I read an article today, published in the UK Daily Mail, that has made some serious allegations about the treatment of street kids in Manila in the lead up to the visit of Pope Francis. You can read that rather lengthy report here. I think the first thing to make clear is that none of what is reported in the article is on the direction of His Holiness. You should also understand the emotive language used, particularly in the headlines, is aimed at getting your attention.
The sad reality is that there are many, many very poor and under privileged people in the Philippines, as there are in any developing nation. Even in Australia there are over 100,000 homeless people every night, many of them of late veterans of the defence forces – so let’s not point fingers or preen ourselves on any ‘holier than thou’ pedestal. Nonetheless, I have to say having seen first hand some of the government facilities for orphaned and abandoned children in Manila and elsewhere, they are pretty grim.
We could rehash the article, debate it point by point but that won’t achieve much and it isn’t the theme of this website. So with that in mind, start thinking about what you do when you visit the Philippines. Do you even notice the beggars and the street kids or do you no longer find it out of the ordinary? Do you ignore the beggars and the grubby hands of the street kids thinking it is all a scam; they belong to a criminal gang and are trained to pick pockets if you stop to give them a few coins?
There are such gangs operating, no question. In fact the people you see in the canoes when your super ferry docks, usually an old woman holding a limp baby in one arm, the other hand outstretched for coins, often rent the babies for the day. Yes, there are scruffy malnourished kids and babies up for rent to help gain pity and donations. Does this mean the beggars don’t need the money? I think it just shows survival skills and adaptability because there is a lot of competition for the largesse of the passing public.
The good news is there are people, good people, who are doing what they can to help. It is a huge problem and a never ending one and no matter why the kids are suffering, they are suffering and they do need help. So much of what we take for granted for our kids, they will never know. Love, family, food, toys, even footwear. So what can you do? If, like me, you have inlaws and relatives from your marriage then the best advice I can give is to make sure they aren’t a part of the problem. Charity begins at home, so look after your own first and that will save others having to do it for you. After that, it’s up to you.