Philippines: Drugs, alcoholism and domestic violence are part of everyday life in Manila’s slums. Children are often beaten and abused at home. In their attempts to escape from the violence, they usually end up on the streets – the start of a new odyssey. Together with some of my friends concerns itself with the fate of these street children. Please support my charity for street childrens
Life on the fringes of society
Arvin (name changed) ran away from home to escape the violence there, ended up on the street and is forced to prostitute himself to survive. A few months ago, he fell prey to the drug shabu, which helps the 12-year-old to cope with the worst part of his day – when one of his “customers” takes him into a dark street corner.
For Arvin, as one of an estimated 75,000 street children in the Filipino capital, life is extremely hard on the fringes of society. They beg, steal or sell rubbish to recycling dealers. Some children, like Arvin, prostitute themselves, while others join gangs. This brings in just enough money to secure a minimal existence. Most of the children are malnourished and suffer from illnesses such as tuberculosis, anaemia or diarrhoea.
Drugs: a wolf in sheep’s clothing
Drugs are a means of forgetting the everyday humiliations, pain, hunger and loneliness. However, addiction is an additional serious problem for the children – and above all a dangerous one. Two of Arvin’s teeth have already fallen out along with some of his hair – just two of many possible side-effects of shabu, the most frequently consumed drug in the Philippines. And it is not long before this friend becomes a foe – one that Arvin can no longer shake off on his own.
Place of warmth and affection
In the Filipino capital, sex tourism is a major problem. Every day, hundreds of sex tourists roam the streets of Manila, constantly on the lookout for their next “prey”. Hardly anyone cares about the deep wounds that these “excursions” cause in the children concerned. Founded in 1990 by Danish teacher Lars C. Jørgensen on the island of Mindoro (150 kilometres south of Manila), Stairway Foundation is a centre that offers a place of warmth and affection to children between the ages of 10 and 14.
The number of children accommodated there is limited in order to allow the staff to work intensively with them. Surrounded by a large garden, there are living rooms, dining rooms, schoolrooms, workshops and a stage. The children spend six months to two years in this educational and therapy centre, where they first learn basic things such as how to structure a regular daily routine and how to take care of personal hygiene. In the lessons, the children learn to read, write and do arithmetic and learn above all how important education is for a future off the streets.
A strong voice for children
A very important aspect of Stairway Foundation’s work is raising awareness among children themselves. Here, prevention plays a key role. Through information material, workshops and seminars on sexual abuse, prostitution, contraception, children’s rights and health, the organisation’s staff aim to educate children and young people on the streets. At the same time, they constantly make local and international organs aware of children’s rights by means of presentations and newspaper articles. They also visit schools and police stations for the purposes of providing information.