Ethnic Badjao children dive for coins to feed families

Ethnic Badjao children dive for coins to feed families

2010-05-24 14:54:02
Children from families who fled the war in the southern Philippines are being forced to dive in seas around Palawan Island for coins thrown by tourists to make up for what they say is a lack of government aid. “We use the money to buy rice,” six-year-old Recca Paajan told UCA News as she and her friends steered their paddle boat toward a ship loaded with tourists at Puerto Princesa in Palawan province. Recca’s mother, Alfea, 32, said the ethnic Badjao children collect around 70 pesos ($1.55) per dive. Passengers throw coins into the water and cheer the children on as they dive after them. Alfea said the money is vital since the income from her fisherman husband is not enough to buy food for the whole family. “We don’t get any help from the government,” Alfea told UCA News. To get even more money, she lets her two other young children help dive for coins.
Recca said she has been diving for a year and finds it “fun”. However, Church workers have expressed concern for the safety of the children who dive without goggles and are exposed to the burning sun almost all day. Father Camilo Caabay, coordinator for Puerto Princesa vicariate’s Pondo ng Pinoy (Fund for Filipinos) social development fund, said the divers and other Badjao children form part of the Church’s feeding program. He told UCA News volunteers for the vicariate’s three-month feeding programs go to coastal villages to distribute meals and teach parents about nutrition and food preparation. He said about 500 families have benefited since the program’s launch in 2006, but refugees continue to arrive. The Badjao people in Puerto Princesa are mostly from Zamboanga City on Mindanao, who arrived in boats after fleeing fighting in the south between government troops and various armed rebel groups. PL09787/1603 May 24, 2010 29 EM-lines (304 words) Church Lenten program helps feed malnourished kids Underground River Park Evokes Awe Over ´Spectacular Creation´ Church Personnel Share How To Better Manage Church Finances Organic Foods Help Provide Livelihood And Nurture Christian Living
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