A Christmas Workshop

By Lorraine LorenzoDecember 3, 2017

‘Ornament-making’ becomes an empowering social gathering


FOR 10 YEARS, volunteers and beneficiaries of ATD Fourth World Philippines, an international non-governmental organization that works with individuals and institutions towards the eradication of poverty, have been conducting Christmas workshops in some of the country’s poorest communities.

During these workshops, community members would create holiday ornaments like parols and tree hangings to express their creativity, and to meet other members/ beneficiaries of the NGO who have been conducting various livelihood projects that aim to address extreme poverty with ATD (All Together in Dignity).

Selling the ornaments is not a priority, although some communities have done so over the years.

“Like all our programs, the workshop was borne out of the desire or wish of our community members. They wanted to create Christmas decors for their houses and communities. It also a way for them to interact with other members from the other areas as well meet new friends who will volunteer doing the workshop. During the workshop, they are able to tap into their creativity and artistic passion and to share own knowledge and skills with all communities,” said Beata Kowalska-Teliuk, a full-time volunteer.

“The decors are meant for the community members. Because we learn from each other during the workshop.  It’s a peaceful place where people from different walks of life meet together to share their time, talents and skills.  It has become a social gathering for all of us. There were some years we sold Christmas ornaments. Proceeds went to some of the community members and to the ATD fund which was used for emergency purposes.”

ATD Fourth World tries to conduct the Christmas Workshops in all communities group is present such as Hilum and Lozada, Pandacan, Quirino Avenue, and the Manila North Cemetery community for Manila, as well as resettlement sites outside the city such as Balagtas, Norzagaray, and Pandi in Bulacan, and Calauan in Laguna.

The workshops are done depending on the availability of community members. This year, the group has already run Christmas workshops in two places: in Pandacan and Calauan, Laguna. They are planning to do three more workshop days in North Cemetery, Norzagaray and Pandi.


The spirit of Christmas

Although the workshop is done not as a means for the community to earn, they still look forward to it because of the experience and the values they learn during the activities.

Some of the most inspiring outcomes is when community members (people who are living in the disadvantaged communities) become the facilitators of the workshops.

“They get to plan and create the prototypes of each decoration and then teach it in the workshop. It is an empowering activity to them to be able to share their knowledge and skills. In some occasions, we invite artists to collaborate with them,” said Sana Sta. Ana, ATD friend.

Susan, one of the community members, said: “I am proud everytime I look at the lanterns because it is beautiful, I made them. I am not a professional artist but I am able to do it.”

Belen, another member shared that she was surprised to see what her sister Marie created: Lanterns and tea lamps. “We’re used to see Marie washing laundry all the time. I never thought that my sister is an artist too and that she was capable of doing something beautiful.”

“The importance of this project is the social interaction with all our members coming from different social classes. In this activity, we are partners regardless of our socio-economic class. We learn from each other by interacting in this activity. Also, it has become a medium for everyone to express their creativity and artistic skills in making a decoration. For some participants, it will be their first time to do decors and you can see their pride and happiness when they are able to create a work of art,” Beata said.


Other programs

ATD Fourth World Philippines is committed to working with all sectors of society to eradicate extreme poverty and build a world living in peace and dignity with respect for human rights. They hope to build friendships among communities and create linkages to government agencies, NGOs, academe, private companies, and religious sectors.

Some of their current programs include: Ang Galing (literacy program), Street Libraries, Forum, Workshops (seasonal), Festival of Learning (during April & May), and Sulong (savings program).

Volunteers are encouraged to join ATD activities, and interested individuals may reach out by sending an email to  For more information about ATD, visit and their Facebook page: