We’ve already seen how well the team did, with the girls reaching the Final and the boys reaching the Quarter Finals, of the Street Child World Cup. We’ve seen the huge potential these kids have on and off the field. So now, with the SCWC over, we look at what happens next.
Already two of the girls have got full football varsity scholarships (free tuition and accommodation) at UP Diliman and FEU (the top University academically in the Philippines and the University Football League Champions respectively). Most of the other girls are in High School still and will in all likelihood get varsity scholarships too. The two who are unlikely to get varsity scholarships have sponsors for their University studies anyway. The boys are younger as they were U16 and there’s time to go for them (some are lining up college already though). But this blog is more for the kids who didn’t go. Those who weren’t selected. What happens for them and the rest of the communities the team came from?
First off a huge thanks to our sponsors. Agrinuture, Witsenburg, Globe, Bootcamp, The Camp, Cordaid, Muslim Hands, and all those who individually supported the cause. Without you guys there would be no prequel or story from Team Philippines. For many of the groups, they will also be helping with the sequel too 🙂
For those who aren’t so familiar with Payatas, as you read this article you may start feeling like you can relate to some of the problems and people and in some cases you’ll see it’s completely different. You may recognise similar situations in yourself or others you know, and in some cases you ma be surprised by what’s really happening. As you read about some of the children you may feel upset by the experiences, or by the stories as many people do. I hope, though, that as you continue reading on you will feel empowered to do something about it, that you want to help. So as you finish reading the article you may feel inspired or excited to join in the project. For those of you who want to help further we have more information on the Fairplay Academy for individuals, groups, and corporate sponsors so you can get in touch us at firstname.lastname@example.org for anything else. We also accept experienced/skilled volunteers too.
So to begin…
The Fairplay Academy
As the organising charity for Team Philippines, we at the Fairplay for All Foundation managed the project and the kids. This was an additional project to our existing projects: Payatas Football Club, the drop-in centre, urban farm, baon store, and other smaller scale projects. At FFA we believe that only through holistic and sustainable work will the long-term difference needed to break the cycle of poverty be made.
And so our next project brings everything together into one compound facility: the Fairplay Academy. Here we will build our own 7 a side football field, a pre-school, and a large urban farm on top of everything with a place for other social enterprise. The football caters to the kids, building confidence, teamwork, and discipline. One of the biggest things football enabled the kids to do was to see another world – to dream. For their entire lives they have known only Payatas, the sight and smell of garbage. So for their futures they dreamt of a slightly bigger house, a family, to find a husband who didn’t beat them, to be a truck driver. Now they dream of becoming professional footballers, teachers, lawyers, doctors.
But it’s not right to build dreams of leaving Payatas, to get out. Most people think that it would be a success to have a kid who moved out and got a decent job. But I don’t look at it that way because if you look at it on aggregate it doesn’t really change much in a cycle of poverty. If one person gets out of an area like this and becomes a success that’s great. But someone else will come and replace them in the position they were in. It’s pretty much a zero sum game. So when you work in a community it has to be holistic, sustainable, long-term, but ultimately it has to develop that place, to make that community better.
We have kids with great potential in football. Three of our girls in Payatas made the final team for the Street Child World Cup. The youngest in the team, Angelica, has just been selected for the National U14 team too. Others are in some of the top academies in the country and training with other National youth teams. We’ve trained barefoot on a basketball court once or twice a week for three years, and yet compared to kids who’ve been playing most of their lives with the best facilities here, it’s clear some of our kids are special. Imagine how far they can go when we have our own area to train. The potential is massive.
So the team will eventually become a senior men’s and women’s team. As Payatas FC they will compete in the highest competitions in the country when they’re ready, and it will draw in further corporate sponsorship and merchandising which will pay for itself every year.
… and off the pitch
Likewise in the classroom, they could attend a private school, not a government run one, and excel in the classroom. Some would do great. But for every child who makes it to a private school, thousands are left back crammed into classes of 60-100 students with teachers who are poorly trained, underpaid, and overworked. Every success story taken out of the area represents thousands who were left behind.
So we will build a quality pre-school here. With dynamic teaching methods and creative styles geared to learning, not uniformity, it will build a fun education model. Classes will be at most 25 students and they will learn to love learning, not to fit in. This is more than achievable on a small budget and the point is to show on a grander scale the potential of these kids when you invest just a little bit. So one day all of the other schools has more investment and can grow. Education and healthcare are the two biggest things to invest in for sustained economic growth.
