The Ati people of Panay Island are the best known of the Filipino Negritos (Spanish term of Ati). This indigenous tribe is credited with welcoming history's first Malay from Borneo in the fourteenth century. The Ati have retained their dialect with traces of the ancient terms of "Kinaray-a" and dialects of the present time "Hiligaynon."
Unfortunately, the Ati people are often discriminated against due to their dark-skinned appearance and lack of education. As a result, many women and children are forced to work menial jobs in order to survive. This lifestyle perpetuates the lack of education among the Ati youth, making it extremely difficult to break free from the depressed socio-economic class in which they now reside.
FOOD, SHELTER, AND EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
CJMI strives to provide the basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare through monetary and supply donations. One of the critical needs is basic food and CJMI has found that providing core farmers with better means to grow their own food is critical.
The Ati living in Malay were the original inhabitants of Boracay Island, now a highly sought after international resort destination because of its beautiful white sand beaches. Having lost their residency on their ancestral lands as the tourism trade increased, the Ati were pushed out of numerous other places where they attempted to settle. CJMI, though their Philippine foundation, have acquired a tract of land for the Ati community to live on. Recently, a group of Ati women were able to secure proper permits and DepEd approvals to open a preschool in the village through the encouragement and support of CJMI. This small success is a huge piece in the long-range vision of the ministry to empower the Ati within their God-given abilities. Thanks to generous gifts by two outside organizations, the Carla Ati Learning Center has a sturdy new home!
The effects of poverty and poor water quality take a hard toll on the bodies of the Ati people, especially the vulnerable children and elderly. The average life-expectancy of an Ati man or woman is significantly less than the Philippine national average of 68 years. Preventable infections like internal parasites and treatable diseases like Tuberculosis still weaken and kill the Ati at much higher numbers than their non- Ati counterparts.
The founding missionaries, who arrived in the Philippines in 1972, provided medical care for the needy Ati in a make-shift clinic in their own home. The need for proper medical care and facilities became a constant prayer of that first missionary family. God provided miraculously and the Alianzas were able to build the first hospital in that region that would provide for both the needs of the Ati and other local Filipinos. Opened in 1982, the local hospital provides basic and critical care for the region. However, due to both the climate and economic factors, both the infrastructure and equipment are outdated or in disrepair, providing an unsafe health environment. Funds are needed to provide updated medical and office equipment in order to care for the local people.