Framer Mella is a United Methodist leader on the island of Mindanao who believes the church can be a catalyst to provide better education and a way out of poverty. Learn how her life story shaped her beliefs and her commitment to help others have a more fulfilling life in her home country.
Framer Mella: "We have to be equipped in educating, especially young mothers."
Framer Mella is a United Methodist leader at Southern Philippines Methodist Colleges. The school opened in 1994 as the only Methodist college on the island of Mindanao.
Framer Mella: "There are four subjects. The first one is the gender and development. Then the Wesleyan theologies and other spiritualities wherein we integrate there the social principles. The other one is the Peace Education and Cultures of Mindanao and the last one is Environmental Justice and Integrative Creation wherein geo-theology is part of it."
The school focuses on these areas because they are very important in a place plagued by typhoons and other weather crises. Mella emphasizes that the college also holds the Wesleyan social principles as strong guides in all they teach.
Framer Mella: "I really like social principles because it is very practical and I believe in it. If I am asked 'Why is it that you still use social principles, we already have Bibles, we already have all of these things?' Because we care."
Framer Mella: "We have a radio program. It's called Youthful Insights. When they discuss about something, social issues, then before they will discuss more they should have an anchor. They should have a basis. And they use the social principles as the basis. So people would just say, 'Oh, so it seems like a mandate or a principle or something that they believe in.' And because of that they are bolder and more convince to talk about that issue because it's a part of the social principles."
Framer Mella: "I am a psychologist by profession. So long before I became the president of the school I already did some psychosocial interventions. Now that I'm back there are some problems, cases of domestic violence or even rape, or things like that. They go to school asking for help. We have limited resources but because of the network we could go directly to...to authorities. Like, for example, the police. We found out that about 80% of our students who are studying to become deaconesses later on and pastors, these things, are survivors of domestic violence or sexual harassment. So I think it's very important that we address this in now the church. Aside from that we also have convocations twice a year. So we were requested by the bishop to talk about gender and development. We talk about sexual harassment. So we started talking about this already."
Framer Mella: "I am a product of family planning.My mother used IUD when she was still younger. Family planning in the Philippines is acceptable in a sense that they are using it. Many women are using different methods. But of course the church, particularly the Roman Catholic, has a very strong pronouncement against this. But it doesn't mean that women are not using some, you know, family-planning methods. And we have what you call the doyen. This is an organization of young mothers who are students at SPMC and for them to be able to finish their studies they have to use some family planning methods. And because of that they have more successful stories. Three of them will graduate this year because of family planning method."
Mella believes The United Methodist Church can change cultural norms so women and girls in her home country have a better chance for an education and a way out of the cycle of poverty.
Framer Mella: "It would be a very beautiful place. It would be a place where you want to live and have your own family, a place where you will be able to find your worth and your dignity and just be yourself, and not being afraid that you're a woman because first and foremost you are a daughter of God. You will have this fullness of life, you will just enjoy who you are."
This story was first published on May 6, 2016.