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Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation

Alternative learning at the Sta. Mesa Heights United Methodist Church in Manila, Philippines.
Alternative learning at the Santa Mesa Heights United Methodist Church in Manila, Philippines.

Manila, Philippines

United Methodist Women funds the “Enhancing the Community-based Response for the Protection of Street and Working (Out-of-School) Children in Manila North Cemetery” project.

About the Organization

Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) is a nonprofit ecumenical social development institution located in Manila, the capital city of Philippines. KKFI is registered with the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission and accredited by the Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development. It is committed to working with poor and marginalized populations such as children, youth who are not attending school, women, indigenous peoples, the poor and persons with disabilities.

KKFI has been working with children since it was founded in 1950. It started with a feeding program and a preschool education program for indigent children. Because of poverty in the Philippines, an alarming number of children have dropped out of school and work on the streets in risky situations to augment the earnings of their families. Today KKFI has established a temporary shelter where street, abandoned, out-of-school and other at-risk children children receive alternative education, health and psychosocial support, moral and spiritual counseling.

KKFI also believes that projects for children have a high probability of success if the community is supportive of the objective of preventing children from going on the streets and if it can hold social service providers accountable. Thus, KKFI provides a variety of community awareness activities such as parenting effectiveness seminars and family life education training to enhance the capacity of parents and the community to respond to child development and protection issues.

Project and Population Served

United Methodist Women funds the “Enhancing the Community-based Response for the Protection of Street and Working (Out-of-School) Children in Manila North Cemetery” project. This project provides essential social services such as alternative education, medical care, psychosocial assistance and life-skills training to street and working children aged 5-17 who are not attending school and living inside the Manila North Cemetery. The project was initiated in 2011 through fund support from Hope Ry. In June 2012, it was expanded through support from United Methodist Women to accommodate more children in need of development and protection.

The 54-hectare (133-acre) Manila North Cemetery is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in Manila. Due to heavy migration and the lack of adequate housing, a number of homeless families have made the cemetery their permanent home.

As many as 10,000 people live in North Cemetery as of 2011. Most families serve as caretakers of tombs and live inside mausoleums (houselike structures that contain the tombs). Those without mausoleum shelters build makeshift houses out of scrap materials. A family usually earns about PhP 50 ($1.20 U.S.) per month for every tomb it cleans, with each family caring for an average of 10 tombs. Many families receive payment at one time annually and struggle to make it last for a year. To make ends meet, most families borrow money from relatives, friends or acquaintances or take odd jobs. Despite these efforts, most residents do not have regular jobs, and their income is not enough to provide for the basic needs of their families.

The children in North Cemetery usually attend public schools, but their frequent absences due to various personal, family and school policy-related reasons often result in them dropping out. These children then work in the streets or in commercial districts to help provide for their families. They beg, steal, scavenge for food or sell newspapers, cigarettes and leis (garlands). Some young women engage in prostitution. It is estimated that about 20,000 of the street children become prostitutes.

In 2011, a total of 70 children in the Manila North Cemetery not attending school received the following services:

Educational Services
Education was provided to children through the Alternative Learning System (ALS). ALS is a modularized basic education program of the Philippines Department of Education for out-of-school children. KKFI is an accredited ALS provider. Classes were conducted from August 2011 to July 2012, as one academic year. In August 2012 classes resumed again.

To reach out-of-school students who stay at home, ALS teachers also conducted home visits, providing tutoring and counseling. Through such outreach, the dropout rate in the city is further minimized.

Medical and Psychosocial Services

As part of the ALS program, students receive nutritious meals. Before the ALS program, most of the children were undernourished. After receiving meals the children gained weight and are now physically fit and mentally alert. Medical assistance is also provided to students when needed. KKFI provides financial assistance for laboratory tests, medicine and doctor’s fees. The family of the sick child is also given money to pay for transportation and other needs during hospitalization.

Spiritual and Recreational Services
Regular worship services and counseling are offered by the pastor of Sta. Mesa United Methodist Church. The youth themselves lead in the morning devotions before their lessons start. Recreational activities such as sports and educational field trips are also offered. The students have had a chance to enjoy prom, Valentine’s Day and Christmas parties, which they planned themselves.

