For most people, eating dinner is an enjoyable experience and one we hardly think of as being dangerous or life threatening. For a small boy called Marco, it was to be the last thing he would ever do. In his legacy, and to help prevent another tragedy like his, Project PEARLS has now started a daily soup kitchen for children in Tondo. Getting involved and making a real difference is easier than you think.
Marco could have been anything. A fireman, a doctor, even president. Like for most children, the world was his oyster and his opportunities – in theory – limitless. Sadly, life, or whatever higher power may control our existence on this earth, had other plans. One evening earlier this month, Marco, who lived in the poorest part of Tondo, ate “pagpag” (recycled food from garbage) for dinner. His small body could not handle the toxins that were hidden in this particular batch of re-cooked food and he didn’t wake up to see the sun rise the next morning. All efforts by doctors to help also proved fruitless and Marco became another innocent victim of poverty and unsafe living conditions. He was just two years old.
If you are a regular reader of WhenInManila, then you may remember that I wrote about Project PEARLS before (the original article titled “Tondo: The Humanitarian Crisis At The Heart Of Manila And The People Doing Something About It” can be found here). The non-profit organization, which was founded in 2008, was already doing an amazing amount of work in the poorest parts of Tondo, including a weekly outreach program with feedings and a clinic for the children in these areas, as well as scholarships to ensure long term improvements based on better education.
The tragic death of Marco has now moved founder Melissa Villa and her team to step up efforts even further, and to go from a weekly feeding program to a daily soup kitchen serving breakfast for around 300 kids in HelpingLand. This means the children get at least one healthy and safe meal per day, which in turn will hopefully help to prevent another deadly incident involving food poisoning.
The daily soup kitchen, carried out in partnership with Feeding Metro Manila (FMM), take place every day in Helping Land, a slum community in Tondo, Manila. Helping Land sits on an active dumpsite and is home to hundreds of families whose main source of livelihood is scavenging from garbage. Most of them fill their hunger by relying on “pagpag” – leftover food from restaurants scavenged from trash.
The daily feedings are of course using up vastly bigger resources than the previous weekly efforts, and any help and support is greatly appreciated by the organization. Food donations in the form of rice, canned goods, noodles, pasta, bread, evaporated milk, eggs, fresh vegetables and fruit are always welcome and to donate, please email [email protected]projectpearls.org. Volunteers to help on the ground are also always needed (the feedings last from 8am to around 9:30am, Monday to Friday) and to sign up, please visit http://www.projectpearls.org/volunteer/ .
Having seen the work Project PEARLS does first hand, and also knowing the people behind it, I can say with confidence that no funds are wasted, no self interested politicians are allowed to interfere, and donations really do reach their intended targets thanks to minimal overheads. This is charitable work with a purpose, a clear plan, and a wonderful and realistic vision for a better and more wholesome society.
Where the government continues to fail miserably in its duty of care, private individuals have stepped in to do the right thing and the scale of help Project PEARLS now provides in Tondo has grown considerably. This is more than just giving some food to children. Work like this, with the feedings and the scholarships, can fundamentally change the place and lead to better long term conditions. The children being fed and educated in this manner today will be the community leaders of tomorrow, who will then have the abilities, and the chance, to make better choices where today’s politicians have failed so hard. If you want to be part of something amazing, something that really makes a difference, and something hundreds of kids will thank you for, then visit the Project PEARLS website for more information: