AAP's first project partner in the Philippines was BALAY, a Philippine NGO, which for the past 25 years has worked with Human rights issues in the Philippines. Balay has for several years worked together with RCT (The Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims), a Danish NGO. RCT spoke highly of Balay professionalism and dedication, and in June 2010 we met the chairperson of Balay, Ms Lou, in Copenhagen. The outcome of the meeting was a decision to investigate common ground for a future cooperation between our two organisations.
During the fall of 2010 we were in continuous dialogue defining a project in Bagong Silang – a resettlement area in Caloocan City (north of Metro Manila). End October 2010 we met with Balay on numerous occasions and visited Bagong Silang several times, which cemented our wish to aid the young people of Bagong Silang to improved life opportunities.
Balay’s Executive Director, Ernesto “Kaloy” Anasarias explains the development and situation of Bagong Silang as follows:
“Bagong Silang means “Newly Born” which reflects the birth of the place as a relocation site in the 1970s where informal city dwellers labelled by government as “squatters” were forcibly transferred from different areas in Metro Manila. From a grassy locality, Bagong Silang soon grew into a settlement of people where poverty, lack of livelihood, dysfunctional families and domestic violence are features they have in common. Destitution heightens the strain in the families which weakens the bond between parents and children. Conflict among household members is a common story in Bagong Silang where the young people are usually at the receiving end. The poverty and violence in the family are a primary reason that drives children to seek refuge among their peers and prefer a life in the streets than staying in their dysfunctional household.
The public infrastructure has improved over the years, but much of the area still has poor infrastructure and some places still do not have proper access to electricity and clean water.
Young people covered by Balay’s existing activities in the area have expressed a sense of hopelessness and despair. Others have developed hostility and distrust in other people. This lead a number of them to turn to substance abuse and to commit misdeeds and some of them have spent time in jail. Instead of being seen as indicators of a social dysfunction, the youth have been regarded as nuisance or the source of the problems in the community themselves. The situation results in further marginalization of the young people. This deprives them of their rights and leads to further assaults on their well-being”.
AAP decided to fund Balay to scale up its existing community-based programme in Bagong Silang by reaching out to a larger number of young people and to further develop their capacity as active participants for their own healing, empowerment and development.
Over a 2-year period the project was set to reach 300 young people between ages 13 to 25. The majority is expected to be boys/men, however the project was designed to give special attention to including and addressing the needs of girls/women. Moreover, special priority was given to those who have experienced traumatic incidents.
AAP was encouraged by the spirit and professionalism shown by Balay over the months that we discussed and refined the project into its final form. The Memorandum of Agreement and Project Charter for this two-year project was signed early January 2011.
A vital component of the project was the establishment of a Youth Center, which functions as a converging point and location for many of the project activities. The planned activities was designed to enable the youth to recover from the effects of their past experiences including exposure to torture / violence; to increase their coping resources in the process; to enhance their knowledge and vocational skills; to broaden their options for livelihood; to harness their collective power; to raise their self-esteem and self-help capabilities; and to encourage them to become meaningful participants in their community and in advocacy-related activities as “youth defenders of human rights”.
Another dimension of the project was to develop the human rights of local authorities towards the young people through workshops focusing on rights-oriented policies and programmes for the youth.
After the initial 2 years supported by AAP the plan is for BALAY to continue the program supported by own funds.
Results / outcomes:
The key achievements and outcomes - of the first two years - are detailed in the below report by Balay’s Executive Director, “Kaloy”.