Last refuge cemetery

The grand entrance is for a good cause. On Saturday the ZDF broadcasts the donation gala "A Heart for Children. Among others: Hollywood icon Selma Hayek, tennis legend Andre Agassi, actress Veronica Ferres. And Father Max Abalos from the Philippines. Between the TV event hosted by Thomas Gottschalk and the workplace of Father Max are not only several thousand kilometers, but also whole worlds away.

At the big Saturday night show, Abalos presents his work in the cemeteries of the Philippine metropolis of Cebu with its millions of inhabitants. Between gravestones and mausoleums, more than 700 families now eke out an existence there. For many of them, the Catholic chaplain is something of a ray of hope in a situation that is more than gloomy. With church services and soup kitchens, the 66-year-old tries to reach those people who no longer have a place to live, even in the slums of Cebu. Some of them had to vacate their huts for new construction projects, others were washed out of the agrarian hinterland into the conurbation in the heart of the island state – and perished in a maelstrom of violence, drugs and prostitution. Like Wendy, who for many years procured in the red light districts of Cebu. She became pregnant by a German sex tourist; since then she has lived with her young son as a living among the dead.
Daily struggle for survival The cemetery also became the last refuge for Amalia and her family. Why she came here is something the 45-year-old is reluctant to talk about. For this, she proudly tells of her children, who already contribute to her livelihood. Joshua collects the remains of deadlights during the day, which his sister Junalyn then makes into new candles. The equivalent of one euro for 60 copies of recycled goods. A daily struggle for survival that Junalyn wants to escape as soon as possible. "I'm trying hard at school and want to be a teacher later," the 13-year-old says earnestly. So that she would no longer have to sleep in the cemetery and could live in a real house. To help Junalyn and her peers, Father Max has embarked on an ambitious plan. Together with the Catholic aid organization missio, he wants to start a project in the coming year that will offer new perspectives to 400 children and their parents. At the heart of the initiative is a kindergarten and preschool – in Cebu's largest cemetery. Sounds absurd? Not for Father Max, who is convinced of his mission education. "We're just helping the children develop their own skills," he says, smiling. Around 74.000 euros have been budgeted by the project partners for their cemetery campaign. Money to be raised again on Saturday by German television viewers. Father Max gets support from Stephanie zu Guttenberg, wife of the German defense minister. A lot of support for him and his proteges, shortly before Christmas and from a completely different world.

Note: "A Heart for Children" fundraising gala, ZDF, Sat. 12.12., 20.15 – 22.45 o'clock.

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