Time To Reflect

It’s hard to believe but today is the last day for most of the group. Yesterday was more of a relaxing day, with a morning shopping trip to the Balikbayan Handicrafts emporium where our group rediscovered their flair for finding bargains.  The attraction of 65 per cent off was just too much for us!

But a bit of space in the day gives a bit more time to reflect on our previous day at Tunasan and the girls home in Laguna.

For now I wanted to reflect on another story from the Tunasan Centre

“The Voice”

I don’t know about you but I’m a fan of the Voice. There were some memorable performances this year, but at the Tunasan Centre we heard from two girls who would have had four turns from the judges.  Their song was part of a wonderful presentation of a music and dance. I could write about any of the performances : the amazing dance to the song Potters Hand for example. But I’m going to focus on a song performed by two girls, Emmaline and Charity, who are 11 and 9.

What is it that music does to us? The song was in Tagalog so I didn’t understand a word. But I found myself moved in my spirit. After the girls had finished, Roel the leader at Tunasan explained that it was a song about a mother’s love for her children and their love for her. I didn’t give that too much more thought.

At lunchtime, I had a photo taken of the girls with Ate Sol and she explained the back story to the song. This cut right through me. The girls had sung it at their mother’s funeral in 2013. This song felt like a form of healing for them. A way of pouring out their love for their Mum.

So often, we can feel like we’re not “doing stuff” on a trip. But just being in the audience for Emmaline and Charity was  “doing stuff”, being part of their long term healing.

Emmaline was wearing a bandana round her hand. She unwound it for me revealing quite a nasty burns wound. She had picked it up at home when the electricity shorted….another little insight into life for street families.

Do pray for Emmaline and Charity to progress in their schooling, and please continue to pray for Roel and his team as they lead the work at Tunasan.

Andrew

Tunasan Drop in Centre

Tunasan is Kanlungan’s community drop in centre in a southern district Manila.   The centre offers a wide range of education and healthcare to the poor in that community.

In recent years the outreach teams from Tunasan have worked hard to seek out isolated slum communities which have been forgotten by the outside world.   Offering feeding programmes and healthcare and working to improve the impoverished conditions of these communities th teams are bringing light and hope into some of the worst, forgotten, corners of Manila.

Yesterday some of the Streetlight Team visited Sitio Lubog, which translates from Togalog as ‘the suken city’ to see, first hand, how direct action from the Kanlungan teams is changing lives.

 

Andrew writes:

Sunken City
Last year I went to the ‘sunken city’ of Kekova whilst on holiday in Turkey.  We visited it on flat bottomed boats and dived down to see the  old ruins. It was an idyllic day in the hot Turkish sun.

Yesterday I was also in the hot sun visiting another ‘sunken city’ (Sitio Lubog as it is known in Tagalog) which is served by the Kanlungan Tunasan team. This is definitely not on the tourist trail in the Philippines. In fact, Sitio Lubog is an improvised shanty community of 45 families who make their living as tricycle  drivers and street vendors.

Kekova and Sitio Lubog have something else in common. They have both been affected by. Natural disasters. Kekova became sunken through an earthquake back in Roman times. Sitio Lubog was completely flooded after one of the many typhoons that hit the Philippines.  Given that there are around 30 storms a year to hit the lovely islands that make up the Philippines maybe it’s no surprise this one never made the news in the UK.

When the extreme flooding struck, all the families had to seek emergency shelter and lost their homes and all of their possessions. They had to leave for seven months. their world was turned upside down, but During this time they received help from Kanlungan and other organisations. Practical stuff : clothing, cooking pots, food.

Some families decided to go and live elsewhere but 45 families returned to rebuild. And talking to Ate Grace (community leader — sorry that sounded very Citizen Khan-ish!) Sitio Lubog has come back stronger. When I asked her what the biggest achievement had been since coming back, she said that the families were more united. That’s an area where Kanlungan, through the able leadership of staff member Jess, has made a difference. Bible training has been part of it, and the community is linked in to a local church, Friends of Christ. But there’s more to it than that. Young people are involved, having been organised by Kanlungan. As a result they are playing a positive, practical role : delivering health and hygiene training  and education for the little ones.

This tiny community is one of a number that Kanlungan serve from Tunasan.  Unlike the Open Day Centre where the street children walk to the centre, these communities are too far away. Instead, the Kanlungan minibus comes to pick them up, or Kanlungan goes to run activities in the community.

Live is tough in Sitio Lubog but with wonderful leaders like Ate Grace, and the help of Kunlungan, there is hope.

Do pray for Tunasan.

Andrew

Fun and Thoughts at the Mini-Olympics

Wow, what a day we had yesterday at the Kanlungan mini Olympics held down at the farm south of Manila.  When I say “Olympics” think ( for those of a certain age) more “It’s a knockout” but without Stuart Hall and Eddie Wareing.  If that cultural reference passed you by, just read on!

The competition was fierce.. Lots of shouting and cheering from each of the teams and some very competitive behaviour from the leaders (Jayne from the girls home at Laguna was especially keen to file protests to the judges about some infringement of the rules by the Boys Home or Tunasan teams!)

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The best games were the caterpillar ride which was like a 5 person cross country ski on concrete ( I am still feeling the pain of all my team falling on top of me several times ) and the water collecting game which finished up as the most enormous water fight (which the SLT team loved as it was so hot out there).

 

The team will all have their personal highlights but I think we were all agreed that the cheerleader  competition was brilliant!  Some of the teams had been rehearsing for a while. I think Benitez knew that the little ones wouldn’t win any of the games so they should focus on the cheerleading.  Their dance routine to Tony Basil’s one hit wonder “Hey Mickey” was fantastic and their pleated skirts and ties made out of newspapers were so inventive.

SLT were asked to form the judging panel, and were given 5 criteria in which to judge.  The staff were certainly taking it all very seriously.  We were all a lot more generous than Craig on Strictly and gave Benitez Street 100 out 100 narrowly ahead of the Girls Home and the Boys Home.

The effort put into everything by the staff just shows how much they care about the kids.  I’m so glad SLT funded the whole thing..the kids had been looking forward to it for weeks and Benitez Street were up at 4am this morning with excitement!  For them it really is like Christmas Day.  What a privilege to be able to share it with them.

 

A Personal Reflection:   A Level Playing Field.

Yesterday Al Wernham and Alyanna Ayiang were on a level playing field, on the same Street Educators Team at the mini Olympics down at the Farm.  Today, their worlds felt much further apart.

Al is on his first Streetlight trip as a member of St Mary’s Princes Risborough. When he’s

back in England he’s a quantity surveyor, commercially managing large construction projects. Home is in Princes Risborough itself where the average house price is £500,000 ( and an average mortgage to suit).

IMG_1254Alyanna (I don’t think I can also call her Al for short !) is 18 years old. Her home has been  under a bridge for as long as she can remember. Now there are bridges and bridges.

 

I can think of some lovely ones in Wharfedale in my home county of Yorkshire, and I can hear the sound of water as it swirls on down between the rocks. But Alyanna’s bridge isn’t like that.  We couldn’t hear any sound of running water…more a semi stagnant pool of polluted gunge which smelt truly awful. A river filled with all sorts of garbage, but where a few roosters still managed to find a few scraps to eat.

Al and Alyanna were on a level playing field yesterday but not today. But there is real hope for Alyanna thanks to Kanlungan’s help and her own determination. Thanks to the Kanlungan street educators like Suzette (also on Al’s team yesterday) discovering this bridge community, Alyanna has had support to get her college degree in IT. She now needs to get some on the job training before, hopefully, getting a job. She would love to do encoding work for one of the many outsourcing companies now operating out of Manila. Or maybe works for Samsung.

Let’s pray for Alyanna’s success, rejoice in the dedication of workers like Suzette (herself once a Kanlungan girl) and hope that one day the playing field will be as even as it was at the mini Olympics.

Andrew.

PS : Al would like to point out that the Street Educators were an amazing team and finished second overall at the Olympics ( beaten only by the home team from the Boys Home).

Smokey Mountain

Smokey Mountain

smokey view

Here on top of a hill of compacted rubbish, full of disease and toxic with fumes exists a community of people. Children strangely happy to play, filthy dirty and barely clothed.  Respiratory problems common, a wasted away mother breastfeeding her baby in front of us whilst making sure her other children got sweets from the team.  A church, school and meeting place, one small open sided room with chalk board at front and no more than 25 foot square looks over to the skyline of wealthy Manila with its swish hotels and business offices.

smokeyskyline

This is a difficult place to be.

It is a complex situation where alternative accommodations have been offered to residents who may have then sold them and returned to what they know as home. Children who have on this tip more freedom than the cramped conditions of the alternative high rise flats below the tip with tiny floorspace and no where to play but in the streets below.   One child on the tip asked a team member with real meaning why they looked so lonely and sad? What a question and what a challenge.

A mix of contrasts as one child carries his mobile phone, another his skateboard and yet the majority content with chasing each other and playing in the rubbish with nothing much.

This is a difficult place to be.

We are all so deeply affected by Ate Sol who has relationship with so many on this heap of rotting human consumption. Sol has asked a lady to lead us across the tip who she had originally rescued from there and is now a trained teacher who exudes grace and confidence. Lead by such a lady we are quietly assured that this awful place can also be one of hope.

shoe

I am writing this in the middle of the following night, full of thoughts, pain, prayers and yearning for this tragic world we live in. God has placed us here to make a difference.

What will we do with the short visit he gives us on this small planet where such inequalities exist?

David McDougall
Rector of St Mary’s Bletchley Milton Keynes

Safely Arrived:

The 21 strong team from the UK has arrived safely in Manila and, as always, hit the ground running.  They arrived at Benitez House, the temporary shelter in the heart of the Malate District of Manila, as the staff and helpers celebrated the achievements the children have made within the programme.

Andrew, one of the Streetlight Trustees on this trip decribes the day.

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‘A great first day at Benitez Street.  The main event of the day was the ‘Recognition Celebration’ for all the children at Benitez Street.  It was an emotional afternoon with hardly a dry face in the house at times!  I realise just how much the work means to the staff when they are crying along with the kids.  Jasmine, the social worker, who leads the team at Benitez Street, needed a Kleenex or two from Kuya Ian.

 
Each of the Streetlight team was asked to accompany one of the children to receive their awards. That was a wonderful expression of how we are a family, even though thousands of miles away.  Some of the parents came to celebrate their children’s achievements which was lovely , but there was heartbreak for one or two children whose relatives didn’t turn up.  One girl was dancing the flamenco with one of the Spanish volunteers holding back the tears, sad that her mum hadn’t come.

DSC_0079As ever, the welcome from the staff was brilliant and we have all been made to feel at home.’

 

 

 

 

Please continue to support this team with your prayers.   They will be able to see the comments you are leaving on this blog and that will be a great encouragement to them.

Streetlight Team 2015

This Thursday a team of 21 people from Keynsham, Oldham, Milton Keynes, Princes Risborough and Mansfield will be travelling to Manila to spend two weeks working with Kanlungan.  During their trip they will visit many of the slum communities where Kanlungan operate street education and drop in centres as well as the residential homes where street children have found safety and hope.

Please pray for the team throughout their trip; for their safety in travel, for sensitivity in all the situations they discover and open hearts to see God at work.      The team will be challenged in so many ways but their desire is to be blessing to Kanlungan in everything they do during their trip.

 

Mary, one of the Streetlight trustees who is travelling with this team writes: 

Ksem Kafe promotion

Mary working with the KSEM kafe staff on a previous visit.

“Having already visited on several occasions  the anticipation is just as high as the first time.

It is such a privilege to be part of the Streetlight team and to be welcomed into the Kanlungan family.  I am especially looking forward to seeing the children.  One of the lovely things about returning is seeing the progress they are making.  Watching them grow and develop into happy, independent people in God’s love is wonderful.
Meeting with Ate Sol and the rest of the staff is always a blessing and I always return feeling very loved and cared for.  The staff out there are so committed to the mission and vision God has given them even through some of the most challenging circumstances.
It is great to have such a good group going over once again this Easter.  It means so much that people give their time and money to visit the children and communities that Kanlungan have worked with for over 25 years.  It is a tremendous encouragement to them all that we are praying, giving and going to offer our support.  We hope to take God’s love and every blessing we can with us.
Looking forward to meeting everyone and it won’t be long now.”

RAC Update

Following on from our blog post in October about the conditions facing Street Children detained at the Reception and Action Centre (RAC) in Manila we are pleased to hear that progress has been made….

RAC Manila has now been temporarily closed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development until it meets the government standards for residential shelters.

Bahay Tuluyan and partner NGOs are proactively looking for ways to assist the government to improve programs for street children and to bring those accountable for abuse of children in RAC to justice.

