Promoted by the French priest Fr. Matthieu Dauchez, the NGO has been working in slums since 1998 to offer a future to those who are abandoned and at risk of being victims of drugs and violence. It is estimated that in the Philippines there are 830,000 minors in this situation. The first step: reopen the dialogue with their families.
Manila () – They have welcomed more than 70,000 street children in their 25 years of activity in Manila and other cities in the country. This is the commitment carried out by Anak-TNK, a non-profit organization promoted in the Philippine capital by Father Matthieu Dauchez, 47, a priest of French origin incardinated in the Archdiocese of Manila. The acronym stands for “Tulay Ng Kabataan,” which in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, means “a bridge for children.” Thanks to the contribution of hundreds of volunteers, in fact, the organization strives to save children from the street and abandonment.
It is estimated that at least 830,000 children in the country live in these conditions, exposed to the traps of violence and drugs: many of them are forced to beg, steal or prostitute themselves to survive. Since its founding in 1998, Anak-TNK has rescued thousands of children from Manila’s streets, slums and dumps, where children are often abandoned.
The organization is committed to “building bridges” between the children and their families so that they can be reunited. But the bridge also symbolizes the work that is done in the slum (city slums) to offer new opportunities to the young people who live there. The foundation offers a program based on health, protection and nutrition. In addition to physical help, it also offers psychological support, as young people are not only rejected by society, but often also by their families due to their actions in the past. “You have to find a way to guide, care for and educate them so that they can reintegrate into society and reconcile with their families,” explained Fr. Dauchez, “for which you have to establish a relationship of trust with them and accept them as they are With time, their self-esteem will grow and they will be willing to let themselves be led.”
Anak-TNK currently shelters 305 street children in 21 residential centers, 55 of whom are disabled. Four other facilities host another 800 children who spend the day searching for materials in landfills. Seven centers that were opened directly in the slums offer help to local communities, hosting more than 1,300 young people.
It all depends on the labor of 190 workers: 60 women volunteering in the slums and 125 volunteers who come to the Philippines from all over the world to help. The educational aspect is one of the most felt. In the Philippines, 1 in 3 children does not go to school. “We help young people during the school year, adapting to their needs,” explained the deputy director of the NGO, Gloria Recio. “In addition to education, health is also a major challenge: in cities, more than 40% of the population lives in precarious hygienic conditions, lacks food and medical care. One in three children is malnourished. We try to take charge from all of this”.
In 2015, the Anak-TNK experience was also visited by Pope Francis during his trip to Manila. Meanwhile, the organization has also launched projects outside the Philippine borders, including with children at risk: its facilities are now in Singapore, the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland.
But the most important result is the stories of the children who have been able to turn the page thanks to this work. Nico, a young man who has lived in the foundation since 2016, was able to harness his passion for music, forming a band that now plays at all Anak-TNK events. “It wasn’t easy for me,” he recalled, “my family left me when I was eight years old, but music was my anchor. Playing guitar, piano or drums, I found a way to express myself.” Thus, today he has left behind his difficult past, like all the members of the group and many other young people whom the NGO continues to help.