The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted the world and its effects have disproportionately affected the most vulnerable groups in society. Children are differently affected by the global health crisis as school openings were delayed, stay-at-home orders for minors were enforced, and prolonged isolation has taken its toll on children’s mental health. As we slowly transition to a new normal, children deprived of their liberty are grappling with feelings of isolation and loneliness from being separated from their loved ones. The children inside the Bahay Pag-asa or House of Hope in the Philippines continue to wait, not only for the return of the normal but also of their second chance.
From crisis to transformation: What difference can a protective and developmental project for young people make
*The names of persons cited in the article have been changed
Those who say that the young people in the poor neighbourhoods in Bagong Silang are lazy or good for nothing have not known the depths of the experience of young persons like Bren. At the age of 10, he has already trodden the streets of Manila with his father selling pails and wash bins to make ends meet. While other kids his age are supposed to be hanging out with friends or spending time at school, he has already learned to endure the heat and hunger to earn a living. The eldest in a brood of five, he detested the way others looked down upon him and his family. Growing up in life of deprivation, he believes that being poor does not make someone a lesser person. He felt bad that nobody would give them respect anymore. His longing to get himself out of that hard life has consumed his young mind. He eventually learned to be tough, believing that to survive, one must fend for oneself and claw back at those who judge and condemn those who were unlucky enough to be living on the margins.
A 17-year old youth who works as a part-time tricycle driver was waiting in the tricycle line in Barangay 176 Bagong Silang (“new birth”), a relocation site for evicted informal settlers in Manila when three passengers boarded his tricycle. The tricycle was stopped by police at a checkpoint and the three passengers were found to be in possession of drugs. All four of them, including the 17-year old driver were brought to the police precinct and placed under arrest.
Hundreds of children and youth, as well as d representatives from various civil society organizations, joined a unity walk last November 16, carrying slogans that represented advocacies in promoting children’s rights. The activity was led by the Committee on Women and Children of Barangay 176 in partnership with the Caloocan Civil Society Coalition (CCSC). The solidarity walk coincided with the commemoration of the Children’s Month which marked the almost universal adoption of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1989.