Sunday, 22 January 2012

Food for Thought

      Happy street children despite themselves. – Picture courtesy of empe website


HOW WOULD YOU answer the question, "what is your greatest wish for your children and grandchildren?" 

Practical Filipinos would reply: An education in a prominent university, followed by a successful job and an abundance of money.

The other, more simply sentimental, would be a wish for love and happiness.

What if all you have for your children are just dreams and wishes because in reality, all you can really give them are hardships, squalor, hunger and for some, their deathly demise. 

Shelter for these two kids are dark, cold steps of the stairs. - Picture courtesy of 14th street

I am referring to the parents of the street children of the Philippines.  

Whether the overpopulation of these children is a result of being born to poor and uneducated parents or the reluctance of the Philippine government to separate themselves from the teachings of the Catholic Church, it is a problem that cannot be ignored anymore. 
According to the Unicef, there are currently 250,000 street children in 65 Philippine cities, with 85,000 in Metro Manila alone and the number is rising. 

I’m not asking for money or presenting my own personal solution to this problem.  

I’m simply trying to answer a question from Jonah, my four-year-old son, who saw a video of the children on my computer.

"Mommy, why are the children laying on the cement?"
"What are they looking for in the garbage can?"
"Why do they beg for money?"
"Where are their shoes?"
"Where are their Mommies and Daddies?"
"How come they don't have any toys?"

From the eyes of a four-year- old, it’s quite evident that there’s a problem.  Basic needs like food, shelter, safety and yes, a pair of shoes are withheld from these children.  

I answered my son's questions but I still couldn't fathom the idea of "why?"  I then posed my own questions to my son.

"What would you do if you saw these children in person?"  He didn't answer.

"If you had one piece of candy in your pocket, what would you do?"  

He replied, "I would give it to them."

     Homeless kids find home in drainage pipes. - Picture courtesy of stone soup station

     Street vendor talks with two street children along a busy street in Metro Manila. -   
     Picture courtesy of empe website
Four-year-old Jonah

If only the solution were that simple that a piece of candy would make the lives of these children better.

Some commuters in Metro Manila may see these children as nuisance, feel sorry for them, and continue to walk away.  What if they were your children, would you walk away?  Don't forget, they do belong to someone.  Unfortunately for some, it’s not their parents they belong to.

It breaks my heart to see these street children because all I can think of is my beloved son, Jonah.  He is around the age of the boys who dodge moving cars begging for money or selling cigarettes in the busy intersections.  

Fortunately, the readers of this piece are not in this predicament.  

We live in stable homes, have a refrigerator full of food, access to money and yes, Jonah, own more than one pair of shoes.  

But we are still left with the question of "why?" and can one piece of candy really make a difference?

(Larah Faye Ostonao-Barcelon is the daughter of Percy and Tessie Ostonal and a graduate of the University of Michigan-Nursing.  She currently resides in Michigan USA with her husband, Tristan, and son, Jonah.)


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