Childhope in the Philippines, engaged for street children

By Milena Rampoldi and Denise Nanni, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with the organisation Childhope inthe Philippines. We talked to Dr. Herbert Quilon Carpio, Executive Director and asked him about the situation of the street children in the Philippines, and about how its organisation acts to support them. Would like to thank him for his detailed answers and for the photos he sent us.

 What is the current situation related to street children in the Philippines?

In a study conducted by UNICEF and the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), 44% or about 12.8 million Filipino children under the age of 15 are impoverished. The study presents that these children suffer from multiple dimensions of poverty, particularly deprivations in health and education, food and shelter, to name a few. 
According to PIDS, 500,000 children in Metro Manila live in poverty, forcing them to help earn for their families or fend for themselves on the streets, exposing them to harsh conditions, making them prone to abuse and vulnerable to illnesses.
How does your organization help street children?
In response, Childhope Philippines works to promote and uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, focusing on these disadvantaged children. It envisions a future wherein street children become responsible, productive and respected members of society fully exercising their rights and duties so as to achieve their full potential as human beings and upholding the rights of others with dignity and worth.
Childhope commits to the following causes:
·         Advocate with the different sectors of society so they can gain awareness and understanding of the plight and potentials of the street children and to encourage the society to move into action for their cause;
·         Uphold the rights of each child through educational opportunities under its banner program, the Street Education Program, that include spiritual formation, sports and recreational activities and values clarification among children themselves;
·         Provide protection for the children from any forms of abuse, exploitation and neglect;
·         Facilitate the development and recovery of street children through educational assistance, psychosocial support and opportunities towards empowerment to have a productive life for the future; and
·         Help them realize that they are valuable members of society as they struggle towards positive change and mainstream them to their relatives, families, and the society in general.
As of the moment, we have fourteen (14) Street Educators / Social Workers who reach out and provide assistance to street children, male and female, from ages 7-18 years of age from more than fifteen (15) identified areas in five (5) major cities of Metro Manila, namely: Manila, Pasay, Paranaque, Caloocan and Quezon City. These children come from any of the three categories / groups of street children:
·         Children of the Street / Completely abandoned and neglected children – Family ties exist but in most cases have not been sustained; in some cases, their former home is visited infrequently. However, by virtue of having severed all ties with a biological family, they are entirely on their own, not just for material but also for psychological survival, and therefore require a very different approach. This group is given the highest priority attention by street educations.
·         Children of street families –Children in this group see the street as their home and it is there that they seek shelter, food, and a sense of family. These children literally live on the streets with their families. This group is second priority attention.
·         Children on the street – the largest of the three (3) categories and consists primarily of working children who still go home daily to families.  Their focus in life is still the home, many attend school, most return home at the end of each working day, and most will have a sense of belonging to the local community in which their home is situated. This group is not a target group of Childhope but is not excluded entirely.
Among the three (3) categories of street, the children of the streets or the abandoned and neglected street-based / street-living children are given highest priority.
The children of street families are also be provided assistance in many forms such as counseling and relief goods (i.e., rice, canned goods, used clothing and many others).
 Tell us about your Street Education Program.
Childhope’s banner program is the Outreach/Protection and Education on the Streets Program or simply, the Street Education Program. It has 4 major components which are created in consultation and participation of the children beneficiaries in order to provide for their holistic development:
a.      Alternative Education, which includes learning sessions for the following:
                                            i.            Mobile Education Vans and the Mobile School Cart sessions focusing on 11 modules: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Values Education and Spiritual Formation, Primary Health care, Substance Abuse Prevention Education, Personal Safety and Protective Behavior, STI/HIV/AIDS, Gender Sensitivity, Adolescent Sexuality, Paralegal Education, and Life Skills and Life Goals Planning.
                                         ii.            classes under the DepEd-accredited Alternative Learning System (ALS) whereby street children and youth learn through modules guided by street educators trained as Instructional Managers
                                       iii.            Vocational/Technical Skills Training which aims to provide the participants with technical/ vocational skills training opportunities that will help them to develop service/ technical skills and positive income generating activities which will allow them to financially support themselves
                                        iv.            Financial Education, which teaches the participants the value of money, earning a decent living, and the value/habit of saving for the future;
b.      Psychosocial Interventions, which includes counselling beneficiaries and provision of assistance to help them cope up with the stresses and challenges that they encounter while learning/training;
c.       Health and Medical services, which provides primary preventive medical care and consultations/treatments to ensure that the children are healthy and in full physical capacity to learn; and
d.      Skills Development, where beneficiaries are trained in leadership, computer literacy, sports, the arts and other skills that will help them nurture the good traits they possess and apply the values they have learned in life planning.
Street educators are frontline/outreach field workers and role models who facilitate sessions among street children. They go to their assigned areas and conduct sessions five days a week (Tuesdays to Saturdays, 4:00pm to 9:00pm) among the street children to facilitate their protection, education, and eventual decision to seek temporary shelter, or to return to their families or relatives, whenever feasible.
One integral component of the Street Education Program is the Mobile Education Van (MEV) which provides opportunities for street children to learn in a creative and interactive manner. The various tools utilized in the facilitation of the MEV sessions, such as the presentation of ETV materials, storytelling, fun games, sports and other recreational activities, make learning fun and easy for our street children participants. Focused-group discussions (FGDs) are also facilitated among children to assess their learnings based on the sessions they attended as well as their application of these learnings in their everyday life. The use of these tools enables the Street Educators to encourage and sustain the interest and participation of the street children.
Childhope also responds to the medical and health needs of the street children through its Mobile Health Clinic (MHC) Project, which is managed by a full-time Medical Doctor. The mobile clinic was donated in 2006 by the Rotary Club of Honolulu and Paco, complete with the necessary medical equipment to address the health and medical problems of the street children in Metro Manila. These children often encounter difficulties in receiving assistance from public health centers and hospitals because these public facilities are usually overcrowded with a large number of community-based indigent patients, and are likewise unable to provide free or subsidized medicines.
During the MHC operations, the Medical Doctor is assisted by Junior Health Workers (JHW’s) – selected street children who are trained to administer first aid and appropriate home remedies, conduct health-oriented one-on-one and group discussion, and accompany/refer sick street children to public health centers and hospitals even without the presence of the MHC Doctor or Street Educators. Aside from carrying out these activities, the JHW’s also assist the Street Educators in facilitating sessions on Primary Health Care among their fellow street children. As an incentive for their voluntary work, these JHW’s are supported with educational assistance in formal school or in the Basic Education Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program.
Do you carry out any activity in order to promote the social rehabilitation of street children?
Social Workers/street educators conduct individual and group counselling sessions among participants to help them reflect on their situation and eventually develop positive life plans and life goals. These sessions happen continuously throughout the year and are in-sync with the education and skills development activities in order to reinforce positive behavior and avoid relapses/regression. These counselling sessions also help motivate participants to plan and reach their plans for a better life situation. The social workers also facilitate referrals for temporary shelters and/or reintegration with family and relatives, whenever feasible. They also counsel the families and relatives of the street child in preparation for reintegration.
Moreover, Childhope’s Vocational Technical Skills Training aims to provide the participants with opportunities that will help them to develop service / technical skills and positive income generating activities which will allow them to financially support themselves or their families, especially when they finally decide to leave the streets. It was designed through consultation and focused-group discussions with the Street Educators and the older street children participants.
Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?
Childhope’s key partners for the implementation of this program are as follows:
·      – Government agencies that provide capability/skills building trainings
·      – Different Civil Society Groups
·      – Other Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) for Children’s Rights
·      – Local Government Units (LGUs) where Childhope operates its programs and services among the street children.
These partnerships help us to promote the rights of children, especially street children, in order to influence the local laws/ policies and improve existing programs and services for street and urban poor children.
Childhope is also lobbying with the LGUs to take on the responsibility of actively advocating at the barangay level for child rights and to participate/ facilitate in the organization of Barangay Councils for the Protection of Children and implement child-friendly programs and services. Childhope is also cultivating strategies for partnership with government agencies like TESDA or TESDA-accredited institutions for training our beneficiaries for free or at a minimal cost. We will also engage volunteers to help facilitate our program activities.