Oct 16, 2017

How does change lead to teenage girls' empowerment?

Exchange of learning and insights
Exchange of learning and insights

“Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

These are the famous words of the character Dory in the movie “Finding Nemo.” It’s a beautiful reminder especially for an organization like Tahanan Sta. Luisa, which has been going through tough times in managing changes both in its programs and the lives of its staff and beneficiaries.

The visit of auditors and friends from GlobalGiving UK is a blessing that came at a perfect time. Tahanan has wanted to do a strategic planning and review --- to see how we have come so far with our programs and the things that need to be improved. Feedback from the auditors is very useful and lead to very deep realizations about what needs to be done to effectively empower street girls who are survivors of abuse. It is always good to step back and assess areas for improvement.


One such insight is that healing takes time. Recovering from trauma experienced at a young age entails a long process --- one that deals with confusion, detours, and fears. It is almost always inevitable for some of the street girls to want to escape the shelter due to difficulties in adjusting. But Tahanan believes that the key to dealing with this problem is to see it as an opportunity more than a challenge. Tahanan is given a big opportunity to share love and compassion to street girls, and to not give up in believing that they will eventually regain their worth. It is a big opportunity for Tahanan to let the girls experience how it is like to be loved by a family, and help them realize that they must pursue lives away from the streets. It is a big opportunity for Tahanan to empower street girls so they can be independent and productive individuals who know their rights and can stand up for themselves.


Tahanan also realizes that it needs to draw strength and inspiration from the street girls themselves. The fact that Tahanan’s street girls are making a choice every day to deal with trauma, to forgive, and improve, is in itself a success. From street girls who had no direction in life, they are now able to plan their goals and build their self-confidence and character. They know how to respect their elders, and to speak up. Some of them have also been able to go to formal school to pursue a good education, while others are undergoing livelihood training to develop skills. The street girls’ balance of fragility and courage is what keeps Tahanan going.


Lastly, one thing that Tahanan continues to learn and improve on is that its strength lies in its people. The Board of Trustees and the staff are dedicated and are working hard to ensure that the street girls are being well taken care of. They appreciate the work done by each individual for it contributes to the effectiveness of the program as a whole. Both put the welfare of the beneficiaries first, and value the street girls’ inputs in changing and fine tuning programs. But while an utmost priority is the wellbeing of the street girls, it is also equally important to invest on efforts to ensure staff are emotionally and mentally well while they are dealing with difficult work.  The staff carry a huge emotional burden because of the challenging behavior of the girls and the upsetting information disclosed to them. It is high time that Tahanan also focuses on empowering the staff, social workers, and house parents --- so that they are more effectively able to empower the street girls in their journey of healing and recovery. Tahanan is all the more hopeful that meaningful changes lie ahead, and that these are all part of a wonderful plan that intertwines the lives of staff and beneficiaries to contribute a great impact to the goal of ending poverty and abuse.

Exchange of learning and insights
Exchange of learning and insights
Exchange of learning and insights
Exchange of learning and insights


Jul 21, 2017

Rising from poverty: Street girl makes her way to school

Street girls express themseelves through art
Street girls express themseelves through art

Angel is nervous and excited all at once. Finally, she is now fulfilling her dream to finish college and get a good education. As a freshman taking up Bachelor of Science in Education at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Angel knows there will be bigger challenges ahead.

“Gusto ko pong gamitin yung mga natutunan ko sa Tahanan Sta. Luisa sa pagharap sa mga pagsubok. Ayaw ko pong sayangin ang pagkakataon na makapagaral (I wish to use all that I learned in Tahanan Sta. Luisa so I can face the challenges in school. I don’t want to waste this opportunity to learn),” the 18-year old said.  


The road to getting to school was a difficult one. Before she was able to walk the walls of her school, she was roaming the streets of Metro Manila to earn a living.  

“Miserable po ang buhay noon. Kailangan ko pong kumayod sa lansangan. Tinulungan ko yung nanay ko na magtinda ng tubig at mangolekta ng dyaryo bote,” (My life was miserable then. I had to spend my day in the streets, looking for a living. I helped my mother by selling bottled water and reusable materials,” Angel said.

But the earnings from the streets was not enough to make ends meet, so she had to work as  a sales lady to get extra income. Angel and her family were living in Quezon City then. 

“I was the eldest of five siblings. We had different fathers. I never knew who my father was. My mother was into drugs and she could not take care of us,” said Angel. 

