Graham Stevens, the founder of Dorcas (Wessex) Trust stopped over in Manila on his way to see his family in Australia. One morning in his hotel……………
He was watching me from a few feet away through the restaurant window. I was sitting down to eat breakfast on the first morning of a stop-over in Manila on my way to visit my family in Australia. The menu read 'Eat as much as you can for $10' – but I felt uncomfortable – so I filled my pockets with cakes and walked out onto the pavement where 8-year-old Michael John P was folding the cardboard on which he had slept the night before. I offered him and his family the surplus food, which quickly disappeared into the mouths of the five children. I returned later after a little shopping expedition, with supplies for them and the other families who shared that part of the pavement. Michael's mother Marie wanted to give me a gift in return – it was a Bible magazine…. they were Christians.
This mother with her children was one of the first Street families Graham met in Manila. The whole family lived on the pavement, the mother earning a meagre wage by washing clothes while her husband washed cars in the car park.
Manila the capital of the Philippines is a city of 15 million people most of whom live in the squatter areas, while many families live in the open on any space or pavement. There are said to be 50 thousand children living on the streets without adult supervision in Manila.
Marie, I discovered later, had a squatter home, a room of about 10 square feet at the end of a maze of alleyways where she and the family shared a toilet with 40 other people. Marie was reluctant to let me visit her home, 'I'm ashamed Graham' she said. 'It's too dirty.' Later I showed her my hotel room which was much bigger for one person than her room for seven. 'Now who should feel ashamed?' I asked. During the week they moved from that home to the tourist area, to be outside the hotels so that they could earn a little money by washing and parking cars, but there is only just enough to live on and too little to pay for the children to go to school.
Some children live entirely alone on pavements and sniff glue and solvents – because it is cheaper than food and takes away the pain of hunger
I return to the Philippines regularly and each time I'm invited to stay in two orphanages where Dorcas (Wessex) Trust is helping with funds. I try to encourage the Christian staff who work long hours for little pay in difficult conditions caring for these unwanted children. Most of the girls and some of the boys have been sexually abused; some can't remember their real parents and some don't even know how old they are. Their living conditions are basic but their faith is real….. they have so little but they sing 'God is good, all the time'.
As a result of that first flying visit to the Philippines Graham has come into contact with many Christians who are all helping the orphanages and the street people. Carina is a Christian lady who goes to the very poor slum areas, gathers children and tells them about Jesus. The Dorcas (Wessex) Trust has first been able to provide money for her to rent a room to hold these sessions and since is helping her to register and develop the organisation.