Paying it forward for child survivors of abuse

A new haven for child survivors of abuse and violence has been created in the Philippines through the support of a Centennial Grant from the Rotary Club of Balwyn, Vic, assisted by the Rotary Clubs of Essendon, Vic, and Leeton Central, NSW. Expected to benefit at least 500 children every year, Tala Camp and Eco-Retreat will provide a safe place for children and young people to heal, recover, and learn to dream again.

Project Rainbow, implemented by local children’s rights organisation Bahay Tuluyan, has converted a simple farmhouse into a beautiful camp and retreat venue for children and youth in the Philippines. Located in the picturesque area of Lipa, Batangas, the retreat is surrounded by coconut and coffee trees, providing a serene natural environment for healing.

The house and farmland were donated to Bahay Tuluyan by a local man, who had himself survived and overcome childhood trauma. After spending much of his childhood in an institution, he went on to become very successful, building the house for his family’s vacation home. After his retirement, he decided to donate the house and land to an organisation that could in turn ‘pay it forward’.

With the support of the Rotary Club of Balwyn Centennial Grant and some additional funding, Bahay Tuluyan has upgraded the facilities so that up to 25 people can be accommodated with fully equipped bedrooms, bathrooms and meeting spaces. The unused roof has been converted into a large function room, and kitchen and dining facilities have been created.

Living up to its name, Project Rainbow aims to renew hope in children who have had to survive storms of violence. Bahay Tuluyan has been providing programs and services for children and young people in the Philippines since 1987. The organisation cares for children who have survived all forms of abuse, violence, neglect, and exploitation. In some cases, these children need to be removed from their homes and sheltered by the organisation. Part of the care services provided include camps and retreats, during which children are supported to reflect, process and rejuvenate, helping them on their journey towards wellbeing. Tala Camp & Eco-Retreat will also be used for training programs, family camps and special activities, starting as soon as the building was officially opened in January 2024.

The Tala Camp & Eco-Retreat is a part of Bahay Tuluyan Nature Farms, a social enterprise and youth training program that grows organic food using sustainable agriculture. The Rotary Club of Essendon has sponsored the installation of six bee hives at the site. Other products that are being produced are coconuts, a variety of local fruits, native chickens, pepper and coffee. The income produced from the sale of these products will help to ensure that the impact of Project Rainbow and Tala Camp & Eco-Retreat can be sustained long into the future.