Angel admits the pressures and struggles were often too much to handle. To get some relief, she was lured into smoking cigarettes and marijuana. She was a consistent honor student until Grade 5, but her vices affected her studies.


Luckily, Angel became part of Childhope Asia Philippines’ street education program. Street educators and social workers were guiding her and encouraging her to get a good education and plan her goals. She was grateful for the opportunities coming her way.

“I longed to live in a shelter because I knew that if I stayed on the streets, I will not reach my dreams. I had to think of ways to get my family out of poverty,” Angel said.

A social worker from Childhope referred Angel to Tahanan Sta. Luisa --- a recovery center for street girls who have suffered trauma from physical and sexual abuse. She was excited for her new home and new hope.


“My life now is far different; a lot of adjustments were made. And because of the genuine love and care of the people around me, I survived daily,” Angel said.

At Tahanan, social workers, teacher, and house parents take care of Angel and other street girls Tahanan is a home where the street girls are given their basic needs. The program seeks to empower street girls by giving them opportunities to learn, heal, and love.

Slowly but surely, Angel was able to deal with and confront her trauma and pains. She focused more on the positive, and on pursuing a better future for herself and her family. It helps that the support system is strong.

“In Tahanan, the social workers are supportive and mindful of our needs. The house parents are there to listen when we are sad. Our Alternative Learning System teacher helps us in our academics, and in our spiritual needs,” Angel said.

Angel is determined and she knows what she wants. She is bent on making sure she gets better by the day.

“My inspiration to achieve my dreams is my siblings. I realize that I am the only one who can help them. I have talents and skills to develop, I promise myself to enhance them with the help of Tahanan Sta. Luisa family. I believe in the saying that I can't give what I don't have. So, I must help myself first,” Angel said.

Angel hopes to finish her degree in education
Angel hopes to finish her degree in education
Apr 24, 2017


Tahanan Sta. Luisa's new home
Tahanan Sta. Luisa's new home

“Everything is gift, Everything is Grace.”

This was the theme for the simple ceremonies as members of the Tahanan Sta. Luisa (TSL) family welcomed guests and supporters to their new home in Antipolo City.

With hearts full of gratitude, the Board of Directors and Staff looked back on the journey that was, and the possibilities that lie ahead. Now, a bigger and brighter home will be able to accomodate more street girls and help them in recovery, healing, and empowerment.


Teresita Silva, the founder of Tahanan Sta. Luisa, stressed that more than ever, stakeholders should work together to ensure that more street girls who have been physically and sexually abused will be able to find their way to TSL and be able to get support through TSL’s “caring, teaching, and healing” framework.

“As we gather today for the blessing of our new home, we are filled with a renewed passion and commitment to serve our street girls. Let us work together to make Tahanan Sta. Luisa a source of hope, healing, learning, and inspiration. It is our prayer that opportunities will open for our street girls --- to help them move forward from the scars of abuse, and enjoy the fullness of life in God’s grace.”


For 20 years, Tahanan Sta. Luisa has been a place  where street girls with similar harrowing experiences of physical and sexual abuse are being taken care of by social workers, teacher, and house parents. More than just a rehabilitation center, it is a home where street girls can dream, heal, and hope, and feel the love of a family.. At TSL, the girls are assisted with their basic needs.

The caring, teaching, and healing framework keeps everyone busy at TSL. The street girls go to “school” – a special set-up at their home where a teacher gives them valuable lessons from the basics of reading and writing to the values they need to grow up to become better citizens.

The girls also enjoy sewing sessions where they are taught simple crossstitching and embroidery. They also learn the value of responsibility by taking turns doing household chores.

A main goal at Tahanan is to empower the street girls, open opportunities for them to harness their skills, so they can become productive members of society and help out in their own simple ways. Also at the heart of TSL’s work is the healing aspect. Here, the street girls get to slowly confront the abuses they have suffered through psychosocial interventions.

At their new home, the girls of Tahanan Sta. Luisa are dreaming big. They know they have a long way to go, but every day they are grateful for the blessings. They continue to hope that with faith and kind-hearted souls, they will continue to engage in a journey of self-discovery, forgiveness, and love.

Board of Directors at TSL's house blessing
Board of Directors at TSL's house blessing
Generous donors help in building TSL's new home
Generous donors help in building TSL's new home
The girls of TSL welcome guests to their new home
The girls of TSL welcome guests to their new home


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