It is difficult to estimate accurately the number of children living on the streets of Manila. Some associations put forward a figure of 250,000 while the others 1 million. One thing is certain, their number has increased considerably in recent years, due to various factors: poverty, family structure, migration… These children, from birth to 18 years, are completely on their own. They are particularly vulnerable to forced labour, child prostitution, sexual and physical abuse, early pregnancy and many of them show severe symptoms of depression and anxiety.
This precarious situation touched Sister Emmanuelle during her first trip to the Philippines in 1989. She decided to set up her association in the country to help the children. Today, ten years after her death, ASMAE-Philippines is still present and accompanies four local NGOs, which intervene with street children in various sectors: education, school support, hygiene as well as psychosocial support, awareness of children's rights… The objective is clear: to give future perspectives to these young people, improve their living conditions and facilitate their access to public services.
On a daily basis, social workers travel in minibuses filled with educational materials that they install on the street. They will then gather the children from the neighbourhood and start activities… Children will one day learn the basics of hygiene, from washing hands to the quality of the water they drink. The next day, they receive school support. The older ones also learn about their health rights or allowances and are accompanied in such procedures.
Children have learned to identify types of abuse and to protect themselves. They become aware of their rights and responsibilities. They are able to identify the related parties in charge and for whom they can ask for some help.
This accompaniment allows them to find hope: "Now they share their desire to finish their education, to have their own home and to be reunited with their families." At the end of each session, a meal is distributed.
Not all street children are orphans. They often live with their parents on the sidewalks of Manila. Again, NGOs provide support and teach street families to master their budget in order to send their children to school.
Serving local NGOs
Another fundamental dimension of ASMAE’s work is to support NGOs (Child Hope, Kalungan Er-Ma, NCSD and Bahay Tuluyan) so that they are more effective and eventually become fully independent. This support takes the form of training in financial management, human resources or project management.
In parallel, ASMAE supports the creation of a network of associations working in the street childcare sector in Manila to improve good practices and map current actions.
"The facilitation of exchanges between various actors, both private and public, allows a comprehensive, sustainable and coordinated approach to the services offered to children and families on the streets,” explains Marie-Esperance de Seze, representative of Asmae Philippines. “The action is thus made more effective: we avoid offering twice the service in the same area and we share the difficulties encountered and possible solutions to implement."
Finally, ASMAE and AFD wish to carry out a study to take a census of these children in order to better reflect the reality of the phenomenon. An essential tool to improve the effectiveness of NGO action, but also to raise public awareness of this problem and help local actors to raise funds to carry out their actions.
A relationship of trust
ASMAE - Sister Emmanuelle Association has been a partner of the Agence Française de Développement since 2014. It is a major player in civil society in France and in the countries where it works with local partners. AFD has already allocated five grants, the last of which 250,000 euros, to this association, demonstrating the relationship of trust and dialogue established between the two partners.