Follow and Join

AIC participates in International Conference on Slum Dwellers in the Philippines

Melba Vera Cruz, Coordinator for Asia on the AIC International Board (photo on left) and Mildred Mariano, National President of AIC Philippines (photo on right, sitting at the center)

Access to decent housing is a key topic in AIC’s work. At the United Nations, AIC representatives are part of the “NGO Working Group to End Homelessness”, and many local projects set up by AIC volunteers seek to either provide adequate housing or support people experiencing homelessness by providing food, clothing and sanitary provisions. The “International Conference on Slum Dwellers”, hosted by the Vincentian Family (Famvin) Homeless Alliance in cooperation with AIC Philippines and other partners, recently discussed the reality of dwelling in slums. In this context, individuals often lack decent housing and living conditions are very difficult: no safe water, good sanitation, a sufficient living area or security of tenure, and low durability of houses.

The aim of the conference was to discuss how best to empower these individuals and communities through Vincentian actions in slums. The conference gathered around 100 members of the Famvin and collaborators from 34 countries at Adamson University, Ermita, Manila, Philippines from 29th to 31st January 2024. Melba Vera Cruz, Coordinator for Asia on the AIC International Board, and Mildred Mariano, National President of AIC Philippines, took part in this meeting.

To understand the reality of slum dwelling, topics discussed included current trends of slum dwelling and a presentation of the Famvin “13 Houses” Campaign and the ways it supports slum dwellers. There were round table discussions with participants concerning regional and local responses to slum dwelling and insights from experts with lived experience from Benin, Brazil and the Philippines. Question and answer sessions, together with group and plenary sessions, helped to clarify issues and concerns and share what was learned. A gallery showcased housing projects from different countries, led by members of Famvin, AIC, the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity. AIC Philippines shared a story about homelessness from Naga City (see video below). Intercultural presentations included in the program of activities were both entertaining and informative, especially as they showed differences between continents and the unique qualities of different projects.

Other topics of discussion included: the development of partnerships and the systemic approach they offer to tackling slum dwelling, community opportunities in slums, as well as advocacy work. Fr. Joseph Agostino of the Congregation of the Mission gave an overview of Famvin projects around the world. Another Vincentian priest, Fr. Jaroslav Jasso, shared his keynote message “In the Footsteps of St. Vincent Today”. The Vincentian Father Manny Ginete of the Philippines facilitated the sharing of feedback from some of the sessions.

Participants gained a better understanding of the journey of slum dwellers through a visit of Vincentian projects in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City. They got to observe some of the income generating activities, such as selling herbal teas and other products, joining a cooperative, putting up small grocery stores, and creating vegetable gardens. Part of the income from these activities is used for families’ savings. Participants also visited some low-cost houses built using cement-bamboo frame technology, which costs 30% less in building materials. Cooperation and support between various stakeholders – the Daughters of Charity, Vincentian Priests, local government officials and the families themselves – are very present in the communities visited. The chance to meet in person some of the people involved in the projects that were presented during sessions and workshops gave participants additional information and inspiring insights.

Melba Vera Cruz shares some of the significant learnings and insights from this conference:

  • Across countries, more and more people are living in urban areas and there is an increasing number of people living in slums. In this context, the lack of housing contributes to families’ very difficult living conditions: no safe water, good sanitation, a sufficient living area or security of tenure, and low durability of houses. Countries and areas facing such situations could share good practices on how they address common issues;
  • Following the Vincentian charism and seeking to put God’s love into action motivates and inspires individuals and groups to work together in synodality to build homes, communities and hope for a better quality of life;
  • By knowing and understanding people living in poverty, volunteers can empower them, so that they become a resource rather than only a recipient of charity. Volunteers need to guide them towards the appropriate services that can address their needs wholistically, including physical, mental, spiritual, environmental, occupational and financial support;
  • New technologies exist and can be adopted in order to build cheaper and more durable houses;
  • Collaboration with other Vincentian Family members and constant dialogue and consultation with them can help to strengthen relationships and partnerships with government units at various levels. There is power in numbers and in contacts when advocating for change and asking for any type of support;
  • Community organizing and long-term efforts are essential for building secure, happy, healthy and progressive families and communities.

Here are some video highlights from the meeting:


We also share this testimony from a beneficiary of AIC Philippines’ project in Naga City. For more information about the project, you can also read the AIC project presentation.

Comments are closed.