Street kids find home in arts center

Street kids find home in arts center

First posted 03:51am (Mla time) Oct 03, 2006
By Jocelyn Uy
Inquirer

Editor’s Note: Published on page A1 of the October 3, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Inside a nondescript building along crowded Taft Avenue in Pasay City is a trove of decorative candles in all sorts of shapes and scents, of bracelets and rosaries made from crystal and pearls.
 
It is not a shopping center but a home to 101 street children and young adults who heal their wounds by creating pieces of art with hands calloused by the harsh realities on the streets.
 
At the Pangarap Shelter, established by the Sons of Mary, Ina-anak Inc. and the Ladies of Charity of Pasay in 1989 and run by the Pangarap Foundation Inc., these people are provided not only with their basic needs but also rehabilitation and life skills.
A portion of their rehabilitation has taken the form of candle-making and beading — part of an income-generating program launched last year.
 
Thirty-six of these residents — aged 10 to 23 — are then sent to vocational schools so they could fend for themselves once they leave the program.
 
The shelter offers refuge to people referred by social welfare groups and walk-ins who had heard about the program. Many children are runaways fleeing dysfunctional or nonexistent families. Others had been brought to see the city lights, promised schooling and jobs, and later abandoned.
 
Here, they are taught skills and provided with the raw materials to make their own products which are sold by the foundation in bazaars and exhibits, Cecilia Escalona, IGP program officer, told the Inquirer during the launch of the products last month.
Showcased were more than a hundred decorative candles in the form of fruits, Christmas wreaths, angels, flowers and a myriad of accessories — all looked like they had been crafted by seasoned hands.
 
Orders for giveaways
 
Sales are not significant so far, Escalona noted, but she hoped that it would pick up this coming holiday season. She also said some businessmen, who attended the launch, had placed orders for giveaways for the holidays.
 
For every candle, bracelet or rosary sold, 10 percent of the earnings is given to the child who made it.
 
However, from a social worker’s perspective, the program is not only meant to generate income. It is also a form of therapy for the children at the shelter. Some of them have been physically and sexually abused.
 
“This is one way of healing and releasing their pent-up emotions and worries,” said Melinda Aquino, a social worker.
 
Aside from enhancing their creativity, the program instills in these people values and traits that busy streets and dark alleys taken over by drunkards and older boys sniffing solvents could not teach them, she said.
 
Unstructured environment
 
The waifs are accustomed to an “unstructured environment” where no routine or rules need to be followed. But the skills offered under the program teach them patience, camaraderie and obedience, Aquino explained.
 
“With candle-making, they really have to learn to be patient or else they will always end up with low-quality products. To come up with exceptional ones, they must follow well the instructions provided by their trainers and abide by the procedure,” she elaborated.
 
Angelo Garabiles, 19, said candle-making had helped him learn to make good use of his spare time. The foundation granted him a scholarship in Dual Tech, a vocational school in Binondo, Manila, early this year.
 
Better than ‘bumming’
 
He recently completed a course on electromechanics and was waiting to start his on-the-job training. Instead of “bumming around,” he said, he makes candles to make his time useful.
 
Garabiles has already finished 24 sets of Christmas candles in just a month. The money he will earn would be enough to buy his personal needs and a little for his parents, he said with a smile.
 
“Actually, it is not so much about how much they will earn anymore. What is important is that these children discover their self-worth, that though they come from the streets, they have talents and skills that would help them go far,” said Escalona.

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