“The Child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.”Maria Montessori
I am writing about a group that I am currently serving as a volunteer Board Member because I feel strongly about the cause they are working for – the protection of street children. I remember an incident when my son was about 5 years old and we happened to stop at an intersection when two boys of about 8 and 5 years old knocked on our car window. As we gave them cookies, I then took the chance to explain to my son that sadly, some kids did not have enough food to eat nor had a place stay. My son’s eyes were glued to them as the boys walked away. As they vanished from his line of sight, he asked me, “Mom, so who hugs them at night and tells them ‘I love you.'” Just like that, my son taught me what truly mattered in raising a child.
Almost 2M children younger than 15 years old now live below the poverty line, in Manila alone. About 75,000 of them live in the streets after having run away from their homes or being abandoned by their families. They beg, steal, scavenge for food and sell newspapers or even cigarettes. Even worse, around 20,000 of the street children prostitute themselves and are at risk of HIV if not already infected.
ChildHope Philippines helps these very vulnerable children off the streets by reuniting them with their families or by helping find a safe and stable environment for them to settle in to. This is not an easy process as each child’s situation is unique and oftentimes, complex. ChildHope teams are comprised of street educators and social workers to build relationships with the children to serve as their support systems until they can thrive on their own.
Living in the streets bring about complex traumatic experiences especially to children. Aside from the physical vulnerabilities to outside elements and social stress of gang bullies, a child’s psychological and cognitive abilities are not yet fully formed at this age. Sometimes, they are unable to express complex feelings such as fear, anger, loneliness, insecurity, hopelessness, despair and isolation.
Street educators and social workers go out in teams to help address the complex needs of the street children. Once trust is built, children are able to express difficult experiences and are able to process what they have gone through or what they are going through. ChildHope teams teach children basic reading, counting and writing skills through KalyEskwla, provide in-class feeding, counseling and pracital survival skills. These help the children survive and somehow receive care until they are reunited with their families or setttled in a safe and semi-permanent home.
During the Covid19 lock-down, street children are left in even dire situations with no source of food. ChildHope launched a Covid19 Response and reached their goal to help 500 street children.
Through the years, ChildHope has helped street children overcome their traumatic childhood. Some have completed their education, reconciled with their families and have even become Child Hope counselors and teachers themselves.
We have heard that parents cannot choose their children. Likewise, children cannot choose their parents. More so, no child ever asked to be born. Yet, it is also said that each child is wonderfully made in their mother’s womb, after the image and likeness of the creator himself. Let’s help every street child see that likeness inside of them and give them the dignity to live the life that perhaps, the creator himself intended for them to live – a life of dignity, purpose and hope.
Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12179307 | Picturequotes.com | Photos from ChildHope Philippines