The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will hold a stakeholders’ forum today, May 17,  at the Central Office to seek support in addressing the plight of street children in Metro Manila.

Joining them will be the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, PhilSeven Foundation, Metrobank Foundation, Lopez Foundation, Villar-Sipag Foundation, Metroworld, Adarna Publishing House, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the Manila Times.

The DSWD will present its Comprehensive Program for Street Children, Street Families, and Indigenous Peoples especially the Sama-Bajau to the participants for their understanding and appreciation. One unique feature of this comprehensive program is the establishment of an activity center for street children by the various local government units (LGUs) and Non-Government Organizations in Metro Manila.

According to DSWD-Social Technology Bureau Director Thelsa Biolena, the activity center is open during the Christmas season with the purpose of keeping off the streets at this time.

“It is during Christmas time that children are out on the streets to beg in the guise of caroling.  The activity center can serve as a  venue where donors can give their Christmas gifts or tokens for  children instead of giving them on the streets.  Similarly, other educational activities  can  be conducted at the center. At the same time, hot meals are also being served here. Overall, the activity center is a safer place for street children who are vulnerable to the hazards of street life,” Dir. Biolena said.

However, Dir. Biolena lamented that while some LGUs continue to operate their activity centers even beyond the holiday season, there are also LGUs that find it difficult to maintain operations due to lack of resources and staff complement.

DSWD Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo said, “what we want to do is to maintain and sustain our assistance for street children. Hindi po iyong patay sindi or on and off.  We can do this with the full support of the government,  non-government organizations, and the private sector.”

The Secretary shared that an activity center which operates 24 hours, provides appropriate programs, and has adequate materials/equipment can be one solution to help street children.

She emphasized that DSWD needs the assistance and partnership of all sectors in responding to the needs of poor Filipino children, whose lives are at risk on the streets.

She expressed optimism that stakeholders especially those participating in the forum would heed the call for help for street children.

“Nais natin na matulungan ang lahat ng kabataang Pilipino na magkaroon ng pagkakataong makamit nila ang kanilang pangarap, maabot nila ang full potential nila, at maging mga produktibong miyembro ng lipunan sa hinaharap (We want all Filipino children to have a chance to fulfill their dreams, to reach their full potential, and eventually become productive members of society in the future).  We can do better if we work together, and if possible, we can help the local government units to develop and maintain their activity centers,” Sec. Taguiwalo concluded. ###