1st Field Mission
November 2011, Navotas slum, Manila, Philippines.
As a baptism of fire, here I am in one of the largest open-air garbage dumps in the world. Garbage boats dump Manila’s garbage, creating a huge floating waste mass in the sea.
About a million people live here. Quite unbearable! As a refined westerner, my five senses are violently taken to task: the smell is acidic, the feel ignoble (one walks on soft and viscous ground), my taste-buds assaulted by toxic fumes. My hearing is alternately assailed by the screams of the rag-pickers (nothing is organized) and the anguished silence of alcoholic silhouettes.
The fighting cocks, with risky promises of income, are entitled to medication. Not the children.
One of them, shirtless in his too big shorts and stained with charcoal, approaches me with pride in his eyes. I strike up a conversation:
“What’s your name? How old are you?
– I’m no more unhappy than you are! »
He has just taught me what every aid worker needs to know: love before you help. Let me explain: when you live in a landfill, you consider yourself a waste product. This is the self-image reflected in the living environment, but also in the eyes of the visitor. The first thing to say to a shantytown kid, before you even talk to him about schooling is: “You’re valuable to me”.
Sponsoring a child is not about paying for his schooling. It’s about loving him. Stories like these are part of our daily life at Mekong Children.