The Philippines is a country with staggering levels of poverty and regional instability, which has led to widespread homelessness, hunger, and violence. These factors can create dangerous living conditions for Filipino children who face abuse, neglect, and abandonment as a result of the instability.
Many children turn to lives of crime or are sold into slavery by their own families. Today, the Sunflower Center is working to provide a refuge for abused children in the Philippines and offer healing services that put them on the path to a bright future. Here is a brief history of how we got started and what led us to our mission.
Healing the Wounds of a Traumatic Childhood
The foundations for the Sunflower Center were established by Fr. Geraldo Costa, CICM in 1999 while he was staying at the Senden Home Residential Center near Manila. While assisting with psychotherapeutic care for the children in the center, Fr. Costa observed that most of the children carried deep wounds that hindered them from reaching their full potential. Taking a deep interest in understanding the source of these wounds, Fr. Costa traveled to other shelters and care centers around Manila to learn more about this disturbing trend.
Through his visits and interviews with staff, Fr. Costa was able to conclude that the wounds of these children stemmed from two main problems: the need to overcome past traumatic experiences and the need for the children to recover their personal development, which had been compromised by the hardships they encountered in their young lives. A year later, in 2000, Fr. Costa presented the results of his findings to his Provincial Superior and approval was granted for a new initiative to provide shelter and psychotherapeutic counseling services to the children of the Philippines.
The Growth of the Sunflower Center
In the twenty years since Fr. Costa’s project began, the Sunflower Center has grown into a network of ministries that serve as a beacon of hope and recovery for the abused and neglected children of the Philippines. Here is look at the growth and progress of the Sunflower Center over the last twenty years:
2000: The initial idea for the Sunflower Center began to take shape when Fr. Geraldo Costa’s project proposal was approved and he began laying the foundation for a place of childhood healing and advocacy in the Metro Manila area of the Philippines.
2001/2002: Weekly therapy sessions started taking place and a small therapeutic playroom was added to the Home Sweet Home facility, part of Saint Louis University in Baguio City. When the academic year began, senior students from the Department of Psychology started volunteering and began actively promoting children’s rights on the SLU campus.
2003: Fr. Paul Van Parijs, CICM, then SLU President, offered Fr. Costa the opportunity to establish a center for psychological diagnosis and treatment for children on the SLU campus in Baguio City. On March 18, 2003, the Child and Youth Wellness Center (CYWC) of Saint Louis University was officially inaugurated.
2003/2004: By the 2003-2004 school year, two courses related to the clinical approach in handling children’s cases were offered in the graduate psychology program at SLU, and the students received hands-on experience by holding therapeutic sessions in the CYWC.
2011: On April 15, 2011, the ministry grew, and the Sunflower on the Hill facility was inaugurated in Bukal ng Tipan, Maryhill, Taytay, Rizal. The staff and volunteers brought their skills, creativeness, and willingness to assist children and families — making this effort very fruitful.
On April 28, 2011, the Sunflower Centennial Halfway Home for Boys was officially inaugurated. The Halfway Home provides shelter and services for boys who have experienced abuse, abandonment, and neglect.
2017: On November 24, 2017, free psychological consultations were conducted by the Sunflower Center Clinic in celebration of Children’s Month. There were 84 referrals accommodated during the one-day event.
2017/2018: The network of ministry services, which have now become more widely known as the Sunflower Center, continued to grow and during the 2017-2018 school year 352 clients were served, including 276 children, 55 adults, and 21 consultations conducted with parents, caregivers, or other individual clients regarding their personal issues or concerns.
2019: In 2019, the Sunflower Center ministry helped 265 children find healing from the trauma of physical and sexual abuse, and the vision for Fr. Costa’s project keeps growing.
Continuing the Work of Healing from Trauma
We are dedicated to providing physical and psychological assistance to the children of the Philippines. As the Sunflower Center continues to grow, we envision adding more services and locations to best help children and their families. Our staff and volunteers are committed advocates for child welfare and offer physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional support and healing in a warm, loving, and playful environment. Regardless of ability to pay, we make sure all children are safe and cared for. Our goal is to give every child a fair shot at life.
In order to continue growing and serving the communities of the Philippines, we need your support. Right now, we are on a mission to save 100 children from sexual and physical trauma. When you sponsor a child through a donation to the Sunflower Center, your gift goes directly to providing healing services to children in the Philippines.
With your help, we can continue to promote our mission to extend the healing hand of mercy to those who are most vulnerable and bring an end to this suffering in the Philippines.