WHO WE ARE
THE JOURNEY FROM CHILDHOPE INTERNATIONAL TO CHILDHOPE PHILIPPINES
Childhope International, founded as a non-governmental organisation in 1986, was the first international movement on behalf of street children. Established under the guidance of leading global organisations including UNICEF, the World Council of Churches and Save the Children Sweden, Childhope International was soon looking to set up regional offices in the US, UK and Asia.
Ms. Teresita Silva, then a full-time consultant for UNICEF Philippines, represented UNICEF Philippines at a Childhope International Board Meeting, where she was tasked with establishing a regional office for Childhope in Southeast Asia. In May 1989, Childhope hosted the First Asian Regional Conference for Street Children in Manila, cementing its regional presence in Southeast Asia and eventually covering all of Asia. Childhope Asia, the regional office of Childhope International, opened in June 1989 in Manila.
When Childhope International decided to stop its operations, however, Ms. Silva decided to continue the work of Childhope Asia and re-registered the NGO with the Securities and Exchange Commission of the Philippines as ‘Childhope Asia Philippines, Inc.’ in 1995. From 2013 onwards, Childhope Asia Philippines, Inc. is known simply as Childhope Philippines.
Childhope Philippines is now completely independent of other Childhope organisations around the world including UK, USA and Haiti. Childhope Philippines is a locally incorporated, non-government organisation that continues its work and advocacy on behalf of street children in the Philippines together with its sister NGOs (FCED and Tahanan Sta. Luisa), a large network of other NGOs, national and local government units, international funding agencies, staff, consultants, volunteers, Board of Directors and with its founding President, Ms. Teresita Silva, at the helm of operations.
STREET CHILDREN AT RISK
Street children comprise about 1-3% of the children and youth population of the major cities in the Philippines. Metro Manila and the National Capital Region (NCR) have an estimated 30,000 children on the streets, while nationwide, some 250,000 street children are believed to be plying the streets of major urban centers. From available studies, most are boys aged 7 to 16 years. About 75% of them still return home to families, after working or begging on the streets.
The situation of children working and/or living on the street is viewed as a violation of the rights of children. The five major causes for children to take to the streets are poverty and large families; unemployment/ underemployment; limited access to basic social services; breakdown of family structures; and the shift from traditional values that tend to be consumeristic and materialistic. The immediate trigger is often physical or sexual abuse within the family. When these children experience family problems, hunger, neglect and domestic violence, they escape from their homes and live part-time, or even full-time on the streets. Some are simply abandoned.
While on the streets, these children are exposed to very harsh and dangerous elements. They suffer from hunger, cold, sickness, abuse, and exploitation. Among the street children, the street girls are the most vulnerable to maltreatment, sexual abuse and exploitation. 30% of street children are girls.
Most street children are child workers, working and/or living on the streets and engaged in vending, car washing, scavenging, begging, peddling drugs, prostitution and petty theft. Boys, just as often as girls, are sexually abused. These children are often in conflict with the law and the authorities.
WHO ARE THESE STREET CHILDREN?
In the metro area in the Philippines it is, sadly, not an uncommon sight to see children selling flowers or begging at car windows when they should be in school. These make up some of the population of the Street Children we work with. The definition of ‘street children’ is contested, but many practitioners and policymakers use UNICEF’s concept of boys and girls aged under 18 for whom ‘the street’ (including unoccupied dwellings and wasteland) has become home and/or their source of livelihood; and who are inadequately protected or supervised (Black, 1993).
Based on our experience at Childhope Philippines, we have grouped the Street Kids we service in three categories, which are generally accepted by Social workers:
- STREET BASED CHILDREN – These are the children who have no guardians or homes and eseentially live and work on the streets. They may either be runaways or have been abandoned by their parents. Children in this category are some of our most vulnerable clients and Childhope always seeks to find ways to get them to a safer environment.
- CHILDREN OF STREET BASED FAMILIES – The children in this category stay with their families, who are themselves homeless and who make their living off of the street.The dangers and hardships of living on the streets are no less for this group, even though they might have their parents or guardians with them.
- COMMUNITY BASED CHILDREN – This group makes up the majority of our clients. These are children who work on the streets but return home daily to their families in the community. Many of them receive formal school education, but they take to the streets to earn what they can so that their families can eat and they can go to school. These children are also in a precarious position as they are exposed to predators and dangerous situations on a daily basis.