03.05.2021 Consciousness

Children of the Dump

Sponsoring a child in need can be a great gift to you as well, as Nathalie Richard shares from her visit to Manila

“We’re not just about giving money, we care for her future.”

It was that thought that drove me to take a trip from Rose Bay to Manila. I went there to meet our sponsored child through Children of the Dump Manila, to show her that our whole family is behind her not only with dollars but also with care. We want her to grow up in a safe environment so she can do well at school. This cannot be taken for granted. Little did I know how much Joy and her Mango siblings would teach me.

Let me explain.

Mango Tree House is a children’s home near Payatas, one of the poorest slums in Manila. Payatas’ claim to fame is being the biggest dumpsite in Manila.

When the infamous Smoky Mountain was closed down in 1995, the rubbish dumpsite was moved to Payatas where a sub economy developed.

The poorest of the poor moved in and continue to move in to seek their fortune on the dumpsite.

Despite the photos, videos, pep talks I had received, nothing could prepare me for the utter shock. The sensory overload jostled me out of my comfortable existence within minutes. Confronting questions flooded my mind. How? Why? How many? For how long? Where and how do these people living in such squalid homes find their dignity? What is the solution? Is there a solution?

Can we be the solution? I knew I would not find strong enough floodgates to regain my cosy state of mind. These Manila residents deserve help and the children deserve a chance to escape the utter poverty.

Children of the Dump is my conduit.

Children of the Dump is a small charity, founded in the UK, which runs three projects in Payatas – Cashew Tree School, Grapevine and Mango Tree House. Their mission “transforming lives in Manila through education” says it all.

One child at a time, a family can be helped out of extreme poverty.

Cashew Tree School is an early childhood learning centre providing a high quality educational foundation for 200 children (aged 3-6) who live on the dumpsite. The facility is also utilised to support parent educational and spiritual care. Following a temporary closure in 2017 (due to land ownership disputes, registration legislation and lack of funding) this school will reopen this June to give its students their first chance in life through literacy and numeracy but most importantly a belief that they can succeed in education.

Grapevine is an outreach support educational project for over 65 children to enable them to attend school instead of scavenging to provide income for the family. Support continues until the child completes their education.

Mango Tree House is a residential home for up to 50 children who cannot safely remain where they are or have no family or home.

Like most of these children, our sponsored child, who is a Mango student, has had a very challenging and painful start in life but, thanks to our support, she is now loved and bonded into the Mango family.

Like all other sponsors, we will continue to provide for her throughout her studies into early adulthood; our bond will grow stronger.

There is now certainty in her life; Joy will continue to strive in her studies, she will grow in confidence knowing that her progress and future matter to us. Many more letters will be exchanged. We will visit her again.

There is also certainty in our lives; we are doing something to help one child have a decent life, a child who will give back to her family and community because we all care.

Our commitment, as a family, to Children of the Dump Manila has been a step towards a solution for this one child. This non-profit organisation is small enough to have minimal overheads. Our dollars reach our sponsored child, I have been there and seen that. The team of volunteers is powerful; we all dig into our area of expertise to give back (IT, teaching, welfare, business,etc).

Together we can make a difference, a noticeable difference.

Children’s smiles never lie.

Back in Sydney, the turmoil in my head and heart has somewhat eased. Not because these gorgeous children are out of sight but because I know we can offer a solution; we can transform lives through education. I can spread the word and hope to have touched your heart.

You too could make a difference for a child. Will you choose one of the 10 Mango and Grapevine children who are still dreaming to matter enough to have a sponsor? Or will it be one of the 90 children who still need backing so they can attend school for the first time? Will you take your family on this incredible life transforming journey? Will you give yourself a chance to feel the same reward Joy has brought into our family?

To find out more email office@asct.org.uk.

Nathalie Richard

The author with her family’s sponsored child Joy.