This is a short teaser video about children in poverty in the Philippines that was produced by Poverty Phil ippines. Philippine children are the hardest hit by poverty, and are the most innocent victims. If you want to find out how you can help SCOT Trust address the challenges there, please browse through this website from time to time by bookmarking it because new content is published regularly. If you would like information on how to sponsor a child, please go to our Fundraising Page for more details about how you can Make A Difference.
Editor’s Note: The Eyes of a Child is a series of short first-hand vignettes about individual street children and orphans under the care of SCOT Trust. In this first of a series, SCOT Trust co-Trustee Nanette Carillo writes an insightful story about a 7-year old boy called Efren as he tries to navigate through the harsh reality of severe poverty and the sharp edge of hunger under a previous life in the streets of Metro Manila Philippines. Precocious but nevertheless charming, obedient, and able to fully comprehend the severity of his previous environment, Efren is caught between the innocence of childhood involuntarily thrown into life of deprivation and the growing necessity to become a responsible adult one day.
He represents hope to other children like him at the SCOT Centre – a haven where basic values are inculcated to prepare them for a life of abundance in the future through honesty, self-discipline and hard work. Nanette captures this impressionable time in Efren’s young life at the Centre and asks him the greater question: is it better to be honest or not?
MANAGING TO SURVIVE ANOTHER DAY
After a day of teaching the children at the SCOT Centre, one of them – a young boy called Efren, approached me inquiring, “Ate (older sister), can you please give me 20 pesos?”
“Why?” I asked him out of curiosity. “What will you use this money you’re asking for? Staring at me through his doleful eyes, Efren paused for a long moment obviously weighing something import ant in his head. It appeared that his mind was tossing around not how he would answer my two questions but what he would say.
He knew he had a reputation about not being straight forward at times. It is something he learned before coming to the Centre about the brutal strategies of hunger management surviving through his own wits in the streets.
“Ate, I just want to buy some string for my fishing rod. I want to go fishing with my other two friends here.”
While it may have been easy to give Efren 20 pesos (or about NZ$ 0.57) right there and then, I wanted to confirm if he’s was telling the truth.
Then his two friends came upon us after hearing what Efren said.
“Ate, please believe me, I’ll really go for fishing with them”, Efren reiterated.
I then asked one of his two friends sitting beside him, Melvin “Is it true that you will go for fishing?”
“Yes, Ate …but we don’t have any string for our rods, “he replied.
“I see! Well, I’m happy to know that Efren is now practising honesty and with that established I will give him the 20 pesos needed to buy strings for each of your fishing rods.”
“Salamat po, Ate (thank you, elder sister!”), they all cheered.
THE SQUALOR THESE KIDS LIVE IN
The following day, the three boys came back to the Centre sharing the good news that they’ve got tilapia (a type of large Nile perch) from the nearby fishpond and that they were able to share their catch with other members of their families.
After three days, I invited two of our SCOT volunteers – Elena and Fernan, to accompany me for a visit to be with some of the other SCOT kids who live across the Centre.
They said that it was the old railroad which now was crowded with flimsily-built shacks and where most of the children live. Some still have parents (most of them unemployed, disabled or sickly) while others didn’t have anyone at all to care for them!
Upon seeing the kind of environment and squalor these kids were living in, I felt a heavy burden descend upon my heart. But it was one that also included a thought that one someday in the future it would involve providing them a shelter where these young children could all be able to sleep and rest securely at night.
My hope is that it would be sooner because the management of the commercial complex where SCOT Trust rents a unit that is the SCOT Centre doesn’t allow sleepovers. The doors are shut at night because of this policy. Erstwhile, I imagined how these children living outside in the shanties manage to sleep given such a cramped area inside their small huts especially during the rainy season in Manila. The worst part of it is …what if it starts to flood as it often does after a heavy downpour?
WAKING UP TO A RECURRING NIGHTMARE
I made a mental note in my head and resolved that as soon as I returned to Auckland in September that SCOT Trust would double-up its efforts to generate more funding support.
It would then use the proceeds perhaps to rent another suitable space elsewhere near enough so that the offsite SCOT kids the Trust also supports through some of its programmes would no longer have to face the prospect of sleeping at night under a cloud of fear or terror about water flooding their meagre dwellings.
Yet, these unfortunate children manage to cope gracefully with all that and when I think that every Kiwi dollar is equivalent to 35 pesos in the Philippines, much can be done to put that into good use.
On the way back to the Centre while riding on a Jeepney (a type of local transport), I saw the fishpond that was along the road where Efren and his two friends caught their fish. This reminded me about an anonymous proverb: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ because it somehow aptly reflects what SCOT Trust is doing for the children at the Centre.
But, in this particular instance, it was an odd thought if any because those other children now living in the shanties probably felt much the same as fish do under water when floods come rushing and roiling in during the middle of a dark night.
When that happens, how can they dream? And if they do even manage that, isn’t it more like waking up to a recurring nightmare?