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Championing the cause for disadvantaged youths and their families

Do you know that it’s a French woman who has spawned the act for the protection and rehabilitation of sexually abused girls in the Philippines?

Cameleon Association Inc. Founder Laurence Ligier has been living in the country for 24 years and tirelessly ‘adopt’ these girls until such time they are equipped and ready to face the world.
Laurence Ligier (seated, leftmost) with Zonta members during the media launch of  No to VAW Campaign  on November 15 at the Diamond Hotel. The gastronomic campaign was held in partnership with several food establishments in the country.

“One child is raped every 53 minutes. We have more cases reported now because people are voicing out,” Ligier, who first came to the Philippines for a humanitarian mission in Aklan in 1992, said. 

Ligier did another one month mission in 1993 and two years after, she was invited to join the educational program for disadvantaged children in Barrio Obrero, Iloilo, and spent half a year as an Association Missionary of the Assumption volunteer living with a family in a slum area.

She said she was appalled yet touched with what she saw – women being abused and raped and young chidren subjected to incest. So when she went back to France she redirected her studies to development and humanitarian management courses and eventually graduating with degrees in Law;  Sociology; and international business. 
She said she saw the enormous need to help the sexually survivor girls in Western Visayas so she decided to leave  her family and friends in France and put up the NGO in Iloilo in 1997.

Today, Cameleon has offices in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg as well as partnerships in Belgium, Andorra and the United States.

“I have stayed in Iloilo for 12 years straight and for the last 10 years, I’ve been going home to France to raise funds from European countries. P35 million a year -- that’s the amount we need for total the rehabilitation and education of the children numbering 420 and for the salary of my 35 staff,” Ligier continued.

Over the years, Cameleon enables the protection, personal reconstruction, rehabilitation and reintegration of mistreated children, sexually abused girls and survivors of incest in the Philippines. It also extends educational assistance, healthcare and professional integration including psychological services, therapeutic and extra-curricular activities and legal monitoring for disadvantaged youths and their families.

Housed in Passi City, Iloilo the wards of Cameleon are girls and adolescents
from 5 to 17 victims of sexual abuse
from several localities in Western Visayas (Region VI), which are composed of Panay islands of Guimaras and Negros. These girls are from rural and marginalized communities and they stayed in the center for an average of three years duration.

Abuse and rape among women and children is rampant in the rural areas especially among big families of 10 and up. The elders of the family and even in the community– fathers and brothers, teachers and policemen – are the abusers instead of acting as the protectors of the women and their children,  Ligier said.
Physical abuse, molestation, acts of lasciviousness, including human trafficking involving large numbers of women and children in the provinces are still very rampant. The difference now is we have the media to report them. People nowadays discuss about these cases whereas before it was taboo especially among the families and communities involved,” Ligier continued.

For her work among the poor, Ligier is a recipient of several national and international recognitions, among them :  Legion d’Honneur, highest French National Award, given by French President François Hollande; Knight of the National Order of Merit, given by French president Nicolas Sarkozy; Philippines Presidential Award, given by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ; and Award for Civic Spirit and Devotion, given by French President Jacques Chirac.
Ligier happily receives the donation for Cameleon by Sonya Garcia
of Sonya's Garden together with ZCMA President Rita Dy and supporters.

Ligier and Cameleon have recently found an ally in Zonta Club of Makati Ayala (ZCMA) as it joins other Zonta Clubs in 66 countries Say No to Violence Against Women. From 25 November -10 December this year, ZCMA has forged partnerships with 23 hotels and restaurants in 37 locations in the country by concocting special orange color “No to VAW” dishes, drinks or desserts. (Orange is the color of the campaign).

“The gastronomic offers should be available for 16 days but most partners are extending the promotion through the holiday season. While enjoying these treats, diners can take their stand to say No to VAW as proceeds will be donated to Cameleon, ZCMA President Rita Dy and Cameleon member said.

Food establishments partners for campaign include Conrad Hotel, Diamond Hotel, Discovery Primea, Fairmont Makati, Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu, Raffles Makati, Park Inn Clark, Park Inn Davao, Pico Sands Hotel Nasugbu, Taal Vista Hotel Tagaytay, Apartment 1B, Azuthai , Bamba Bistro, Chef Jessie  Rockwell Club, Fireside Grill and Bar, Kettle, Makati Garden Club, Milky Way Cafe, Mozu Cafe Bar, Sonya’s Garden Tagaytay, Tender Bobs, Top of the Citi by Chef Jessie, and Wildflour Cafe and Bakery.

Meanwhile, the second Cameleon center in the country is underway. BDO Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of BDO Unibank, has also forged a partnership with Cameleon for the construction of a center in Talisay, Negros Occidental.

The memorandum of agreement was signed by BDO Foundation treasurer Lucy Co Dy, BDO Foundation trustee Corazon S. De La Paz-Bernardo,
Cameleon president Atty. Jose Cochingyan III, Cameleon member Rita Dy and Ligier herself.

BDO and Cameleon will jointly and equally fund the construction of a one-storey structure for victims of abuse. Situated on a one-hectare lot, it will be the second Cameleon center for abused girls in the country where they can study, undergo therapy and receive counseling. The completion of the center forms part of Cameleon’s 20th anniversary celebration in 2017. 

My mandatory photo with Laurence. Proud of this woman whose making a lot of difference
in the lives of others. I told her: "Thank you for loving the Philippines and the Filipinos
especially the abused and disadvantaged young girls!" She's a savior for them; mother, sister,
provider, counselor and  more rolled into one. What a woman!


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