So, I managed to get hooked up with a charity called The Springboard Foundation for a few weeks while being in Manila. Here’s a little bit about my time with them.
A brief bit of background:
Their office sits in an estate called Merville Park with lovely and very American, bungalow type country houses, where their director Annette lives, originally from Germany. In her garden, there is a small building with a very compact office and 2 permanent staff; their admin costs are super low (95% of donations go into projects), and they pull in big, big sponsors, for example, if you know football, or know Manchester United you’ll
see their shirt sponsor AON. That’s an idea of the type of company who sponsored their annual ‘Pencil Drive’ (you can read more on the Springboard Website), which will this year provide 5000 schoolbags, with supplies, to children in poverty.
One morning Annette, JR (the manager), and me, along with a few other volunteers, conducted a site visit to one of their newest developments in a town called Manggahan. It was surprisingly close to the office, just a 5 minute drive. That’s all it took to go from £300,000 houses to a slum. The paradox is crazy, one minute you are in an american style, top-end housing estate, and the next you are in a slum with families who have to live off less than £150 per month. I mean, at home an average job, say, working in a café, that would probably take about what, 2/3 days to earn? And this was only going to be a taste: there are an estimated 4 million people living in slums both in and around just Manila, and one quarter of the whole Philippines population is believed to be below the poverty line – that’s on an annual income of around £1600. Compare that to the kinds of salaries we see in the western world.
Along with the smell, the most noticeable thing is the amount of plastic waste that is present, everywhere in these sprawling districts of Manila. It is just thrown away, and Annette tells me in the case of this slum, it is often thrown into a small creek, which then blocks up and causes regular flooding during the rainy season, lasting for around 4 months, simply exacerbating problems. Waste is such a big issue in developing countries with the rich who are super rich and the poor who are incredibly poor – and it’s really clear that inequality is massive here. The major issue behind it all? There is no education to say that throwing rubbish into the river, or on the floor is bad. The citizens of the slums just do not understand what they are doing, because they’re not used to grumpy bin men turning up in the morning and taking it away, and never to be seen again like we are at home. And the country simply does not have the infrastructure in place to deal with it, because the government is far too corrupt and has been for too long – the current leader Duterte has just created civil war in the southern province of Mindanao (more on the BBC), so I don’t think waste and living conditions of his citizens are top on the list of priorities.
This is where Springboard come in. They are trying to make sure that the base is there. Education. If education improves in the Philippines, then that will lift children, the future generations, out of poverty. So far they have distributed millions of pounds to those in need, and just one small example of this is the early learning centre in Manggahan that
they have built and we visited. A great building with a proper roof, fans to keep it cool inside, lots of learning materials, a blackboard, and a sanitary toilet. I mean obviously to us this really isn’t much, but to them it really is, and provides a fantastic environment for the children to learn in. And when you get the opportunity to look in to the eyes of the mothers who will bring their young children here, and to see their smiles, you can really see how much it means to them, and how much they love that we are helping them out. It is quite overwhelming at times, and when sitting in the Springboard office typing away and lacking in motivation on a Monday morning, those smiles keep the team going, and everyone pushing past the coffee barrier.
As with any charity, it is vital that they have continuous donations to ensure smiling faces like these continue and these problems are solved. On their website, you can donate 500 Pesos, just £7.80 per month or simply give a random one off donation. They are a fantastic cause getting to the roots of huge problems, please please please help them out.