On the ground in the Philippines
At the beginning of every each year we often find ourselves in conversations with friends and colleagues about what our resolutions for the New Year are. For many it is a time to reflect on the year past and an opportunity to reset the clock and focus on goals that are personal to you. I decided to do this at Chinese New Year, and throughout January gathered an eclectic mix of resolutions ranging from improving one’s health through Sweatcoin to rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. As I dug a little deeper, I was intrigued to discover that, without fail, each person I spoke with had a significant and compelling desire to give back to causes that had personal meaning to them.
During a recent trip to the Philippines I visited one of Anonymous Child’s partners, Bahay Tuluyan based in Manila, and had the privilege to participate in giving back first hand. For over 30 years Bahay Tuluyan have been fighting for children’s rights in the Philippines and have helped to provide care and support for children who have been abused, sexually exploited, forced into being a child soldier or into child labour.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by a wonderful welcome poster made by some of the young residents of the shelter and met Catherine Scerri and Lily Flordelis, senior members of the Bahay team, who have both dedicated their lives to protect victimised children and young adults.
During my visit, I was invited to immerse myself in their initiatives, which include providing home shelters, formal and informal education, youth skills and community development, apprenticeships and a mobile visiting unit. The programs are designed to build confidence, knowledge and skills for those who have had traumatic experiences. Bahay provide the children with devices and tools they need to elevate their lives, and their work cultivates a strong community presence in which the children learn to support one another. These programmes embrace children from as young as 3, and those who grow up with Bahay often become involved and lead projects until much later in life.
On a mobile unit trip to Delpan, we spent an afternoon with over 100 children on a basketball court providing basic education and educating them on their rights. Delpan is one of the most impoverished areas of Manila and has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous places where crime is rife. Some of the children attending the afternoon were so poor they didn’t have clothes, and none had the means to attend school. Many of the children’s parents don’t ensure their children get to school, whilst many face difficulties in enrolling their children into school. This is largely driven by the majority of parents not having any schooling themselves limiting their understanding of the benefit of education as well as the administrative enrolment procedures to enrol their child. The lessons provided by Bahay’s mobile unit is a good example of an initiative that is teaching children their rights and informing them of options that are available to them. Against the context of the new President of the Philippines, whose policies have exacerbated impoverished communities subject to widespread crime and drugs, these lessons are vital. With the introduction of extrajudicial killings related to drugs, the reinstatement of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old, it is becoming even more critical for children to understand their immediate environment and the risk involved in seemingly everyday criminality. The mobile unit goes out most days to zones that have been identified as areas where children are at high-risk to fall victim of abuse.
In 2016, Anonymous Child launched a scholarship program that has given fresh opportunity for some of the Bahay children to obtain higher education. It costs approximately £1,000 for each scholar to attend university for an academic year and we’re proud to say that we have helped 15 young adults pursue tertiary education. Many of our scholars are balancing a job to provide financial assistance to their families and much of the scholarship award is applied towards many of the prohibitive costs such as travelling or school materials. I took great pleasure in meeting our scholars and learning about their stories and I was able to provide guidance on some of the tools I used when career planning.
Some of the scholars that I met on my visit.
I strongly feel that every child has the right to live free from abuse, and that we should do everything we can do to promote and protect this principle. It is an unfortunate truth that children are vulnerable targets and are even more so in poverty stricken countries. We want to thank all of the kind people who have shown their faith in our young organisation and supported us, however large or small. Together we can continue to make a direct impact on these children in need, helping them achieve their hopes to better their lives and society around them.
Please explore our website to learn more, donate and find out other ways you can support our mission to better the lives of victims of child abuse globally. If you would like to hear more about my trip to the Philippines, or would like to enquire about fundraising, doing an internship or otherwise getting involved please get in touch by email at email@example.com.
With that said, I’ll leave you to ponder on one of my favourite quotes from Mahatma Ghandi:
“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important you do it”
p.s. we are social