Children of the streets

Gabriel Achacoso

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A blogger and children's rights advocate shares his thoughts on street children in Cagayan de Oro

STREET KIDS. Children of the streets are often alone, hungry, and out-of-school. File photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – I was strolling around Divisoria at night when a scene made by a 6 or 7 year old girl made my heart sank. 

Dressed in tattered brown shirt that was obviously too limp for her, she fixed the legs of a younger child so that he could sleep well, and for her to share the makeshift bed she laid on the pavement.

It was Mother’s Day, yet they were left alone on the streets.

These two are just few of the many children that dwell in the streets of Cagayan de Oro City.

Though the city government has programs to rescue the kids on the streets, the bottleneck has still to be addressed.

Children of the street

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) define street children as “any boy or girl for whom the street has become his or her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, supervised or directed by responsible adults.”

The City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWD) of Cagayan de Oro has catered 225 street children in the year 2000 and 478 in 2001, the Population Commission reported.

CSWD provides residential care, counseling, peer group services, medical services, informal and formal education, legal assistance, custodial services, and psycho-social intervention.

The city government aims to make Cagayan de Oro free from street children by 2015.

According to a report from the Mindanao Gold Star Daily, a city official said that the increasing number of street children in the city is already becoming a social problem.

There is also a chance that these kids could grow up as criminals, posing threat to  peace and order. (READ: PH education lagging behind?)

Winning children’s hearts

To win the hearts of the street children – and of their parents or guardians – CSWD has decided to change its strategy. They are now holding child-friendly activities  every two months.

Parlor games are also organized and food, medical services, and haircut services are provided to encourage street children to participate. 

Livelihood training for their guardians are also provided. Through this, parents could find ways to provide the basic needs of their children.

Children’s rights

The Philippine Constitution recognizes the vital role of youth in nation building, stressing that the state “shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being.”

Presidential Decree No. 603, known as the Child and Youth Welfare Code, lists the rights of children:

  • Right to a balanced diet, adequate clothing, sufficient shelter, proper medical attention, and all the basic physical requirements of a healthy and vigorous life
  • Right to an education commensurate with his abilities and to the development of his skills for the improvement of his capacity for service to himself and to his fellowmen
  • Right to protection against exploitation, improper influences, hazards, and other conditions or circumstances prejudicial to his physical, mental, emotional, social and moral development

It also specifies the rights, duties, and, liabilities of the parents in the rearing of their children.

In the case of street children, if their parents or guardians failed to give their basic rights, the state is now responsible for providing them with “care, assistance, and protection.”

Little ways

To give or not to give? 

We often find ourselves asking this every time a street child begs for alms. Then we are reminded of the saying: “Don’t give them fish, instead teach them how to fish.”

But are we willing to spare our time and teach them how “to fish”? 

Matador Network, a network of bloggers, gave these tips in helping the street children without giving them money:

  • Volunteer or donate to organizations that do reach-out activities. This will maximize your efforts knowing that your precious time and donation are being used in the proper way.
  • Give a moment. Try them to ask their names, age the whereabouts of their parents and the reason why they are on streets. If you have your camera, take pictures, their wacky pose and yours will surely make them happy.
  • If you want to give them food, then eat together in a nearby eatery. This will make them feel more secure that in a fast food chain. There, try to share your world, your words might inspire them.

Writing this post, I suddenly realized why I easily pity the kids begging for alms in the streets. It’s because I also have a young niece and I can’t imagine her being on the streets; hungry and sleeping on the pavement.

That night in Divisoria, I decided to buy those kids something to eat.

I know it will just make them survive for the night and when they woke-up the next day, they will beg again. However, I realized that while most of us had enough food to eat that night before sleeping on comfortable beds, those kids did not.  –

Gabriel Achacoso is a BS Chemistry graduate at the Mindanao University of Science and Technology. He is currently teaching High School Chemistry and Physics and blogs at Mister Mischievous

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