A former street child from Marikina City (Metro Manila) has been given a very rare opportunity to share his story of struggle with Pope Francis during an encounter of the Holy Father with thousands of youth at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila on Sunday.
Jun Chura, 14, a former street child for a couple of years in Marikina, said he felt nervous when he was delivering his message before the pontiff.
He explained that it was his first time to speak before a huge crowd, and especially that he was speaking before the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ.
Chura, who has been taken care of by Tulay ng Kabataan (TNK), a Catholic Church foundation, for more than four years, said he was able to kiss the ring of Pope Francis.
In return, the boy disclosed, Francis whispered a message of “inspiration” to him that he said he did not really understand apparently because of the language barrier.
“Hinalikan ko lang po yung kamay niya [Pope Francis] tapos niyakap ko siya… [he then whispered in my ear]pero di ko po maintindihan, masaya lang po ako [I kissed the Pope’s hand and then I embraced him . . . I did not really understand what he whispered in my ear, but I was happy],” Chura said.
“Masaya po ako kasi, kahit di ko naintindihan ang mensahe, basta mayron akong narinig na nanggaling sa kaniyang bibig [I was happy, even I did not understand the message, it was enough that I heard something “ straight from the Pope’s mouth],” he explained.
Through Fr. Felix Aquino, the street educator of the TNK, Chura was moved to the foundation in November 2011.
During the encounter with Pope Francis, the boy admitted that he had done wrong when he was on the streets, things which he said he should have not done.
“Nung nasa kalye po ako, may mga bagay akong mga natutunan na hindi naman dapat gawin katulad ng pagnanakaw. Nagawa ko po yun, pero isang beses lang po kasi nalaman ko na masama po yun, kaya tinigil ko na po [When I was on the streets, I learned bad things like stealing, which should not be done. I stole once but I stopped because I realized it was wrong],” he said.
“Yung nasa kalye po ako, mahilig po ako magmura, pero sa TNK medyo nawala na yung mga ganun, medyo nagbago po ako [Also, as a street kid, I was fond of cursing, but at TNK, not anymore, I changed]” Chura added.
Even as he shared his experiences, he urged street children that they too still have hope to change through Jesus Christ.
Fr. Matthieu Dauchez, executive director of TNK, said Chura has served as an instrument of the street children in making the Holy Father become aware of their plight.
“Ang maganda dun, ang mensahe ni Pope ay tulungan ang mga batang mahihirap na hindi lang ibigay ang tulong natin kundi makinig tayo sa kanilang turo. Parang hindi lang lahat ay ibibigay sa mga mahihirap kundi ay may matanggap din tayo sa kanila, galing sa kanila, ito yung magandang turo, ito ang sinabi na learn from the poor [The Pope’s message is for us to learn from poor children. We may be giving something to them but we can also be receiving something from them. This is what the Pope says about learning from the poor],” Dauchez added.