01.04.2008 - 01.05.2008 31 °C
From the 1st of April and a month onward, I stayed at the Stairway Foundation and did some volunteer work. Stairway is a learning and resource centre for children's rights located in the village of Aninuan, on the island of Mindoro. The foundation was started, and is still run by, Lars and Monica. They work for children’s rights and to prevent child abuse, through a number of channels:
• Capacity building through networks... development and distribution of materials for education and advocacy, workshops and staff trainings
• Prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse... workshops and trainings for teachers and caregivers, counselling and therapy for survivors
• Service oriented program... recovery and rehabilitation centre offering therapy and education for street children and children with serious health problems, such as tuberculosis
• Children's rights advocacy... international distribution of newsletters, presentations, performances and visits by student groups from the Philippines and abroad
I stayed with them at the centre in Aninuan, Oriental Mindoro. A great place, full of creative spirit and openmindedness.
One particular area of focus at the moment is the production of their third animated film on child abuse. Stairway Foundation has previously produced two very powerful animations that deal with the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation. The award winning Daughter, A Story of Incest and, A Good Boy, A Story of Paedophilia, have both helped to raise consciousness and to break the silence surrounding the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
The idea for the animations came from Stairways work with street children. Over a decade of working with marginalized children, they heard some of the most horrendous stories of child abuse, but amongst those stories none were about sexual abuse or sexual exploitation. They looked for a way to get children to talk openly about this sensitive issue without the shame, blame or guilt feelings imposed upon them by a society full of taboos and negative attitudes towards any sex related issue. Using animation, Stairway has found that this form of storytelling relates to children, and can be a powerful tool to address sensitive issues like child sexual abuse and exploitation. Non-threatening and non-intimidating, animation transcends the limits of language and cultural specificity to generate dialogue with young people. They can see their own lives reflected in the story, and they are encouraged to talk and to think about their unique challenges head-on.
Based on the success of the previous two animations, Stairway is currently in the middle of producing a third animation, this time concerning sex trafficking of children and child pornography. It stresses the fact that without the demand for children as sex objects, no child would be ensnared in this most cruel and dehumanizing form of slavery.
My role for the time I spent at Stairway, was to come up with a distribution strategy for this latest animation. Lars and Monica are hoping that this third film will be able to reach even more people than the previous two. I tried to do as much leg work as possible, so that when the film is ready, there will already be a strategy and contact databases ready for its distribution to run as smoothly as possible.
Apart from the animations, Stairway have also produced a theatre piece called Cracked Mirrors, on child sexual abuse. One evening we saw the performance on Stairway’s stage under the stars – and it was so powerful, truly amazing. The actors made you feel like you could see right into their hearts.
Stairway’s compound is located on a tree covered hill, with the various structures spread out. I stayed in my own little hut on a hill.
Just across the road from Stairway is Tamaraw Beach – a lovely stretch of sand. It is much quieter here than the busy Sabang Beach (which actually has no beach) as well as White Beach which is just around the bend from Tamaraw. I was able to relax on the beach after work, and to do some snorkelling just off the beach.
After dropping me off at Stairway, Alan went to a place called North Pandang Island to dive Apo reef, with Jay and Milena. On the way back from there, heading to Cebu, he stopped by Stairway to visit me. He told them he is a plumber, and ended up staying the rest of the time I was here, fixing lots of things for them. So in the end, he actually volunteered as well – really great.
The place that Lars and Monica have built here is really impressive, and not just the actual site here, which is great, but the organisation in general. As I learned more about what they do, I became more and more impressed with their work. Monica has written the scripts for the play Broken Mirrors, as well as for the animations – she is like the creative powerhouse here. And Lars runs most of the practical stuff – a true octopus, keeping all the different areas organised and structured. I learnt that they do outreach work in the prisons here, they have hired a psychologist who visits prisons and has counselling sessions with the kids who are in prison – which quite a lot of children are in the Philippines. In fact, the latest group of boys to come and stay here at the Stairway centre were all from prisons in Manila.
Visit Stairway or Stairway Danmark’s websites to learn more – they are always looking for help, donations, members and volunteers – and I can vouch for the fact that it is definitely a worthy cause for your help.
We met lots of nice people while we were here – one guy, Randi, runs a restaurant on the beach. His dad has been diving here for over 20 years! He lent us some cylinders and we did a shore dive off Aninuan beach. It was not world class or anything, but there were quite a lot of cool little critters.
In the end, April ran out, and we got ready to leave Stairway. We are off to Manila for a few days, and then for a liveaboard in Tubbataha reef – stay tuned for that.