Our Chairperson Kay Mackay visits the Children
The Chair of Children of The Dump, Kay MacKay took time out from her holiday to visit Children of The Dump in Manila. She has returned full of enthusiasm abut the difference that the charity makes to the wonderful children and their families who live by Payatas Dump. Read her blog below.
Reflections of our visit to Manila 2018.
Journey to Manila
Cathay Pacific took us via Hong Kong on our trip to Manila.
We were glad to see Peters welcoming face in arrivals as despite our frequent visits, we still haven’t tackled the 25km journey out to Mango alone.
The traffic is horrendous and the trip takes nearly 4 hours before we get to see the children and staff at Mango.
Children gather round us, taking our hand and placing it against their forehead- this is a sign of respect and an important gesture of ‘Blessing’ here in the Philippines. I am ashamed to say that I still struggle to recall every child’s name and I promise myself to try harder. They have changed so much in the year since our previous visit – some growing beyond recognition and turning into adolescents. We just had time for a catch up with Peter in the office while more children arrive home from school and come in to welcome us. Dinner with the children was delicious as always – rice by the bucketful, I am always surprised by how much rice a tiny person can pack away.
An early night was required after the long flight so we crashed out very quickly.
After over 12 hours sleep, we awoke to a public holiday today and time in the office and with the children. An opportunity to take a few video clips of staff, children and everyday life here at Mango.
Driving through Payatas on our way here, it looked unchanged andscavenging- now she is offering to do laundry for people but there is little call for that in Payatas.
Never give up on him.
Early start today and we are on the road by 5.30am to head north into the mountains. It’s a 5-hour journey. Our purpose is to visit 16 year old, W. We first met him nearly 10 years ago at Mango. He made a particular impression on me because he emanated from the orphanage in Manila where I had volunteered 33 years ago. He is an “unknown “ meaning he has no known family and no papers, so we are not really sure of his exact age. Mango is the only family and home he has ever known. Through the years, he and Fred (my husband) have developed a competitive relationship over the chessboard, with W being self taught and victorious. He did well at school with above average grades, but staff started seeing a change in his behaviour and his grades dropped. Sadly, he had become addicted to computer gaming, he was not attending school and stealing to pay to game. He was influencing other young lads at Mango to join his activities. After many failed attempts to help him back on track, social workers decided that his presence was too disruptive and he could no longer remain at Mango and a place was found at a rural farm known by Peter.
Here there is no electricity, water is pumped from the ground but the air is fresh and food plentiful. Most importantly, computer gaming is in short supply so giving W an opportunity to contemplate his options without the pressure of his addiction. So 5 months later, we arrive to meet him and observe his counseling with Peter. Gone is the youthful confidence, no hint of arrogance, just a child feeling alone in the world, missing his Mango family and recognising his mistakes. His tears fall freely and he sobs his regret. He says how much he wants to return to his 40 brothers and sisters and many mothers and fathers at Mango, he describes the bleak alternative with clarity. Returning to his studies can realise his dream to become an engineer but he knows it will be hard and he needs help to manage his addiction and take responsibility.
We leave him in the belief that another chance is possible and Peter will discuss with the team and other children as the impact of W returning has to be assessed for all involved. I pray that we will see W back at Mango and he gets another chance to fulfill his potential. Before we leave, he writes a note for his sponsors as they have been asking about his welfare and keen to hear from him. And now the trek back to Mango for a welcome early night.
A little break.
Whenever we come to Philippines, we feel it important to experience the beauty and variety of other places apart from Manila and Payatas. This time we chose Bohol and a tiny nearby island called Cabilao. Here there is no mains electricity, no cars but utter tranquility and peace. Strolling along the mainly dirt tracks with traditional Nepa huts as homes we met a chap taking his cow for a stroll and another with a few goats loaded onto his scooter. We met the Barangay secretary who welcomed us warmly and showed us the local warning system for typhoons but explained that their island is very safe from Tsunami because there are caves that absorb the force of the wave. It was a joy to spend time on this island and we hope to return one day.
