The First Four Months Part III
As I traveled by outrigger boat across the sea from Batangas to my final destination of Puerto Galera, I gazed in amazement as the pristine blue of the ocean and sea of clouds above seemed to converge into one. Within an hour I would be at the site where I would call home for the next two years. I was full of anticipation and excitement as my mind buzzed with so many questions. Soon the shoreline became defined as the boat trotted along. Squinting and straining to take all the stimuli in, I realized I was in a tropical paradise. Palm trees, clear water and warm weather that would surely act as respite on the more frustrating of days. The boat soon pulled into the docks of this foreign local that was reminiscent of Puerto Vallera, Mexico with its street vendors and many sari-sari stores lining the water.
Arriving on the docks with my counterpart, I was greeted warmly by several members of the organization and was escorted back to the compound. On entrance I was taken aback by the facilities and reach of the organization.
Stairway Foundation, Inc. (SFI) was established in 1990 as a non-profit, non-governmental care organization located in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines. SFI was initially established as an alternative strategy to meet the needs of street children, particularly the most disadvantaged children, such as beggars, drug dependents, sexually exploited children, and children with serious health problems. Twenty years later, SFI has expanded into the following 3 main program components:
- Residential Program – Each year, SFI brings up to fourteen boys (10-14 years of age) into our 10 month program. While here, the children are engaged in non-formal education, creative therapy, psychosocial interventions, livelihood skills training, sports and recreation
- Advocacy and Training Program – This program focuses on children’s rights, with a specific focus on the prevention of child sexual abuse and exploitation. With a variety of training programs and advocacy tools (animations, storybooks and manuals), our advocacy team is continuously working to expand SFI’s campaign to increase local and international awareness of the rights of children.
- Community Assistance Program – With this program Stairway offers scholarships and financial assistance for poor local children to be able to attend school. We also provide a school bus service, transporting our scholars to the local high school. Educational and advocacy training workshops are hosted at SFI for our local community members, and advocacy training workshops are hosted at SFI for our local community members. In addition we provide livelihood assistance for the local indigenous Mangyan communities.
SFI’s vision is
‘Through innovation, creative excellence and professional networking, we strive for universal promotion and upholding of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.’
SFI’s mission is
‘To gain inspiration, knowledge, conviction and humility from working with the most outcast and endangered children in society, and to manifest these gains in creative expressions, which will alter general perceptions of the most marginalized groups of children around the world and trigger mobilization of resources for change.’
Not only did it have a well-developed child abuse and child rights program that had been run for the past 20 years, but it had a vibrant atmosphere of creativity allowing its resident children to flourish. Vibrant with colors and ideas, the campus is the perfect place to nurture the well-being of its fifteen boys that are former street children of Manila. The living in program takes a therapeutic approach to its education, sports, and arts programs among many other activities. Through the orientation process, I would soon find that the organization’s staff was warm and energetic. Excited and full of motivation I was ready to head up the mountain to begin the real work. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans. After three bagyos (typhoons) and waves bigger than Trestles back home, nearly two weeks passed by before I was able to finally move my things up to Baclayan.