A ‘bucket list’ of hope for Philippines

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Ruby Soh with family members and a container of goods.
Ruby Soh with family members and a container of goods.

A sea of buckets containing bibles and other necessities; not the sort of the thing most people see during their personal prayer, but a vision Catholic Weekly reader Ruby Soh experienced in all its vivid splendour while praying to the Lord, seven years ago.

The Perth-based business woman says she felt she was being instructed to take those buckets – and the bibles, school supplies and clothing they contained – to give them to the poor in the country of her birth, the Philippines.

It was the beginning of what would eventually become the not-for-profit organisation Buckets for Jesus, which soon swapped buckets for shipping containers and the construction of typhoon-resistant housing.

For the past seven years, the Soh family and a legion of volunteers have been sending container load after container load – 21 to date – of essential goods to the Philippines; distributing them in person in densely-populated cities and sparse, hard-to-get-to locations.

The Soh family’s contacts in Perth and Singapore have donated all sorts of goods: clothes, pre-owned toys, household items, devotionals, bibles, rosaries, non-perishable food – even large industrial generators.

(Buckets has been recognised by World Relief Australia with its Unsung Hero award.)

After witnessing firsthand the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, the Sohs launched the Adopt a Family appeal in 2014.

For $A3000 a new disaster-proof home kit can be provided to impoverished families who still haven’t recovered from the devastating effects of Haiyan, living in tents where their homes used to be, 2½ years after the disaster.

Local government has allocated land to Adopt a Family to build the homes in Bogo, Cebu. So far 25 have been completed, with the next 50 under construction.

Ruby says that mercy given is mercy received and that she has grown closer to God than she could have ever imagined seven years ago, through the ups and downs, elation and occasional heartbreak of Buckets’ work.

She wrote on Facebook of their mission to help street children in Manila in January: “From age three to 17, they’ve lived all their lives in this orphanage (and) have very little chance for adoption due to the stringent and expensive legal system which makes it nearly impossible for the kids to be adopted.

“The BoysTown looks after over 200 orphan boys and 120 girls. We’ve reached out to them for five years now and not many kids get adopted.

“But what great joy to share God’s love and mercy with these little ones as we distribute Schoolbags for Jesus and say a prayer for them. This morning we will be reaching out to another orphanage with 400 kids.”

More information: bucketsforjesus.org