A lot of people ask us what life looks like for the children in the Love146 safe homes in the Philippines. The answer? You might be surprised by how “regular” it appears.
But that’s how it should be: the children we work with deserve to have a normal life, full of love and support suited to every stage of development. For the infants in our care, this involves being held, read to, and sung to. For the kids in elementary school, it means playing on the Round Home swing set, spending their pocket money on souvenirs at the mall, and getting help with homework. And for teens, a normal life might involve things like…
Yes, monthly trips to the orthodontist are a part of life for some teens in our care. Straight teeth: That makes one more thing to smile about!
Students in the Philippines have to pass subject tests at every grade level, so they spend a lot of time preparing. Many have seen their hard work pay off: Claudia, aged 11, placed in the top three students in her class this year, and Raul, aged 12, placed in the top two students in his.
3. PART-TIME JOBS.
At the moment, two older students at our White Home, Keith, 15, and David, 18, are tutoring a few younger boys who are learning the Filipino alphabet in return for an hourly salary. (Some of the older teens have jobs outside the safe homes: One young man in our White Home is now certified as a massage therapist!)
Children who are old enough are invited to participate in cleaning the Round Home and White Home, gardening, or — the favorite task — caring for the farm animals.
5. STEPPING INTO LEADERSHIP.
The older clients in the Round Home and White Home may hold assistant leadership positions in the house. But many of them also lead on a deeply interpersonal, relational level. Marcos, 19, reflected recently that he’s grown to be very invested in the lives of the other kids in the White Home. “As the oldest of those in the home, I’m happy every time I see the other children happy. It’s a joy to see them recovering from their bad experiences in life.”
6. LEARNING TO DRIVE.
Another boy in the White Home just finished driving school, and David has started practicing with one of the cars that belongs to Love146.
7. FINANCIAL PLANNING.
One boy just opened a savings account with a bank in the Philippines, and he has been depositing his paychecks and allowance there for safekeeping.
8. CELEBRATING MILESTONES.
The safe homes have monthly birthday parties for children and staff with lots of food, singing, and games. Peggy, age 7, shared, “Even if it’s not your birthday, you join in the celebration because we are a family.” They also recognize academic achievements, such as David’s graduation from 6th grade, or Mimi’s awards from school: Most Helpful, and Most Trustworthy!
9. HANGING OUT AT THE MALL.
Kids in the White Home and Round Home take monthly trips to the mall to see movies, shop, and eat ice cream.
10. THINKING ABOUT THEIR CAREER PATHS.
Through education, outings, and activities, youth served by Love146 in the Philippines get to dip their toes in a wide range of career options, from jobs requiring math and language skills to agriculture and food production. We encourage them to look at the world with wide eyes and figure out what gets them excited, whether it’s cooking, sports, or marine biology. At 15, Ryan has a clear vision for his future. “I’ve come to have the dream of becoming a police officer. I want to catch the criminals. I also want to rescue street children who are like we used to be, so that they can have a better life just like we do now.”
11. EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES.
A lot of music happens in the safe homes. The kids participate in a rondalla, a traditional musical ensemble. They recently gave a musical performance at a local elementary school. Outside of the ensemble, many of them are learning instruments on their own. Some also enjoy sports, including soccer and swimming.
12. FACING FEARS.
Whatever their background before coming to the safe homes, every child gets to practice courage at their own pace and in their own way. For some, this means working with the stingless bees in the Round Home apiary, jumping off a boat into a river, or playing guitar in front of a crowd. For others, it can mean getting back in touch with a sibling, testifying in court against a trafficker, choosing to care for others, or simply learning to laugh again. No matter what courage looks like for them, we celebrate it when we see it.
13. FIGURING OUT FAMILY.
For young people everywhere, the teenage years are a time to figure out who they are. They start to notice the things they have in common with their families, as well as ways they are different. Even though the youth we serve in the Philippines can’t live with their families of origin, many feel a close connection to their parents and siblings, as you can see from the pictures below of one girl visiting her father. Teens may also explore the concept of “chosen family,” perhaps thinking of their friends in the safe homes as brothers and sisters. “We’re a family here,” says Claudia, age 11.
14. GROWING INDEPENDENCE.
As our clients grow to feel safer and to trust themselves more, we encourage them to learn to manage their own time, money, and relationships. As they see themselves as strong agents in their own lives, they gain confidence in themselves. They begin to believe that they can handle what life throws their way. “We don’t need to be afraid of what will happen in the future,” says Keith, aged 15.
15. EXPLORING WHO THEY ARE.
Ryan says, “Here in the White Home, I learned how to be a good man.” Of course, this means something different for every person. To David, that’s a positive thing. “We’re each different from everyone else, and we should be proud of those differences.”
When they were being exploited, they didn’t fully have a say in how they lived or what they did. But in Love146’s Survivor Care, they can discover and walk out their own dreams and identities. They learn what makes their lives happy and meaningful. Whatever freedom looks like for a young person, we support them in their pursuit of it.