Preparation for Foundation Day
Today at Mango, we were able to spend time with the social workers discussing impending policy changes that the government is planning for childcare regulations. We will have to think hard about their impact on our services. It was also time to scrutinise the finances, looking at expenditure against budget and thinking ahead to costs against potential income for next year.
I was able to participate in the children getting ready for the Foundation Day celebrations at their school tomorrow- some were making a cardboard “buzzer” for a game that will be played, others creating bright red pom-poms for the parade. Some children were catching up with their chores, polishing the floor of their room or helping to clean the bathroom. It’s an important part of the ethos here that everyone pulls together to help, it’s our home and we need to keep it clean together. A group were in the library with some of their classmates working on a project while others were having a nap because their day had started at 4am to get to school for the early morning session.
A visit to San Isidro – the new dumpsite.
We piled into the Jeepney with our 2 social workers, resident teacher and 3 children to visit homes in the settlement around San Isidro. This is an official dumpsite but it has been inundated by the influx of garbage trucks who can no longer dump their loads at Payatas. A community of about 5000 people have built shacks from scavenged materials – there is no electricity and no water. A toilet system of ‘bag-it-and-chuck-it’ operates so you have to be watchful where you tread.
We were shown the old car battery that the family pay 60 peso to have charged and gives them light at night. They have to buy drinking water but there is a natural well a strenuous kilometre walk away where they can draw water for washing and laundry.
We visit two scavenger families of the new Mango boys, brothers Carlo and Paulo, and neighbours, Lexter. Carlo and Paulo have 3 siblings still at home with their single mum who has moved in with her father and brothers family as her husband was using drugs and became abusive. 15 people live in the one room, there was not enough room for them all to lie down, it has an area outside for a fire on which they boil the rice. Pickings for scavengers here are better than those left at Payatas and between the father and brother they have about 200 peso a day (£2.85) to keep the 15 people. Mum told me that they can often only eat once a day.
Lexter was an abused boy, his mum and step-father are in the shack next door. They have 2 other children, and earn 200 peso a day between them.
The homes are surrounded by rubbish, the floor is carpeted with rubbish, there are piles of rubbish everywhere. Miraculously, the smell today was less putrid than normal – there has been no rain for weeks so the stench forewarned by the staff was not present. Children help to sort the scavenged goods brought back to the home but here in San Isidro there is a strict ban on children entering the dumpsite unlike Payatas. There is a large sorting area at the entrance to the settlement where many children work.
When it came time to leave, I was nervous that the children would be sad to leave their Mums and siblings but there was a weird lack of any emotion, no displays of affection between parent and child and not a backward glance from the children as we headed back to Mango.
New children to Mango Tree House
Such an emotionally charged day on so many levels. Our social living with his paternal grandmother who is too old and infirm to work. His mother died giving birth to his baby brother 2 years ago (the baby has since been adopted) and then his father died in prison last September. An uncle has provided limited financial assistance from his drug dealing activities but the social worker is very concerned for the child’s safety and he has never attended school.
On arrival, we are invited to climb a rickety ladder – with the warning – careful, just one at a time. It takes us to the rented room of C’s grandmother and the Uncle. I am nervous that the floor may give way and I would make an unannounced visit to the neighbours below but fortunately it held for the short period is took for Grandmother to sign the necessary papers for C to come with us to Mango Tree House. All his belongings were in a tiny bag on his back, no-one hugged him goodbye, the uncle did not even look up from his phone as C climbed the ladder to the street. C wept, keeping his face away from us to hide his ‘shame’ as he described.
We had not expected to be collecting JJ today, she is planned to come to Mango Tree House at the end of March when her brother finishes his school year because his teacher has worked so hard to help him remain in class and we are expecting them to be admitted together.
