Manila's homeless kids

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Manilas homeless kids

I have always had a passion and indeed fascination about the Philippines. I first started travelling there when I was 18 and have been there over 30 times. I have always found the people to be so lovely and welcoming. I also have the greatest respect for the country and indeed people.

One of the reasons why I love the Philippines so much is the vibe and energy I always encounter. Take the capital city for example, The streets of Manila are exciting and vibrant. Manila is truly a city that never sleeps.

I am not writing this piece to in anyway apportion blame to any persons or indeed organisation. It's up to the readers to decide how they feel and what they can do to help.

I have always been bothered and troubled by the amount of homeless kids I see on the streets. This is nothing new. Since I started visiting the Philippines many years ago, I have always noticed children begging on the street, maybe selling flowers or water bottles etc, running in between cars and jeepney's as they do to collect a few pesos from passing motorists.

One of my favourite places to visit in Manila was the Bay Walk. I used to go there at night to watch one of the live bands playing and maybe have a beer or two. The area by the bay was always a very vibrant, colourful place to be, with many bars and places to eat. Over the last ten years or so, all the bars and nightlife had been replaced by rows of families with young children sleeping. Whereas the area used to provide much needed employment for homeless families, now it merely provides a place to sleep.

When I visited Manila last November, I was invited to go on a zombie walk by one of my Facebook friends, Therry Alpa. Not really sure what the night had in store for me, I met her and her friends outside my hotel, armed with foods and goods as instructed.

We were taken to a waiting van which was full of clothes, medicines, foods, fruit and even vitamins. We were driven around the streets, passing by Mabini, Intramorous and EDSA, I had often been on trips around the city by day as a tourist, however this was different, as we drove round, we saw homeless families on the streets, in alleyways, outside stores, under bridges.

Every once in a while, the van would stop and we would be ushered out to meet a homeless family to hand out contents from our van, clothes, medicine, food and even blankets. I couldn't help thinking that this small act of kindness was of great benefit to those we met. The look of joy on the faces of those we encountered was very emotional and I was left in tears.

I know that acts such as these can't change the world, but as they say, every little helps I guess. I share this story with you, simply to make a point, there are many large charities out there and indeed organisations who are working in the Philippines to help those in poverty, one of my favourite and indeed worthwhile charities in Manila is the Philippine Christian Foundation or PCF. They run a school in Tondo near the former dumpsite.

This school made of shipping containers, is changing children's lives in the area and providing an education for some of these children to equip them with the tools to make a better life for them and their families. We must continue to support charities such as these, without them these children would not have these fantastic opportunities in life to escape poverty and improve their lives.

However we should all consider next time we go home, arranging a zombie walk for the kids, just buy some goods from your local grocery store and maybe hail a cab, or hire a van and do as I did and maybe hand out some foods or indeed blankets to some homeless kids, to me it was a life changing experience. If we all try to spend this time next time we go home, that includes tourists visiting the country, we might begin to make a real difference to the lives of these kids. To those who are reading this and already do so, thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.

Of course there are homeless families in many cities throughout the world, however I found it striking how many really young kids and even babies I noticed sleeping in the roadside. I had often asked myself the reason behind this, was it over population, poverty, lack of opportunities in the provinces, whatever the reasons, I am not writing this blog to apportion blame to any entity, I am merely sharing my observations.

I guess it happens in every city in the world, people escaping the countryside and moving to the cities in search of work and a better life, I don't blame them at all, in fact I would probably do the same. I am not sure how we tackle the issue of homeless kids and families in Manila, I am sure the government is already working very hard to address this, in fact I read only the other day that the President visited a new housing complex for families in squatter areas. It's a start and a step in the right direction. Let's all continue to do whatever we can to help.

Thank you

Malcolm Conlan


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