. Matthieu, come down for HFF 2019! For more information, please go to www.charis-singapore.org/hff2019 !
Fr. Matthieu with a child along the streets of Manila.
Q1. What motivates you to reach out and work with the street children and children at the margins?
This is difficult to answer as I was obviously guided by Divine Providence. I went to the Philippines as a seminarian with two companions. We were called, at that time, to help a Jesuit priest start a foundation for less fortunate children. Initially, we were sent there for two years but very soon I realised that the underlying problem was not the lack of material things - of food, clothes, or even about having a bright future - but it was a matter of love. I realised, then, that it could not only be for two years but it has to be for life. This is why I decided to stay and serve the poorest of the poor. It’s like a call within the call.
Q2. Have you witnessed acts that have angered/ shaken you?
The deepest wound in the heart of these children is, without a doubt, the sexual abuse. When a child is used as an object of sexual pleasure by deviant and perverse adults, he would have lost any kind of trust in people. Moreover, he sees himself as not worthy of living, and not worthy of love. We are then facing destroyed hearts, which is alarming.
We once organised a police operation to entrap a paedophile who abused so many victims. The police caught him flagrante delicto with a minor in a hotel, but this abuser, through corruption, was eventually released and disappeared. At that time, I was very discouraged that he was not brought to justice.
Q3. What is the greatest challenge, as well as the greatest reward in working with these children?
The greatest challenge is to lead these rejected and abused children to forgiveness, which is in fact impossible for men, but everything is possible for God. Thus, our mission is more to prepare them in order for the Lord to heal the wounds of their hearts.
The greatest reward is to see former children of the foundation, who become parents themselves, showing such great and beautiful love to their own children.
Q4. ANAK TnK celebrated its 20th-anniversary last year. How do you see the work of the foundation evolving in the next 20 years?
The foundation should not even exist in the first place. Its mere existence shows that there are needs that are not met. So, ironically we should hope and pray that the foundation will disappear, as this means that there is no longer a need for shelters for street children. Unfortunately I believe that the work of the foundation will continue in the years to come.
What we have seen in the past years is that we have to widen our scope of actions to address the needs of the girls, the youngest children, as well as the elderly. I see the future of the foundation as still expanding, so long as we get the support we need, and the help of Divine Providence.
To hear more from Fr. Matthieu and other inspiring speakers, register at www.charis-singapore.org/hff2019 !