Written by Bahay Tuluyan
Joseph* is one of nine children. When he was 9, his father died in jail after an infected wound went untreated. Despite this, Joseph continued going to school. However, a few years later Joseph’s mother was arrested. He stopped going to school and started spending most of his time on the street, begging and sniffing solvent.
Bahay Tuluyan came to know Joseph through its Street Education and Support program. He was living under a bridge in a central part of Manila with a group of other street-connected children and youth. They lived precariously in a cavity under the bridge, 10 meters above the river. This is where they felt safe from being arrested or ‘rescued’ by government officials.
Most of the time Joseph was too busy using drugs to participate in the activities run by Bahay Tuluyan’s youth facilitators. The team continued to come back however, standing on the bridge and calling down to Joseph and his friends so they could come and participate, or at least eat a hot meal.
Challenges in Working with Street-Connected Children in the Philippines
A key challenge for anyone working with marginalised children, and particularly street-connected children, is understanding whether this kind of work makes any difference. There are a myriad of ways that activities can be counted – such as how many meals are provided or how many sessions are run – but there are challenges in knowing whether the flurry of activity is leading to sustainable change for individual children like Joseph.
This challenge, which Bahay Tuluyan has faced for three decades as it has worked with Manila’s street-connected children, has prompted the organization to start an innovative project to measure children’s resilience. This project, sponsored by the Consortium for Street Children through the Red Nose Day Foundation, is working to develop a context-appropriate tool that can be used to measure and monitor children’s resilience over time.
The project is taking the internationally-recognised Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM) and adapting it for use with Filipino street-connected children. The adaptation is based on a series of in-depth interviews with children who have been involved in Bahay Tuluyan’s programs and services. The interviews have helped to narrow in on the things that help street-connected children to feel strong and safe.
Importantly, the CYRM model of resilience that is used is an ecological model, wherein resources in the child’s environment – both physical and human –are recognised as critical elements in building resilience. This is distinct from models of resilience that focus primarily on a child’s individual characteristics or personality traits.
Joseph’s Experience Participating in Bahay Tuluyan’s Programmes
For Joseph, the fact that the mobile unit team kept coming back to visit him made a big difference. He stopped using drugs and started participating in activities regularly. It gave him the support structures he needed to be able to start to stand on his own. He is now living off the street in a Bahaya Tuluyan shelter until he finds stable accommodation, and also, started training to be one of Bahay Tuluyan’s Junior Educators. Joseph’s role models are the youth at Bahay Tuluyan who have managed to turn their lives around.
Joseph can’t conceal his pride when he talks about how his siblings respect him again. They don’t need a tool to see the change in Joseph – for them it is striking. For organisations like Bahay Tuluyan, the tool will provide the evidentiary basis to establish and illustrate how important it is to provide consistent, open and non-judgmental services to hard-to-reach children like Joseph.
Australian-based social worker, Alisa Willis, is leading the development of this tool which forms part of her PhD research. An advisory group of youth and social workers from Bahay Tuluyan has helped to direct the research project. A draft version of the tool has been produced and a pilot is underway. After the tool has been piloted it is hoped that it can be adopted by other organizations working with children to ensure that their work is creating the change they are hoping for.
*name changed to protect identity of the child.