Real lives



A Day in the Life: Kristine's Story

How UNICEF is helping to protect the rights of vulnerable children in the Philippines

Fourteen-year-old Kristine (not her real name) lives at Nayon ng Kabataan, a shelter for vulnerable children in Manila, capital of the Philippines. When Kristine was very young, her mother became chronically ill and her family came to Manila for better treatment. After her mother’s death, Kristine’s father tried to take care of her and her two elder brothers but he was too poor to look after them properly.

When Kristine was five years old, she and her brothers were abandoned in a flat on their own for over two weeks. They were referred by a friend and brought to the shelter, where Kristine has lived ever since. Her father earns around 200 pesos (about £3) a day selling household goods and lives in a one-room flat. He wants her to stay at the shelter, where he feels she will receive better care and protection than he can offer her at home. He visits her occasionally but cannot afford to come very often.
“I ended up here because my mother fell ill - she had asthma and heart problems," Kristine says. "I’m the youngest of three children and I’m the only girl. My father’s a street vendor and we were very poor. He couldn’t afford to send all three of us to school at the same time. When my mother was sick my papa didn’t know there was a centre that could take care of me.

"We had an old peanut butter jar that someone would bring us noodles in," she continues. "My father borrowed money from a friend when he couldn’t pay his debts. Instead of giving the money to the hospital he used it as capital to start street vending. My father’s friend asked him why he didn’t bring us here instead. He told my father that they take care of children whose parents can’t afford to send them to school or who are victims of child abuse and child labour. So Papa agreed that it would be better to bring us here than to keep us at home where he couldn’t send us to school or feed us properly.”

Day to day

Kristine's day starts at 4:30am when she wakes up. School is from 7am until 11.30am. After school, she has her lunch and does her chores, like washing and cleaning. ”My assigned area to clean is the Admin area," Kristine says. "After I have done my chores I rest and then we can play.”

Kristine used to be a member of a dance troupe but now football plays a big part in her life. Her involvement with sport also inspires her to study hard. ”I started playing football when I was 12 years old," she remembers. "I don’t know what made me start, I just wanted to learn. I play goalkeeper.

"I get the urge to study hard when Coach Jes says we have a match because he said that he’d look into our study habits and he’d ask our teachers about our behaviour in class," she adds. "That motivates me to do my best. I’m able to focus well whenever I have a chance to compete.”

For Kristine, Nayon shelter has become her whole life. “I learned everything I know here - how to pray, how to understand and speak English," she says. "I went to elementary school here and even kindergarten. I’m okay and I’m happy here because there are many children and I have a lot of friends. We laugh and play together and talk about what life is like outside.”

School's out

Kristine at Nayon shelter
© UNICEF UK/Philippines 2010/Sharron Lovell
Kristine on the football pitch at Nayon shelter

View Kristine's story as a Flickr photo gallery >

Kristine used to attend school outside the shelter but recently got into trouble for planning to drink alcohol. She was removed from formal school and is now attending classes inside the shelter again. “It was my friend’s birthday and we smuggled alcohol into the centre," she says. "I was attracted to the idea because I have never drunk alcohol. Even the things I would normally never do, I sometimes think of doing because my friends do them. I prefer school outside the centre because we don’t learn as much here. It’s okay with me though, as it’s my own fault.”

In 2009, Kristine was nearly adopted by an employee. “Aida was interested in adopting me but my father wouldn’t give his consent," she says. "She asked for his permission several times. I think that’s when I started resenting him because I knew that I would have a shot at finishing school if was with her. I tried explaining it to my father. I told him, ‘After they put me through college maybe I can get a good job. I can come and visit you more often in Quezon City.’ But still he wouldn’t approve. Eventually he seemed to finally agree, but I think he only gave his consent when he knew it was no longer possible – Aida doesn’t want me any more.”

Kristine still hopes that the adoption might happen and, after nearly ten years at the shelter, she is ready to move on. “I don’t want to live with my family but I don’t want to grow old here," she says. "We just do the same things over and over. I still pray to the Lord that someone will still want to adopt me.”

Sport for development

Nayon ng Kabataan is an educational shelter for up to 200 children who have been abandoned, neglected, abused or exploited. UNICEF supports the centre by training social workers and providing materials for psycho-social activities. This includes football equipment and materials for other education and play activities.

The centre has a strong focus on children’s development through sport. The gymnasium and large football field are put to good use on a daily basis, with play scheduled every afternoon after the children have attended school. In March 2010, two boys from the shelter were selected for the Philippines street children World Cup squad.

Nayon is a temporary shelter. It’s primary aim is to reintegrate children back into their families and communities. In the meantime, the centre helps set children back on the educational ladder. Outreach work is also done with the family to prepare them for a child’s return. For children who cannot return to their families, fostering is another option. However, there are currently not enough foster parents for all the children who need a home.

UNICEF is working to prevent children like Kristine being placed into shelters in the first place, through support for communities and families. We believe that these shelters should be a last resort for vulnerable children, not a solution to poverty. For children living in poverty in Manila, life is an ongoing battle in which their rights are denied on a daily basis. However, through the work of UNICEF and Nayon ng Kabataan, children like Kristine have been able to start enjoying their right to a full and happy childhood.

Find out more Credits
  • Written by Tianna Rounds, Production Manager at UNICEF UK.
  • All photos © UNICEF UK/Philippines 2010/Sharron Lovell.
  • Music by Ricardo Francisco, a former resident at Pangarap Shelter.



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