Joe Dean: the beggar of the poor - Children of the Mekong

Joe Dean: the beggar of the poor

This is an astonishing story of a man who, during the course of his lifetime, underwent a total conversion. Due to a deeply upsetting encounter, Joe Dean, a young drug addict who tore off pages of the Bible to roll his joints, became the father of a street family!

Text and photos: Elena di Masso

numerous Filipino children eating looking at the camera
The echo of children’s laughter, greedily swallowed plates, problems solved!

Whilst sick, Joe Dean promised himself that if he pulled through, he would dedicate his life to Christ. He honoured this promise and now devotes his time to helping street children. Touched by the precariousness of their situation, he promises them that they will never be in need again.

From that point on, he turned into a beggar and begs for his children. In his bid to help them Joe Dean created the ‘He Cares Foundation’, implying ‘you are important in the eyes of God’. He puts God at the head of his organisation chart.

Joe Dean has a few magic tricks: a hand placed on the shoulder, an attentive ear, a smile, eyes that shine with an ‘I love you’, an invitation for a meal, a song sung on the background guitar…

A SIMPLE WELCOME

Joe Dean helping a child
Joe Dean

Joe Dean is the kind of man who knows no discouragement, every second of his life is guided by his faith. In the Philippines, only 1% of the population say that they are unbelievers.

When he meets children, Joe Dean invites them to join the family. If they are hungry, he feeds them, if they are dirty, he will give them something to wash and clean clothes, if they have problems, he listens to them and finds a solution.

Nothing scares him. If he meets children along his travels, he believes that it is because God sent them; he considers them unique and exceptional. He simply welcomes them.

“As for the educators and trainers who, at school or in the various infant and juvenile socialisation centres, have the demanding task of educating children and young people, they are called to be aware that their responsibility concerns the moral, spiritual and social dimensions of the person. The values ​​of freedom, mutual respect and solidarity can be transmitted from an early age.” – Pope Francis

WORK FOR ALL

Several times a week, Joe Dean visits the neighbourhoods to meet those for who the call of the street was louder. Sometimes after adolescence, young people become so accustomed to their precarious but free lifestyle that they return to using their piece of cardboard on the city sidewalks.

Joe Dean does not abandon them, however. He goes to them and, with the kindness of a father, he talks, jokes, plays, and even scolds them some days!

Young people are organised in gangs, girls and boys live together from an early age so that they protect themselves from others and the danger on the street. Thanks to Joe Dean, they find comfort, and sometimes even a little job as a caretaker in the neighbourhood. From time to time, they return to the centre to wash and eat, but living there would require too many adjustments for them.

Does Joe Dean have any time left for his wife, his three children, himself? It is hard to imagine because our missionary’s day is not yet over!

Joe Dean also scouts and works with donors: he approaches each meeting with formidable energy and takes the necessary time with everyone. Many children and volunteers from all walks of life revolve around him today because there is work for everyone. Joe Dean has immense strength to believe in Providence. If his action necessitates a need, he is convinced that an opportunity will present itself and most of the time, it does!

Children picnicking in the Philippines thanks to Joe Dean.
Children picnicking in the Philippines thanks to Joe Dean.

CONCRETE ACTIONS

Bringing a meal, giving blankets, getting in touch with organisations that offer shelter or reinsertion are all concrete means of taking action to help those who live in the streets.  Children of the Mekong is a children’s charity and so we want to help children in need as much as possible. This is why some of our projects are dedicated to street children or to foster homes in Asia. Many children who are living in the slums need our help to survive and we need sponsors to help them.

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