NGO to Manila gov’t: Listen to street kids
CHARITY workers and other nongovernment organizations have urged the Manila government officials to be more open and forthcoming in listening to and dealing with the problems of street children in the city.
In a recent public forum to commemorate International Day for Street Children, Bahay Tuluyan deputy director Catherine Scerri said that it was important for local officials to get to know the homeless kids’ concerns if they genuinely wanted to help them.
“We are calling [on] the City of Manila and the government to institutionalize a process where street children can speak and be heard,” Scerri said. “It’s one thing for them to speak up, but it’s a different thing to be heard. If there’s nobody … listening to them, then it doesn’t matter what they say.”
She explained the importance of hearing out street children to get firsthand accounts of their problems, fears, ambitions and aspirations.
According to Scerri, Bahay Tuluyan has pushed for the creation of such an avenue for street children for four years now. However, in light of the problems at Manila’s Reception and Action Center (RAC), the need for such a program has become more important.
During the public forum, homeless kids under the care of various NGOs had the opportunity to ask frank and honest questions of charity workers and representatives from local and national welfare offices.
One teenage girl did not hesitate to ask, “What’s really happening at RAC? Because we’ve been hearing stories that the food there is bad and that there’s also poor treatment for children being taken under their custody.” Meanwhile, a teenage boy wondered if the government had any concrete plans for them.
For her part, Virginia Rada, the MSWD’s focal person for street dwellers, said that she would look into the issues raised by the two kids as she assured them that the city government was reforming RAC to improve the service it offers.
“We welcome these honest questions from the children because in the process, we also learn a lot of things from them,” she said. She also welcomed Scerri’s suggestion to create a forum for street children.
Manila’s RAC became embroiled in a controversy last year after a photo of one of its wards, “Federico,” went viral, showing the malnourished boy lying naked on the center’s concrete floor, covered in bruises. Center officials later denied reports of child abuse and said that Federico’s case was an isolated incident.
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