Frederico, the emaciated child in the photo which started our petition is now doing really well and has increased his body weight by more than 50%.

A massive thank you to all who supported our petition!

 

Please continue to pray for all those organisation involved in the decisions that will now be made.

 

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Streetlight Financial Report 2014

thanksPraise God for continued blessing on our finances, and thanks to many of you for your generous contributions.

Our accounts have been independently examined and we are pleased to say that our total cash receipts were up to a record £74,862. That is 17% up on 2013.   Our cash receipts were boosted by a very large Gift Aid claim.  If we exclude Gift Aid, then our income was actually 7% down on 2013.

One highlight of the year was our group fundraising which hit a record £15,388.

Thank you to everyone involved with the Night of the Stars Concert, the Ball at St Mary’s, and everyone who put on events on our behalf.  Special thanks to  those in Tettenhall and Warsop who fundraised on our behalf.  You raised almost £1,900 .   We also received a one off donation of £5,000 for the KSEM coffee shop project.

Another highlight was direct financial support from churches which also hit a record £11,182.  Thank you to all the churches that supported us during the year. We value your partnership with us !

Streetlight Trust fulfilled it planned giving to Kanlungan  by giving £58,633 over the year.   This leaves a healthy reserve going into 2015 which will allow us to respond to even more needs as they arise.

We will publish our accounts on the Charity Commission website once they have been approved by the Trustees. That won’t be until May.  In the meantime, if you want to know more about our finances, just e-mail Andrew Barton at bar.fam@btinternet.com

With every blessing and thank you for supporting Streetlight.    We are looking forward to how much more we can do together in 2015.

Petition to reform or close the Reception and Action Centre, Manila.

Warning:   This article contains disturbing images

The Reception and Action Centre (RAC) in Manila is a holding facility for vulnerable children and young people collected from the Street of Manila.    It is a regular part of Kanlungan’s work to intercede for children when they have been rounded up from their communities on the streets and held at the RAC.

Streetlight volunteers have seen firsthand the RAC facility and, in our experience,  this article is fair and the RAC is a place that no child should ever experience.

 

‘Change’ are organising an on-line petition calling on the authorities in Manila to reform or close the RAC.

 

Please click here to sign the change.org petition

  • Petitioning Mayor Joseph Estrada  -  Upgrade or Close RAC

Upgrade or Close RAC

This photo was taken inside Reception and Action Center, Manila (RAC) on 12 October 2014.  It shows a child who is clearly severely malnourished and very unwell lying naked on a cement floor.  On the date this photo was taken this child had been under the ‘protective custody’ of the Philippine government, specifically the Manila City government, for seven months.  He had received no medical treatment.  Upon release to Bahay Tuluyan he had a black eye and bruising and initial medical reports indicated he had ‘multiple injuries secondary to mauling’.

The conditions inside RAC are abysmal.  Children are detained in this center without charge yet are treated worse than criminals.  They are denied the most basic rights – adequate food, clean water, bedding and even clothing.  Moreover not only are children denied contact with their families but their families are often not even notified that they are being held inside RAC.

Children inside RAC are brought there by government officials, police or barangay tanod, often after having been beaten or mistreated.  Most of the time the children do not even know why they are being taken to RAC, with workers citing various reasons for admission; ‘rescue’, ‘curfew’ or commission of an offence.  Accordingly, children accused of committing offences are detained in the same quarters as those who have supposedly been ‘rescued’ for protective purposes.  The beating and abuse continues inside RAC with children being both physically and sexually abused by both staff and fellow chidlren.

Bahay Tuluyan, along with its many partners, has been advocating for better conditions in RAC since 2008 (refer especially to Sagip or Huli: Rescue of Street Children in Caloocan, Manila, Pasay and Quezon Cities, 2009) and has involved the Manila City government, DSWD and CHR in various discussions about the above mentioned concerns.  Despit this there has been no change in the conditions in RAC during that time.

This horrific treatment of children can not continue.  Adequate policies and laws exist in the Philippines to regulate the running of child care institutions to appropriate standards yet this insitution, run by government, falls far below those standards.

We request you to IMMEDIATELY SUSPEND the operations of RAC until it meets DSWD standards of accreditation and can assure that children will be treated with the dignity tha they deserve.