MANILA (AsiaNews) - More than 70 thousand street children welcomed in 25 years of activity in Manila and in other cities of the country. It is the commitment carried out by Anak-TNK, an NGO promoted in the Philippine capital by Matthieu Dauchez, 47, a priest of French origin incardinated in the archdiocese of Manila. The acronym stands for "Tulay Ng Kabataan", which in Tagalog - the language of the Philippines - means "a bridge for children”. Thanks to the contribution of hundreds of volunteers, in fact, the organization works to save children from the streets and abandonment. It is estimated that there are at least 830,000 children in the country who find themselves living in this condition, exposed to the dangers of violence and drugs: many of them are forced to beg, steal or prostitute themselves to survive. Since its foundation in 1998, Anak-TNK has rescued thousands of children from the streets of Manila, from slums and from landfills, where the little ones are often abandoned.
It helps rapprochement with families. The Organization undertakes to "act as a bridge" between the youngest and their families, to help their rapprochement. But the bridge also symbolizes the work done in the slums (city slums) to offer the young people who live there new opportunities. The foundation offers a program that focuses on health, protection and nutrition. In addition to physical help, it also offers psychological support, as young people are not only rejected by society, but often also by their families due to past actions. “We need to identify the right way to guide, treat and educate them so that they can reintegrate into the civic context and reconcile with their families - says Dauchez - to do this we need to establish a relationship of trust with them, and accept them as they are. Over time, their self-esteem will grow and they will be willing to let themselves be guided.”
The residential centers of Anak-TNK. Currently in 21 residential centers Anak-TNK hosts 305 children found on the street, 55 of which are disabled. Four other structures offer hospitality to another 800 young people who spend the day looking for materials in landfills. Seven centers opened directly in the slums offer help to local communities, welcoming more than 1,300 young people. Everything is based on the work of 190 operators: 60 women volunteers in the slums and 125 volunteers who come to the Philippines from all over the world to help this initiative. The educational aspect is one of the most heartfelt. In the Philippines, 1 in 3 children are out of school. “We help young people during the school year, adapting to their needs - explains the deputy director of the NGO, Gloria Recio -. In addition to education, health is also a major challenge: in cities, more than 40% of people live in precarious hygienic conditions, lack of food and medical assistance. One in three children is malnourished. We try to take charge of all this”.
The visit of Pope Francis. In 2015 the Anak-TNK experience was also visited by Pope Francis during his trip to Manila. In the meantime, the organization has also launched projects outside the Philippine borders, always among young people at risk: today its structures also exist in Singapore, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland.
The opportunity to turn the page. But the most important result are the stories of the kids who have been able to move on through this reality. Nico, a young man who has been living in the foundation since 2016, managed to exploit his passion for music, forming a band that today plays at all Anak-TNK events. “It wasn't easy for me – he recalls -. My family abandoned me when I was eight, but music was my anchor. Playing guitar, piano or drums, I found my way to express myself”. So today she has left behind his difficult past, like all the members of the group and many other young people that the NGO continues to help.
* Santosh Digal - Asianews