Meet our partner in The Philippines – Crish Kustra
Crish Kustra, Coordinator at Changing Lives Missions Center, Cebu, in The Philippines
Crish Kustra is committed to transforming and improving the lives of children and families living in poor communities in Mandaue City in Cebu, The Philippines.
Tell us about your life and family.
I am happily married to a Canadian, Russ Kustra. My husband visited The Philippines many years ago and after seeing the children and communities living in extreme poverty, he decided to move here to help the communities. We share the desire to transform the poor communities by teaching them about God and helping them to live a life that is hope-and-faith-filled.
How and when did your ministry begin?
In 2012, my husband and I started Changing Lives Missions Center, and ministered in a dumpsite area in Mandaue City in Cebu. We reached out to the community to help and support them by improving their living conditions and to raise their standard of living by breaking out of the cycle of poverty. We realized that we could not help them by making them dependent on us. We needed to teach them about God to give them hope for their future and let God transform their lives. We recognized that we needed to provide them with an education to give them opportunities to earn an income and improve the lives of their families and communities.
What challenges do you face in your ministry?
The challenges we face are to change the way the members of the community think and respond to getting personally involved. We are moving towards discipleship training, leadership training, and other educational topics to expand our network of community helpers. Some families understand the call to action and involve themselves in serving their community. They place their hope and faith in God and His power to work in their lives. However, there are many who do not share this vision and do not understand that they can break the cycle of poverty through education. These challenges have been magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic and the task is overwhelming, but we trust in God to work despite the difficult circumstances. We have cancelled our rented space due to the financial constraints, and now operate from our Pastor’s property. We also use our house to teach computer skills.
What are the needs and challenges that the children and their families face in the community?
The biggest challenge in the community is the disintegration of the family unit that should provide a safe and secure place for children and women. The lack of education prevents the members of the community to find permanent jobs with a steady icome. Unfortunately, unemployment has created extreme poverty that has led to a high rate of alcoholism, violence against women, child abuse, child exploitation and a lack of food and clean drinking water. The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified these problems.
Many of the men have lost their jobs and leave the women to fend for themselves and their children. Many of the women are selling snacks or doing street vending to support their families and provide the basic needs. Inadequate living conditions lead to fires that often burn down their structures and destroy what little they have. Multiple families are crowded into one living space to share expenses, or they have returned to their rural homes due to losing their jobs. The desperation for food often leads to the children eating discarded food from the dump sites which can cause serious illnesses or sometimes death. Unhygienic exposure of contaminated food or water can also lead to illness or even death. Armed street gangs are also a huge risk factor for the children playing in the streets. The greatest needs in the community are healthy food, clothing, medicines, and vitamins to boost the children’s immune systems.
How has ChildCare International and your ministry helped the children, their families, and the community?
The monthly budget we receive from ChildCare International has been such a blessing to enable us to help the children and their families who are part of the sponsorship program. Families’ source of income has been limited, especially during the pandemic, and the only assistance they have received has been through us.
We have been able to provide some financial support for mothers. This has greatly contributed to covering their expenses and basic needs for their families. They are so grateful for the opportunity to learn more about God through Bible studies. These studies have played a significant role in helping the children and families grow in the Lord and learn more about His plans and purposes for their lives. During Christmas time we use funds from ChildCare International to bless the families with pillows, pillowcases, blankets, and towels. Besides the physical blessings, the children and families experience the true meaning of God’s love, knowing that there are sponsors in Canada that love and care for them.
What are your plans and projects for the future?
We want to implement more programs for children and adults to grow to become leaders in their communities. Through education, lives will be transformed, and people will become agents of change. We want to move towards online learning using different digital platforms, but we still need to cater to those who do not have online access. We want to create reading materials to use as study guides. These materials need to be age-appropriate for children of all ages as well as for married couples, young professionals, and single parents. Our plans for future projects are to build more community washrooms, provide clean drinking water, start a Community Center, build more foot paths, and provide electricity to more homes.
What is your message to our donors and sponsors?
We are so grateful to all the donors and sponsors for their continued life-changing support through monthly sponsorships and donations for the projects. We do not take donors’ support for granted and with God’s help we try to maximize the positive impact it makes in the lives of the children, their families, and the community. We appreciate all your prayers, love, understanding and generosity towards our ministry. We pray that together, we can continue to show God’s love through our work.
ChildCare International is proud to highlight this inspirational story of Crish and Russ. We ask that you prayerfully consider selecting one of the wonderful gifts from our annual gift catalogue to bless the children, their families, and communities in The Philippines.