[content_band]Melanie is a social worker for the “in house” program of Cameleon Philippines, in Passi. Every month, they visit several families of the girls in their own homes. This testimony after one of these home visits shows the true conditions in which the families live every day.

melanie house motherMélanie : « Last night I discussed with the director that some of our girls receive cash gifts and they ask the permission to share. Instead of spending those cash gifts for themselves only, sometimes they will by food for their families. Because sometimes, some sponsors don’t understand why the girls buy food, since Cameleon is already providing them. They think cash gifts should be spent for themselves, for dresses or whatever they want. But the girls here in Cameleon, because of the poverty in their families, they cannot really decide to spend this for themselves.
I am very touched by the generosity of some of the girls here. One of them, the first cash gift she had, she spent half of it to treat her family at Jollibee! So sometimes, sponsors should know that the girls have a real desire to help their family. It is really inherent for us Pilipino, when we have something, to share with our family. »

Julie : « Of course, so how was the house visit? I heard it was difficult for this family right now.»
« Yes, because they don’t have anything to eat! Sometimes, if they know that their girl has some money left from the cash gift, the mother will ask me if she can borough 300 pesos, because we don’t have any money to buy food. »

« Ok. But they received some money from the government recently right? What did they buy with it? »
« Yes, the money that they got was intended for the house repairs after Yolanda, it was the counterpart from the government. But here, for some people, if they receive money, they think that instead of buying food, they will buy something that they don’t have. Like appliances, that’s the usual thing and that is why this family bought a TV.»

« Do you have an idea why they would do that? »
« Because they are deprived, usually they will go to the neighbor’s house to watch TV. So once they have money they buy a TV so that they don’t have to go to the neighbor’s house. I think it would be a good research question in social-economics (laughs). »

« But the girl’s family, they didn’t even have electricity..! »
« Yes, they do not have electricity! This morning (day after the home visit) I was able to meet again with the parents, because the girl had a court hearing and the parents attended. And I said “how are you?” and they said “Mme we don’t have any work right now”. Because they haven’t finished elementary, and this is not the season for harvest, nor for the poultry farm… so they don’t have an income right now. So I said “Why don’t you sell your TV? Because you haven’t used it since the time you bought it, you just set it aside because you don’t have electricity” They said they would think about it. I don’t know if they will do it.
But the wife is already planning to go to Manila to her previous employer where she was a house helper. But she will only earn 3000 PHP a month! So I said “Will the 3000 PHP salary will suffice your longing for your children? The youngest is still breast feeding, if you leave him, will it be enough for the formula milk? Because it’s expensive!” They are having a hard time figuring out how they can earn money. Their girl this morning she had a snack, but she shared it with her father again and he gave it to the younger ones. »

« And do they have any water in their house? »
« No, no water. They are really far from the water source. And you could see soiled clothes scattered everywhere in their yard. So I asked her why, and the mother said that the water source is very far, and that she’s too exhausted from looking after the younger children. »

« How many children does she have? »
« Nine! And she doesn’t have time or energy to wash the clothes anymore, to go somewhere far. Even to take a bath is difficult for her! »

« How long does she go without taking a bath? »
« For the mother it’s been a month! I could really see it in her appearance. When they go fetch water it is usually for their cooking. And they don’t have CR (“Comfort Rooms”) so they will just go anywhere. But taking a bath and washing clothes is not a priority for them.
Apart from that, there is a lot of farm lands: you will pass through sugar cane fields etc. So if you walking through the fields alone anybody can grad you and do something to you. It is dangerous and very hard to ask for help because there is no one around. »

« Are there other families like them, who are in the same conditions? »
« Yes, when you see the geographical location, you will see that it is not really safe. Because once the sugar canes are growing, incidents of rape are really rampant. »

photo 1 devant la maison
« The front of the house is like this, the father had to destroy some of the fence he build just to let us in! According to him, this is their protection against the ones who are trying to harm them. »

photo 2 la maison
« This is the house, it’s made of bamboos »
Julie: « Did you go inside? »
« No only Maybell. I didn’t, because I was afraid it would fall down. It’s not sturdy. And you can see the clothes outside everywhere. »

photo 3 la cuisine
« This is the kitchen. So in case there is fire, it can easily burn. »

photo 4 la famille
« This is the family. The mother claims that sometimes it takes a month before she can take a bath. She is 37 and she already has 9 children. The father is 64. »

photo 5 la porte de la maison
« They don’t have secure doors. So anybody can easily get inside! »
« And are they at least protected from the rain? »
« With this kind of walls, when it rains heavily it can leak inside. And if ever there is another typhoon it will be hard for them to survive it. »

photo 6 petite maison
« Is this a case that you’ve only seen in one place or are there families in the same situation in the other provinces also? »
« It’s everywhere! Lots of houses are unsafe and too small, like this one for example. Can you imagine how they can live in a small house like this?! »
« How many are they? »
« They are five: the grandmother and four children! »

« Thank you Melanie for sharing a bit of your experience with those families! »
« You’re welcome! »

Interview and article written by Julie Cabande, volunteer in CAMELEON Philippines