Lastly is our social enterprise. We will build an urban farm on top of the football pitch and the pre-school to grow fresh fruits and vegetables, supplying our carenderias (local cafes) selling affordable, healthy food. This has the potential to revolutionise the area. Junk food is cheaper than vegetables in Payatas so it becomes a rational choice to eat junk when you don’t have enough money to feed your family. In the short-term it gets rid of hunger. In the long-term it means that some of our 15 year old boys are smaller than healthy 9 year olds. In a literal way you are what you eat, every cell in your body is made up of the food you consumed. And those children eating the food we throw away in the trash, leftovers at restaurants, and food we put in the bins at home, the food that the garbage trucks then take and drive to the dumpsite, and then dump onto the site itself, the food that the kids and their parents then pick up while scavenging through the trash, dust off and re-fry (known as pag-pag) – the kids who eat these crumbs from our table, are literally made up of that. And the crazy thing is we can change that. Such a small adjustment in our economy, in our education, in our politics, can so easily change all of that.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, if changing the world was an easy sell, there would be nothing left to change. For all the money we spend on video games, make-up, ice cream, on our pets, on war, only a small fraction of any of those would get rid of all poverty in the world. The economic bailouts of previous years in many countries across the world measured more then ten times what it would have taken to eradicate all poverty.
But here’s the problem… the reason we’re rich is because they’re poor. “Things seem so isolated and of course they live thousands of miles away, so how can it be my fault?” some people think. I didn’t do anything to them. Slavery was abolished a century ago, colonies got independence from colonial masters decades back, and there has been more economic development than at any other time in history: things are better then ever, right?
Aside from how economic institutions are heavily skewed to the rich (check out former World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz for one interesting source on that – among many) what most people don’t see is not what we did to them, but what they do for us. Several CEOs at Fortune 500 companies have made statements to the following effect: their companies follow poverty. Wherever poverty is worst, they go. They can exploit the labour, slash wages, get people (and children) working for practically nothing, and make cheap goods that can be sold across the world.
We buy our food at the supermarket, our clothes in a shop, our laptops and iPads at an electronics store. The t-shirts we wear, the toiletries we use, whatever electronic device you’re reading this on… all exist because of poverty. But we know this… we just choose to ignore it most of the time because we can’t see it. There was an interesting article which found if an iPad 2 was made in the United States it would go from costing US$185 retail to $1,140. There are similar comparisons with other goods. Basically things roughly come out costing 10 times as much if it were made in the USA. Given higher minimum wages and (slightly) more respect for labour unions it can be assumed this would be higher in the UK and rest of Europe. Our lifestyle only exists because of poverty.
To bring it back to Payatas, the specific product here is garbage. Children learn at five years old to be jumper boys, which is when you climb into the trucks as they drive by and scavenge through the trash. When you fill up your rice sack with trash you climb down, empty it to sort through, then go for the next one. Every child who does this has their own story of how dangerous it is. One boy I know had to stop because he kept falling off the 15 foot truck. One boy fell off the truck and as his leg got caught in the wheel guard he was dragged several hundred yards down the road. The same boy is walking round with a bullet in his leg right now as his younger brother found metal, and hammered it to flatten it out not realising it was a strip of bullets. Fortunately as it exploded it only hit his leg. This boy became the man of the house at 7 years old when both his parents died, his mother (who became pregnant with him at 12 years old) died of heart problems at 19 years old, and his father was stabbed to death in their home. With his two younger brothers they work scavenging through our trash to find enough to sell and make their £1 a day for their family.
I said that the product here is trash. Well, to cut a long story short the scavengers in Payatas, and other dumpsites, save the government billions of pesos every year. Manila pays more than P4.5 billion every year for garbage disposal and maintenance and without scavengers working essentially for free, Payatas may be roughly twice as big as it is right now. It’s a big business, and some of the biggest profits come from the free labour. Like our clothes, our shampoos, and our laptops, our trash is so cheap to deal with because of poverty. One fast food restaurant was paying P17 a day to deal with their garbage. And that’s why the government and the corporations involved encouraged people to move here in the first place. They profit from it. And as for their lifestyles, why do you think Marlboro, Coca Cola, and alcohol billboards litter such poor areas as much as the trash does? The demand is created by the companies as much as the situation. It only helps more to keep that cycle going round.
So that’s why we have to change the community. You could adopt those boys I mentioned before, they could live a great life outside, but the situation that created their poverty would still exist. Maybe the poverty wouldn’t exist for them any more, but it would exist for the children who moved there in their place… and for the hundreds of thousands who can’t leave, so will live – and most likely die – at the foot of the biggest garbage dump in the country.
But here’s the hope. We can change this, we do have the power. The Fairplay Academy will bring a model of sustainable growth, of exciting innovation, and of livelihood that has the potential to grow throughout the area and transform the community. As we get the model right in Payatas we will replicate it in other areas, combining sports, education, and social enterprise. In Payatas the football and the carenderias, and eventually our restaurant outside of Payatas, will pay for the teachers, the coaches, and everyone else hired by the facility. Families will be transformed as the opportunities for better choices are made. And all of it sustainably.
Those who excel in sports have an avenue, those in education, in art, in music, the other after-school clubs we make, the farming, merchandising, business, and everything else have those opportunities. On and off the pitch, there is massive potential here.
The Street Child World Cup is over. And now the real work begins. Not just for Team Philippines, but for the Philippines itself. You can be a part of it… we have sponsorship packages for individuals, families, groups, and corporations. Just message us at email@example.com for more information. With your help, we can create that fairplay on and off the pitch.
THE FAIRPLAY ACADEMY: THIS IS WHAT’S NEXT