I had to send the kids home today. The cable that connects my tablet to the amp is busted and I couldn’t play music or amplify the TV so forty-one kids could hear the movie over the sounds of the Philippine outdoors.

I divided them into groups and invited them back on certain days by their school year/grade. Then I sent them home.

About five or six months ago I invited 12 children to the house for some English and Maths tuition. It evolved into music and dancing and games as more kids came. Naturally and slowly it grew to about 30 kids but they didn’t always come at the same time.

Then last Sunday was #WorldFoodDay. I thought yeah, as a surprise I’m gonna cook for the kids to show them how much I love them. I made some posters to decorate the place and then on Sunday afternoon walked down into their Purok and invited them up. All 30 came (+ a few more).

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised then when today forty-one children came (and only about half of the regulars were there).

These kids have absolutely no where to play. There are no parks, gardens or public places available for them. There is simply nothing for them to do. They gravitate to the pier (bad place), the streets, online gaming shops or worse. These kids wear rags and many of them barely have enough to eat. So you can imagine there is no extra money for books, toys and games.

My dream is to to operate a dedicated out-of-school learning centre but even then, how do I select the kids? Once you start a ‘selection process’ it automatically eliminates the kids that arguably need it most. The ones that just casually drop by, the ones who have such low self-esteem they don’t commit … because not attending might be a form of feeling in control. The thing I find the most heartbreaking is choosing. The ones I can’t help upset me the most. I can’t bear the thought of a kid feeling … Tita Mel didn’t want me there.

© 2016 Melinda Irvine