Caritas Philippines (Caritas), the humanitarian, development, and advocacy arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), under the direction and supervision of the Episcopal Commission on Social Action-Justice and Peace (ECSA-JP), forged a partnership with Ceelin, the leading brand of pediatric vitamins in the country, to boost the immunity of nutritionally-deficient children, most especially those living in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA).

The advocacy project dubbed as “Pangakong Proteksyon: Immunity for All Kids”, will be incorporated in the Alay Kapwa legacy stewardship programs of Caritas, particularly under ‘Alay Para sa Kalusugan’, which is a 120-day family feeding program in six dioceses benefitting 300 families. It will be implemented by its network of social action centers located all over the country. Ceelin and Caritas’ inclusive approach will ensure that no kid is left behind regardless of gender, social status or religious affiliation. Apart from Caritas, there are also non-government organizations that will frontline the mobilization of the activities in the target areas.

Fr. Antonio “Tony” Labiao, Executive Secretary of Caritas, said that the partnership with Ceelin “provides a very good opportunity to expand their legacy programs. “Salamat sa Unilab, at sa Ceelin, na walang sawang tumutulong sa Caritas Philippines, lalo na sa mga komunidad na palaging naaapektuhan ng mga bagyo.” Ceelin is one of the brands of Unilab, the country’s leading pharmaceutical and healthcare company. “May this be just a start of a real partnership to build our communities,” adds Fr. Labiao.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, National Director of Caritas Philippines, also thanked Unilab for the partnership. He said, “With the vitamin supplements from Ceelin, we are very sure that it is not only the malnourished children who will benefit, even our 11 to 12 years old scholars will be able to take advantage of a fully loaded immunity protection especially now with the threat of Covid-19. We are very happy that our collaboration has the same goals—children who are healthy and protected and families having a better chance for a brighter future”.

One of those scholars is Precious Heart Hinotan, a Grade 7 student from the Diocese of Kidapawan. Her family is among the 12 Muslim family beneficiaries in Sultan Kudarat. “Maraming salamat sa Unilab sa pagbibigay ng Ceelin vitamins sa amin,” Heart said in a recorded video message during the launch of the joint advocacy.

Beneficiaries especially from Visayas and Mindanao affected by Typhoon Odette are particularly grateful for the support. Fr. Raul Veneracio, Director of Caritas Jolo, extended the appreciation of participating families from Jolo and Tawi-Tawi, two the poorest provinces of the country. “Natutulungan natin ang mga Kristiyano, Muslim at mga Indigenous People na Badjao. Nagpapasalamat kami sa tulong para sa mga bata, makakarating po ito”.

Other bishops expressed their gratitude as well to Ceelin for choosing Caritas as its advocacy partner. Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona of the Archdiocese of Caceres in Cebu cited the important role of children and the youth in society. “Maski ang Panginoong Hesukristo ay mahal ang kabataan…tayo rin dapat natin ilapit ang kabataan sa ating puso sa pamamagitan ng pagsulong ng mga adbokasiya na makapagbibigay sa kanila ng kalusugan.”

Ceelin’s brand ambassadors, Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera, will help promote the advocacy to encourage the public to take part in the program. As parents, they acknowledge the need to strengthen the immunity of children during the ongoing pandemic. Dantes cited that although good health is a basic right, access to it is limited. “All kids deserve to be protected and to have strong immunity and good health.” Rivera added that the Ceelin vitamins that will be given to the beneficiaries will have a long-term impact to their health.

Caritas serves as the secretariat to 85 diocesan social action centers in the country, it represents the Philippines in Caritas Internationalis – a confederation of 165 Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations present in 201 countries around the world.