Community and Family Training and Mobilization

Regular monthly parent-teacher meetings and consultations are conducted, which are regularly attended by about 25 parents. According to them, they are very pleased with the changes in their children.

Advocacy
Providing opportunities for student leadership development is one of the principles that KKFI strongly upholds. ALS students have organized a student council through which they plan their extracurricular activities. One activity they have implemented is a regular cleanup drive at the Manila North Cemetery. Students also participated in the summer feeding program and assisted in the LikhAral (creative learning) program, teaching smaller children about climate change and its effects on their lives and communities.

Students participated as well in an art workshop in which they drew their dreams and the environment they want to grow up in. Most of them shared that they want to leave the cemetery and have a better life. They are very thankful that through the ALS programs the better future they had always hoped for is within reach.

These activities have taught students to participate in community development and recommend policies in their communities. Students have also developed a positive self-concept and have learned to live in unity with children from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

Capacity Enhancement
Thus far, KKFI, in coordination with the Department of Education, has trained 10 volunteers to become ALS teachers. Once certified, ALS teachers conduct regular monthly meetings to discuss student progress, assess the program and develop future lessons. Teachers also receive training on community organizing and child protection. Topics covered include handling confidential information, coordinating with other social service agencies, resource mobilization, project development and project management. The aim of such trainings is to establish a child-protection system in the area to facilitate referral of child abuse and exploitation incidences and to develop self-reliance among organized groups. This provides the community with a group through which child abuse can be reported and prevented.

Overall Project Impact
Through the ALS program we are hoping that the youth will finish elementary and secondary education. With a diploma they will have more employment opportunities. The following is a list of some of the main impacts of this project:

  • Increased access to basic education through ALS, health and psychosocial services programs.
  • Enhanced life skills.
  • Reduction of street and working children’s vulnerability to various forms of abuse and exploitation.
  • Increased involvement of parents and community members in preventing and responding to cases of abuse and exploitation against street and working children.
  • Increase in the number of street and working children who return to formal school or participate in alternative education programs.
  • Enhanced capacity of children educating the community on children’s issues.

Success Stories

Jennifer

Jennifer C. Soliman, 24, could barely find the right words to express her gratitude for having the opportunity to finish her high school studies through ALS. She has yet to pass the accreditation exam that will make her an official secondary school graduate, but she is nonetheless thankful to God for sending the ALS program, KKFI and the Sta. Mesa Heights United Methodist Church into her life. Jennifer said she and her classmates also discovered the joys of singing, dancing and playing different musical instruments. But most of all, she said the thing that makes her happiest is knowing Jesus and accepting him as her Lord and Savior. She’s happy about how the ALS program united the youth in Manila North Cemetery. For the first time, they learned to share their dreams, pains and successes with one another.

As the president of the youth council, she promises to be a good example to other students. It was through her leadership that the ALS class initiated the cleanup drive at the cemetery. It has become a weekly routine. The initiative did not go unnoticed by the residents, who show their appreciation by providing them with free snacks each time they clean up the community. 

Leonard

Like Jennifer, Leonard is as determined to realize his dream of one day obtaining a high school diploma through ALS, despite various difficulties, particularly his poor health: “Although I sometimes have seizures, this is not an obstacle in my goal to achieve my dream,” Leonard says. “I want to show to others that dreams can be achieved through hard work, patience and perseverance amidst trials. … Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. helped me pay for my medical expenses. I am happy because there are people who helped me like the staff of KKFI,” he says.

Leonard admits that he is “happy because [his] dream of finishing high school is within reach.” But his dream is not limited to himself alone. He said he prays that other poor and out-of-school young people would dream like he does: “I hope other out-of-school youths like me would study to get their diploma,” he says, adding that it is the only way out of poverty and out of the life within the four walls of Manila North Cemetery. He knows that there is a world out there waiting to be conquered by those who dare to take on big challenges.
 

Last Updated: 04/08/2014
 
 

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