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A haven for kids

A haven for kids
By Carla Gomez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:14:00 02/28/2009

BACOLOD CITY - Her cousin had molested her, her mother was a drug addict and her father did not want to have anything to do with her.

Her older sister, the one person she loved, was taken by her mother to work in Manila.

Group tries to keep kids’ shelter open

Group tries to keep kids’ shelter open
By Carla P. Gomez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted: Friday, September 16th, 2011

BACOLOD CITY—Volunteer keepers of a shelter for abandoned and abused children in Bago City in Negros Occidental are scrimping after American donors in the United States pulled back when an economic recession struck the country in 2009.


A bigger refuge for abused children


Abused children now have a bigger home in Bacolod City, where they can seek refuge and hide from their abusers.
The Haven House’s two-story Kalipay Home has three big rooms with bathrooms that can accommodate at least 40 children, said Kalipay Negrense Foundation Inc. (KNFI) president Anna Balcells.

It also has a library-classroom for children who cannot go to school, a timeout room for those suffering from trauma who become violent, a kitchen, a living room, an office for social workers, a clinic and two rooms for volunteers who help take care of the children.

A wall has also been built around the property to keep the children safe.


“The new Haven is a gift to the disadvantaged and abused children of Negros Occidental and Bacolod,” Balcells said.


Hefty donation

The “gift” actually came from a Manila-based philanthropist, a friend of Balcells’, who decided to give a hefty donation upon hearing that the children’s old home at Fuentebella Subdivision in Bacolod had become run down and was being eaten by termites.

The old facility was purchased in 2007 with the help of another friend of Balcells’, Elizabeth Sy, a daughter of taipan Henry Sy of the SM Group of Companies. The property was also bought with Sy’s donation.
The Haven House was originally located in a rented house in Bacolod in early 2000. It was run by American social worker Philip Seckler, 75, and his wife, Cecilia Garcia, a native of Negros Occidental, using their pension from the United States.


Permanent home

But the Seckler couple were running out of money and food for the children.

Balcells then decided to gather her friends and put up the KNFI to help the Secklers buy a permanent home for the children they were caring for. A two-story wooden house was bought in Fuentebella Subdivision.

Kalipay was created to accept donations that were coming in for the Haven, Balcells said. It took over the management of Haven House last year as the Secklers were set to retire this month.

Another facility, the Recovered Treasures’ Kalipay Home, was set up n Bago City, also in Negros Occidental. Both Haven and Recovered Treasures are run by full-time house parents and staff.

When Kalipay started helping Haven in 2007, there were only 18 children. Now, it had grown to 30. The building can no longer accommodate that number and had been deteriorating and infested by termites.

In March last year, Balcells said she was talking to a friend, Miguel Bonet, Kalipay’s ambassador to Spain, about the need to raise funds to build a new house for Haven. Their conversation was overheard by her philanthropist friend.
“The next day, she (philanthropist) came to me and said ‘I want you to build that house.’ And I said: ‘But how, I don’t have the money,’” Balcells said.

Her philanthropist friend, who didn’t want to be identified, told Balcells that she would give money to build a bigger facility. The old house was then torn down to give way to a bigger and better home.

While the facility was being constructed, the children stayed in a rented house on Lizares Avenue. They will move in to their new home on April 1.


Children in need

“We want to put notices out that if a child is being beaten up and hurt, we can take them in at Haven,” Balcells said. A room separate from the main house will be used by social workers to assess and care for children needing help.

“This new house is well thought out with the intention of being a refuge. We hear a lot of stories of children who are abused and don’t know where to run to hide and seek help. We want to be that place for them,” Balcells said.

At the same time, she is asking financial help so the KNFI can sustain at least the monthly needs of the home that cost about P150,000, which covers food, medicine, clothing and the education of the children.

Those interested in helping Kalipay may call 0917-7002345 or 709-1215, or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


By Carla P. Gomez
Inquirer Visayas

The cross wrought by man; the Cross brought by God

I WAS listening to the homily of Fr. Chao and he focused on the crosses that come into our lives. The first one, the cross wrought by man, is easy to relate with. In life, man brings upon man many crosses. The cross of betrayal, denial, false witness, lies, physical hurt, abusive language and many other persecutions.

However, when he mentioned the cross brought upon us by God, I had to stop, think and reflect. Does God in all His almighty compassion and mercy consciously bestow upon us crosses to bear? We know of His graces and blessings, but crosses?

I had a classic answer to my questioning mind when I attended the blessing of the new home of Haven in Taculing.

The story of Haven started when Phil Seckler, a retired social worker, together with his wife Cecilia, likewise a social worker, decided to come home to the Philippines. With Phil’s monthly pension, they could live comfortably but God had other plans.

A severely sickly child was brought into their home. The Secklers took care of the child and gave him the much needed medical attention, not realizing that a new vocation was activated in their lives. Phil and Cecilia began rescuing children - the malnourished, the abused, the battered, the abandoned. Children who in their tender years have suffered crosses wrought on by their fellowmen and saddest part of the tale is that it is usually by one’s own kin!

It is horrifying to learn that children as young as three years old are raped or sold to prostitution by their own family members. It is appalling to see children beaten, banged like worthless pieces of wood. But such are the crosses wrought by man. So inhumane!

