According to a new UNICEF and Save the Children analysis, the number of children living in poverty has climbed to roughly 1.2 billion since the COVID-19 pandemic began, a 15% increase, or an additional 150 million children since the virus was declared a global crisis. The archipelago nation of the Philippines had made significant progress in addressing poverty in recent years, seeing a 5% decrease in its poverty rate between 2015 to 2018. These gains have sadly been overshadowed by the pandemic; and yet, this hasn’t stopped child poverty alleviation organizations from doing everything in their power to support children in need.
CEBU City Task Force on Street Children (CCTFSC) is a coalition of 25 NGOs and government organizations that has operated since 1994 in Cebu, the capital city of the central Philippine island of the same name. The organization’s mission is to cast a wide safety net for vulnerable children from urban poor families as well as those who are considered homeless through a variety of targeted programs.
The organization focuses on preventing homeless children from working on the streets of Cebu City and also works with children who are at high risk of taking to life on the streets due to adverse circumstances at home. CCTFSC incorporates a robust system of support, including covering school uniforms and tuition costs to keep vulnerable children off the streets. A CAF Canada project with CCTFSC in 2018 and 2019 provided educational assistance for 50 beneficiaries, among them, high school students who since were able to accomplish the significant achievement of graduating.
One of the organization’s initiatives, the Parian Drop-In Center, operates as a halfway house for homeless and at-risk children, connecting them with relatives who have the resources and motivation to support them. As part of the process, the Center helps new residents—many of whom may not know their given names or birthdays—track down their own identities. Reconnecting these children with their relatives is generally far better than the alternative of seeing them enter the foster care system as it provides them with the important developmental influence of family and belonging. Additionally, the Center organizes a variety of educational and recreational activities to keep its residents focused on progress and away from returning to the streets. As of July 2020, the Center had provided services, including shelter, to nearly 5,200 children.
In 2020, the Philippine economy contracted by over 10%, straining the resources of poor families. The services provided by CCTFSC were more necessary than ever. Unfortunately—as was the case with many charities—strict social distancing rules meant that a large portion of the organization’s vital programming needed to be put on hold and resources diverted elsewhere. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, additional funding directed to this CAF Canada project enabled a pivot in programming to focus on the emotional wellbeing of CCTFSC’s beneficiaries in a time of isolation and uncertainty by providing weekly visits from a social worker who organized therapeutic activities and monitored the mental health of 20 children quarantined at the Parian Drop-In Center.
Caring for homeless and at-risk children of Cebu City through programs designed to provide long-term shelter and opportunity, the Center works to enable a generation of marginalized youth to build a foundation from which they can envision and progress toward a bright future. Stay up to date on how CCTFSC is combating child poverty here.