JJ is 7 years old and her brother is 9. They were abandoned by their mother shortly after JJ was born and her whereabouts are unknown. They have lived with their father but he had an accident at work and is now disabled and unable to work. He has a new partner and baby, it appears that JJ and her brother are no longer welcome in the home. Both are very small for their age and obviously malnourished. As the social worker talks to the family, JJ makes her wishes crystal clear, she wants to come with us and she wants to come with us now. She doesn’t want to wait for her brother to finish school, she says she will miss him but she wants to leave today. Goodness only knows what has been happening in her little life but she took her only spare tee-shirt and shorts and walked out of the room without a backward glance. JJ has never been outside her street, she has never met a white person before, but she put her tiny hand in mine with absolute trust as we climbed into the Jeepney
The day we collected JJ and C to come to Mango Tree House was enlightening in so many ways. The children were totally vulnerable and yet so trusting of us strangers. They have nothing and have known little love or affection in their lives. Neither has ever been to school, been read to or played with and in the case of JJ, did not possess a pair of shoes. Our journey to Mango took a detour to a large shopping mall on the outskirts of Manila so that we could buy some shoes for JJ and get some food for everyone. The social worker suggested that JollyBee would be a wonderful place to go – a filippino fast food establishment for chicken and rice. It went down a treat.
The children’s faces were a total picture – they rode the escalators in awe, they stared at the glossy shops and polished decorations as we hunted for shoes. They started talking to each other and we played games – the smiles came amazingly quickly.
Potential new Grapevine students.
We visited Payatas to be introduced to two families who are totally on the breadline and have been referred for support to help one of their children go to school.
To get to the first place we had to tackle some precarious pathways and cross a very dodgy wooden bridge over a ghastly stream of filth. Everyone looked on anxiously as we crossed – I was definitely not confident that it would remain intact and I did not fancy plunging into the water below. Anyway we arrived safely at the home of Mr and Mrs D, their 3 children and another due soon. The place they are squatting in is bare, a dirt floor and evidence of a wood fire in the corner with a very small pot of cooked rice on top. They are scavengers but since this dumpsite has been closed to the trucks, their meager income depends on paying the truck drivers to deposit the loads on the roadside. Mrs D says their daily income is about 100 peso (about £1.40). She carries the youngest child in her arms and the two older children gather around her legs as she talks to us. They are filthy and their clothes are rags. I ask what they eat and today they will have one meal consisting only of the rice I can see in the pot. The despair in this woman’s eyes is pitiful and our assistance will be limited but maybe if we can keep her eldest child in school for a few years they may stand a chance of lifting themselves out of this miserable existence. It is not recommended to do this but I gave her a few hundred pesos and I hope they will be able to buy some more rice and maybe a little dried fish for some protein.
Next stop was Mrs R who has five children – all currently attending school but they are struggling to meet the costs. Mrs R works in the sorting bay of the junk shop and was knee deep in dirty old bottles, tins and plastic, which she was dividing into different sacks. I reached to shake her hand when the social worker introduced us and she was embarrassed as her hand was so dirty. She invited us to visit her at her home but it meant her taking a break from her work and losing vital money so we declined and hope that the support for her child to go to school from our Grapevine scheme will help to keep them attending.
Lastly, I was able to visit my old friend Mrs C. She and her husband are scavengers but since the closure of Payatas their income is even more challenged. Mrs C has attended a rug making course that is held at Mango Tree House which aims to provide women with new skills. She collects material and old clothes from the rubbish, carefully cleans it and then makes rugs and pan holders from them. My colleagues and I bought some each and Mrs C was so chuffed – she now had enough money to buy he children dinner. A rug was 20 peso and 3 pan holders were the same (about 30 pence) and she says if she is not lazy and works hard she can make 4 in a day. Mrs C has 3 children and two are supported in Grapevine. She proudly showed us the childrens medals and certificates along with the collection of correspondence from their sponsors in the UK. Treasured items that are kept very safe.
Clean up day at Mango
Saturday is the day when everyone completes their chores. Everyone is proud of their home and so likes to keep it clean.
A wonderful outing
A trip to the swimming pool sounds amazing – make that with over 100 children and taking over the entire resort with a barbeque and real home-made ice cream then you are talking a mega treat. Sponsors facilitated the trip out with special funds to meet the costs. Our Jeepney started making trips at about 5am to transport children, staff and loads of food. Staff had been up all night preparing – they are such stars and we owe them huge gratitude for making the day so enjoyable for the children.
One Grapevine child arrived at the pool by 4.30am because she was so excited, others were all there by 6am. Most remained in the water for hours, only emerging when the food was served. It was wonderful to watch the joy of children playing happily.
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