As the numbers grew, Haven Home was born and Phil and Cecilia became Mom and Dad to these broken children. There were mounting problems but the couple hanged on to their mission until, one day, they were to be evicted.

Haven was now home to 30 children. Although God allows crosses to step into our lives, He always sends His instruments. Entering into their lives was Anna Balcells.

Anna was a returning resident who lived in Barcelona, Spain for countless years. Anna’s father Alberto Balcells was sick and she decided to come home and take care of him. When he passed on, Anna likewise decided to stay on and take care of her mom.

Anna’s friend, Elaine Eleazar, who was aware of the plight of Phil and Cecilia, brought Anna to Haven. This was in the dead of night and the house was dark but the place reverberated with children’s laughter. That was enough to move Anna to a commitment.

A phone call to a generous friend and a new home was bought for the Secklers and the children. This move also ushered in the establishment of Kalipay Negrense Foundation, Inc.

To date, there are now five homes under the care of Kalipay and Anna has not only exhausted her energies in finding funding for these abused and abandoned children which now totals 300 here in the Philippines but she has also extended her efforts to distant shores . As of last year, Kalipay, Spain Foundation, Inc. was organized as well.

A year or so ago, Anna called me asking for a property where they can build a bigger home for the children of Haven. After much deliberation and discernment, the Board decided to tear down the original house and build a bigger one.

Where to get the funds was another cross but Anna was unwavering. She knew that God will provide that. Indeed, help came. Vladi Gonzales with his team of men came and wiped out the dilapidated home. Norman Campos, the architect husband of Gigi who is one of the directors of Kalipay, designed the new home which is complete with living quarters for toddlers, girls and boys and for the staff. There were bathrooms adjacent to these rooms. There is an office, a library, a clinic, kitchen and classrooms plus all the facilities needed for the care, health and nutrition of the children.

While God sent a cross, He also sent a blessing. Anna was able to find a benefactor for the New Haven Home. It is equipped to take care of these children who have suffered the atrocities brought on by man. There is a pediatrician who has tirelessly given his services to monitor the health of the kids.

What is wanting, though, is a child psychologist who can treat the traumas experienced by these kids. Anna says that, despite all the love and attention bestowed upon these children, there are cases when the grown child succumbs to depression and total lack of self worth.

When cases like this surface, then they have to send the child to Manila to be supervised by a child psychologist there. If only we have one here in Bacolod, then it can cut the mounting obligations on top of the daily needs, food, clothing, education and all the basic necessities that come with the rearing of children.

Anna says that the new Haven is a refuge for children who want to be rescued from the harsh punishments they are subjected to and a place to run to for help. Kalipay works directly with the DSSW and they have social workers in their team to assess the situation of the children.

The cross wrought by man is so evident when you hear the stories of these children. I cower in shame when I compare my personal woes to them. The cross wrought by God is the responsibility handed on to Anna and her team and the noble persons like Phil and Cecilia. I stand in awe how they have embraced this most trying cross. It is not easy to meet even just our own daily obligations, more so for 300 or more children who are bruised and wounded inside and out!

While we all cannot donate an edifice, our donations no matter how small or seemingly insignificant can buy a pencil for the school needs of the children or some soap for their hygiene.

Collectively the small donations can amount to much, especially when given from the heart and most meritorious in heaven. In our small, secret way, let us help Anna and Kalipay and bear part of the cross, especially in this season of Lent.

By Luci Lizares

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 17, 2012.

Abused Children Can Escape, ‘Kalipay’ is their Refuge


It was with tears that Anna Balcells acknowledged how retired social workers Philip Seckler and wife Cecilia had changed her outlooks in life and vowed to pursue a "thankless" job of providing concrete facilities for children who are homeless, sexually and physically abused, the out of school youth and special children.

Last March 7, 2012, Father Narciso de la Cruz prayed and blest the "Haven House Kalipay Home" at 12 Neptune Street, Fuentebella Subdivision where twenty five young children initially raised by the Seckler couple smiled as they sang and danced to a small group gathering.

Anna Balcells said, "Behind those smiles, you should hear the horrible stories of these children individually."

The crimes committed are known to those working for them under the Kalipay Negrense Foundation, Inc., but being very young, some of them cannot define their inner pain and suicide can be an option. These cases, she said, has to be brought to Manila for proper therapy and treatment but which is very expensive.

Running a haven for broken children, therefore, Anna Balcells articulated a very strong message to fellow Negrenses during the blessing of the "Haven House", that they need all the help "in whatever way, in whatever amount" as this gargantuan task of saving children is awesome.

She does not have access to funding agencies so drawing money from her pocket, calls her group of committed friends and the mission is "to save a 5-year old kid gangraped at midnight in one of the streets of Bacolod".

"Miracles and miracles" is how Anna Balcells and friends described the establishment of Kalipay Negrense Foundation, Inc. back in 2007 and two days ago, in a private property, a haven was built that can comfortably accommodate 40 children.

An apt response to what the Kalipay website reads, "Of the 1.6 million street children in the Philippines, 60,000 are prostituted. Six million Filipino children are malnourished. Roughly 28 children get arrested everyday or more than one child for every hour."


Contact Kalipay Negrense Foundation , Inc., 63 34 7091215; 63 34 4953500 and Mobile 93917 700 2345 for your donations.*

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