DISPATCHES FROM THE PHILIPPINES
CRAIG GIMA / CGIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Some of the people in this squatters' camp in Manila participate in a Healthy Start program modeled after programs in Hawaii.
Isle-based agency helps poor families
One sponsored program fosters child development
MANILA » In a shanty town built along railroad tracks not far from the bright lights and luxury high-rises along Manila's Baywalk, hope has come from Hawaii.
About 500 families live in this squatter camp in the Paco district of Manila. Residents call it PNP after the Philippine National Railways. Drugs and violence are common. About 75 percent of the children do not go to school, but some of the youngest and poorest children are being given a chance that could lead to a better life.
Star-Bulletin reporter Craig Gima is on assignment in the Philippines, where Gov. Linda Lingle is leading an official visit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Filipino immigration to Hawaii.
The children get medical care, immunizations, milk and vitamins. Their parents get counseling and training to learn how to take better care of their kids. The program is modeled after Hawaii's Healthy Start initiative and is designed to promote healthy childhood growth and development and prevent child abuse and neglect. The Honolulu-based Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation helped get it started in the Philippines in 1996.
A group called Families and Children for Empowerment and Development Inc., which provides services to the people who live in this area, pioneered the Healthy Start program with the help of the Consuelo foundation.
The foundation paid to send people from FCED to Hawaii to learn about Healthy Start; they funded training, salaries and even put up the money to translate training materials from English to Filipino.
USING THE FCED program as a model, the Consuelo foundation also helped start up Healthy Start throughout the Philippines. In the last 10 years, the program has helped 2,256 families through seven different nonprofit groups.
The Consuelo foundation spends about $3 million a year in the Philippines starting up and supporting programs to help the poor, especially women and children. It was founded by Consuelo Zobel Alger, an heir to the Ayala family, which owns one of the largest corporations in the Philippines. Alger married a U.S. Army general and lived in Hawaii for 20 years. The foundation she started in Honolulu funds programs at about 120 "partner" organizations throughout the Philippines.
Yesterday in Paco, a group of mothers learned to teach their children about shapes using scissors, glue and paper. There was also a lesson on taking the children to the market, rather than leaving them at home alone.
Raquel Sepillo, 33, said she learned to bring something with her son Danilo Sepillo Jr., 2, so he has something to occupy him as she shops.
Shirley Obaob, 26, told the rest of the class that she learned the value of taking her child Ria Jamely Obaob, 2, to the market. It's a good experience and she'll learn about the market, Obaob said. "She gets to know something. She won't be ignorant when the child grows up."
Katrina Ramirez, 18, said she's learned to discipline her son Karl Dominique Ramirez, 2, in a positive way. "It's not necessary to spank children," she said.
SINCE 1996, a larger charity -- the Christian Children's Fund -- has assumed funding of Healthy Start and has initiated another program to help the children after they finish with Healthy Start.
It's part of the Consuelo foundation's philosophy, said President Patti Lyons. The foundation is like "venture capital for social work," she said. As a program matures or is able to fend for itself, the foundation will look for a new project.
The family support workers in the program make about $58 a month to teach classes twice a month and follow up with home visits to about 20 families. They are selected from the neighborhoods serviced by FCED.
The first children in the program are about 9 years old now. Teresita Silva, president of FCED, said most of the children are still in school. Some of the children have moved -- squatters don't always stay in one neighborhood -- and without access to services, she's lost track of them.
The group is hoping not to lose track of the children in this group. The squatters have been told that the area is being redeveloped to build yet another shopping mall in Manila.
FCED is negotiating with the government to see if the squatters can be relocated to an area where they can continue to receive services.
Andrea Hagonay, 24, said the program has made a difference for her 2-year-old, Alliah. You can see it, she said, in the way the children look and act.
"The children here (in the program) are more developed physically. They have better values and are able to express themselves," she said. "They say, 'I love you, good night.' Other kids around here are disrespectful."
Shelter offers kids a second chance
MANILA » When he was living on Manila's streets at age 14, Dexter Bernardez would rob people at gunpoint.
He used methamphetamine, paint solvent, marijuana, even cough syrup to get high.
Then one day, after a brutal fight in which he nearly lost an eye, Bernardez realized he had to get off the streets.
He went to a drop-in center at the Pangarap Shelter for Street Children, where kids who have nowhere else to go can spend the night. From there, he entered Pangarap's residential shelter, where he got medical treatment and counseling based on a program designed by University of Hawaii psychiatry professor Danelo Ponce, a consultant with the Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation.
Brother Fancisco P. Tanega, the program director at Pangarap, said Ponce suggested a three-pronged approach to getting children off the streets: caring, healing and teaching.
» Caring means providing shelter, clothing and medical care.
» Healing takes care of providing spiritual and psychological counseling and therapy.
» Teaching helps the children return to some sort of school structure.
The Hawaii-based Consuelo foundation also provided about $560,000 to help start the drop-in center, and then a loan so Pangarap, which means "hope" in Pilipino, could build an office building next door. Rental income helps keep the center going.
Bernardez graduated from high school and went to college. He now works with computers at a newspaper in Manila.
If he hadn't found a place at Pangarap, Bernardez said, he knows where he would be. "I'm dead now," he said. "Most of my friends (from the streets) have already died."
CRAIG GIMA / CGIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ria Samely Obaob, 30 months, worked with her mother Shirly Obaob yesterday learning how to cut and paste pictures at a Healthy Start program in Manila.
HELPING THE POOR
Some facts about the Honolulu-based Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation:
» Consuelo Zobel Alger's ancestors founded the Ayala Corp., one of the leading businesses in the Philippines. She married U.S. Army Gen. James Dyce Alger and lived in Hawaii for 20 years with him.
» She had no children when she died on Nov. 29, 1990, and left her fortune to a foundation bearing her name established to serve "the poorest of the poor, for it is those who have no hope."
» The foundation earns about $5 million a year, invested conservatively from its $120 million endowment.
» It spends about $4 million a year on projects in the Philippines and about $1 million helping the poor in Hawaii.
» The foundation also was the first major donor to help build the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu. Because of that, the courtyard is planted with roses and is named after Alger.