By Tracy Cruz
Inspired by Channel News Asia’s “Asian of the Year” feature on Robert Alejandro, I attended All Together in Dignity (ATD) Third World Philippines’ Street Library project last January 21, 2012 at the streets of Pandacan, Manila and this experience awakened me to a lot of hopeful realities.
It was my first time to navigate the vibrant alleys of Pandacan and it was a pleasure to meet the community who lives under the bridge, especially the kids. I never really understood the situation of the street children and being inside their neighborhood and connecting with the families gave me a different perspective of the lives that they live.
I will never forget the shame that I felt when a foreign volunteer explained to me the situation of the community who reside under the bridge. He understood, I only knew. He educated me about the people of my own country. How could this be?
Sure, I saw them everyday when they knocked on the doors of the car or when they approached me when I was walking but I never really considered what they are going through. It was so easy to judge or be rude and turn them away but when I saw the condition of their homes and the environment that they thrive in, I understood that they have no choice.
This is where ATD comes in. I admire the organization’s advocacy of giving equal chances to the poorest of the poor. What they give are not hand-outs, they have sustainable programs such as the Street library which promotes education. This is another distinct trait that I love about ATD. Instead of soliciting donations to give to the underprivileged, what they ask from volunteers are their talents.
To be able to share your talents to the needy is a great privilege. It does not cost anything except time and effort. When you feel the enthusiasm of the kids to learn and their hunger for knowledge, you realize that the only difference between the rich and the poor is the chances that we are given.