Magazine article New Internationalist

Lean-Joy: I Shouldn't Lose Hope Because It Won't Be Forever

Magazine article New Internationalist

Lean-Joy: I Shouldn't Lose Hope Because It Won't Be Forever

Article excerpt

ONCE we rented a house. But it burnt clown: nothing was left. Then we went on to the streets and that's where we've lived ever since. It's almost six years now. Our whole family moved to the streets and we've stayed together. We're six children - three sisters and three brothers. I'm the eldest. I look after my brothers and sisters.

My father began vending cigarettes and candies; my mother had a carindma [eating shack or canteen]. Now my father is a barker [someone who shouts to get passengers into jeepneys in return for a small sum from the driver]. I work as a helper in the carinderia of my godfather. I was 10 when I started.

It's not beautiful in our area. There are many snatchers [people who snatch bags and valuables and make a run for it] and people shooting guns. Outsiders view us with suspicion.

I'm studying even though I'm on the streets. I go to school at 12 noon and go home at seven in the evening. I work" from 7pm to five in the morning. My father does his barking while I work in the canteen. I also vend to the passengers during the night. I shout 'Balut, penoy, palamig!' [ducks' eggs, eggs, juices], the things that I sell. We work close by, my father and I. I am always with my dad. He watches over us because we sleep on the streets. A drunkard might harm my brothers and sisters. It happened once when a drunkard did something to us - a very bad thing. That's why our father watches us. He sleeps in the daytime when he is not afraid any more because we are not on the streets then but at school.

Whenever we sell, we get chased by the MMDA [Metro Manila Development Authority]. They say it's prohibited for vendors to be on the pavements. They destroy some of the items we sell; the others they keep for themselves to give to their families. Sometimes when we sleep on the pavements the DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] people try to catch us. We run so we won't be caught. If they catch us, they interview us. They say they will give us a house or a place in a centre, but that never happens. My mother got caught. One of them told her that we'd be given a house, but up to now there is nothing.

I sleep around five hours a day. I don't feel too sleepy in school because I'm used to it. I already had this kind of life when I was young. I joined my grandmother selling things then and she also worked during the night.

My teacher knows that I work and I've told her that I sometimes sleep in class. She says that even if I work I should still study well. She told me that if it's OK with me she will get me [meaning the teacher said she is willing to take Lean-Joy over from her parents - an informal adoption].

We don't have a house, but I don't want to be adopted because there is no-one who will take care of my brothers and sisters. [Here she breaks down. Clearly the choice between a potentially more comfortable life and all her responsibilities with her street family is distressing.]

I cannot depend on my parents now because they are taking care of my siblings. I need to strengthen my heart; I need to be stronger while I'm still on the streets so that I can protect myself from the people who abuse me. I shouldn't lose hope because it won't be forever.

I pity my siblings because they don't have enough sleeping time and they might not be able to go to school any more. …

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