Vince says being a social worker is both a burden and a blessing. And most of the time, the burden is hard to bear. He says everyday he is faced with a choice to be swallowed up by the harsh realities of street life, or to try to change the system for the better.
As a social worker, it is Vince’s duty to take care of the psychosocial well-being of the street children. These are children who have suffered from different kinds of abuse ---- being beaten up by their own family or friends, being lured into using solvent or substance abuse, and some may even be victims of sexual abuse.
From January to August 2016, Childhope’s Street Education program reached nearly 700 children. Most of them participated in various group and individual counselling sessions. Social workers help the children to process their thoughts and emotions, and deal with the different kinds of abuse they face every day.
Vince admits, the sufferings of street children take a toll on him.
“When street children share their problems and experiences, it affects me because I want to be able to help them more. But there’s only so much that I can do. There are limitations,” said Vince.
“Ang burden doon is ikaw na ang nagiging magulang ng bata (The burden here is you have to take responsibility for the child as if she or he is your own),” he added.
13-year old Michelle is one of hundreds of children whom Vince takes care of everyday. Vince says Michelle is very smart, she is very eager to learn, and is a potential student leader. She actively participates during Childhope’s alternative education sessions. But she needs help and special attention because she has been sniffing solvents, and is very vulnerable to being lured into prostitution.
“One time nakita ko sila mga pitong bata sa isang box, lahat sumisinghot ng solvent. Nakakapanlumo (One time I saw seven children trying to squeeze themselves and fit in a cardboard box. All of them were sniffing solvent. I felt so down seeing that),” said Vince.
Vince says the hardest part of his job is dealing with bad parents, those who do not care about the future of their children. “It’s difficult to handle parents who are stubborn. You want to get their permission to have their children transferred to shelters, but they don’t want to. Even if the child wants change. It’s worse when parents force their children to beg, steal, or even get into prostitution,” said Vince.
Vince says his job is difficult but it’s all worth it. He gets happy every time he refers a child to a shelter, knowing that in one way or another, he has helped that child to make a fresh start.
Michelle is now staying at Tahanan Sta. Luisa in Antipolo City, a crisis rehabilitation center for abused street girls. Vince believes that there, Michelle will be better taken care of, will get a break from the streets, and grow up to be a responsible and productive citizen.
“When the children smile at me and thank me for the little that I’ve done, all the stress goes away. That’s where I get the drive to improve and do well,” said Vince.
Vince says when he is down, he just remembers the words of an anonymous author wh
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