In 2015 I first visited the community as a Board of Director of the foundation that supported a local foundation, a school and education programmes here. Around 630,000 people Iive together in this 8.65 sq.m district. It is the most densely populated in Manila as well as the highest crime rate. All the collected garbage throughout the city is dumped in this area. People here work as scavengers they sell “valuable” materials to the recycle shops, they even collect leftover food from all the fast food restaurants to recook them to consume and to sell. Families and children are living in a deplorable living condition. Life expectancy of people in Tondo is only 40-45 years old. And unfortunately, the access to quality education is also limited.
This time, I came back to Tondo, not as a donor but as a Board of Trustees of the same Filipino foundation that we used to support. I am here to transform the way we provide education to this community through our school and education programmes. We are adopting the Problem Based Learning approach and Makerspace that I have implemented in Thailand. We believe that these children need more than just basic literacy skills but problem-solving, social emotion and many other necessary skills for them to survive and thrive in challenging living conditions they are in.
When we visited families in the temporary housing area, I saw a four-year-old girl, squatting on the dirty ground. She was wearing only shorts, on her right hand was a broken plastic spoon. She was playing all by herself, scooping soil with the spoon and attentively examined all the stuff that she found on the ground. She was quietly doing that over and over with her tiny hands. Just in a few minutes that I was observing her, I was reassured that regardless of your financial/ economic status, race or nationality, all children are the same. They are curious, hungry to learn and want to understand things around them. What we can do as adults are to give the opportunity for them to learn, to realise their full potential and live together in harmony.
This new task is not easy. We will have to work in a highly complex community. We need to learn the local context and navigate the foreign landscape. I will try my best to do this, I am grateful for my team in Thailand for doing such a great job so, I have more time to implement programmes in Manila too.