PALO, Leyte- Renaldo Dionaldo, 65, says he is finally home now after years of spending his life literally in the dark, away from others and God.
Shunned by his own siblings and neglected by the community, Dionaldo is one of the 23 poor and sick elderly now living at the Pope Francis Center for the Poor, this town.
“I was blind for years due to cataract. The center helped me in my eye operation. Not only that, they also give me a new family, a bigger one,” Dionaldo, an unmarried elderly from Jaro town, says in vernacular.
“I was blind and living alone in a makeshift shelter. It was a hopeless situation. Coming here in the center remains a big surprise to me.The place absolutely changes my life. Here, I found hope and God’s love and feel blessed,” he added.
Fr. Philip Park, executive director of the center, says that they continue to go around the region which was pummeled by supertyphoon “Yolanda” in November 8, 2013 to search for more abandoned and sick elderly.
“We want to serve more people here,” says the 33-year-old Korean priest from Kkttongnae congregation of South Korea.
Following certain guidelines in the center, manned by 24 staff, Park said that those who will be admitted are poor and sick elderly with no family around to attend them.
The clients’ information will also undergo validation by their staff.
Park, however, says he is happy that more people were able to know about the center two years after Pope Francis inaugurated it for Yolanda survivors.
“Even on weekends, many people visit the center,” he said, adding that the Pope’s Center has recently accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Alicia Advincula, adviser and consultant of the center, said that with the accreditation, the center follows the standard in their operations and services.
“More than that, the sick and elderly here in the center got inspired, they are being loved after coming out from a distasteful, inhuman condition,” says the 68-year-old former government social worker.
The youngest orphan in the center is a 24-year-old abandoned and mentally challenged man while the oldest is 94.