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Kuya Center For Street Children


Background

Towards the end of the 1980’s the religious brothers on the island of Luzon in the Philippines came together to express their brotherhood. This was to be articulated by gatherings at which prayer, information and celebration would take place. It was to be known as the Luzon Association of Religious Brothers (LARB).

During one of these early meetings the idea was proposed for LARB to have an identifiable apostolic outreach. Cardinal Jaime Sin was consulted and a consensus arrived at that this outreach should be to Street Children.

On the 14
th February 1991 Kuya Center was launched and began serving as a ‘drop-in’ center for the children on the streets of the commercial district of Cubao, Quezon City, Manila. The center was located near Cubao and regularly had between twelve and twenty-two children in it. Children living or working the streets could come to the safe precincts of Kuya where they could wash, sleep, eat and rest. Re-socialization and Christian Values education were attempted. While the drop-in model was to continue, additional emphasises were later placed on partial residential care, referrals and education in whatever form deemed suitable. Initially Kuya was under the direction of Brother Jun Estrellas FSC. Since that time there have been a variety of religious orders represented as Program Directors namely De La Salle, Redemptorists, St John of God, Capuchins, Marists, now and the Blessed Sacrament Congregation.

After seven years the center transferred a little further away from Cubao to Project Four. However this address proved to be unsatisfactory as it were too far from Cubao and it streets. The house was not only unsuitable but also unsafe. In the year 2000 the center relocated to its present site. This site has proven to be the best location so far as it provides easy access to the streets, to the parish, to recreational possibilities, schools and centers that can help support programs for the children and staff. The present house, which lends itself well to being a home and not an institution, nevertheless has one drawback namely the lack of ownership, which tends to stymie the home’s physical development

Objectives and Aims of the Organization

The objectives of Kuya are basically to:
  • reconcile the children with their families/carers
  • provide every opportunity possible for street children to re-establish their self-esteem, to help them adjust their lives so that they can successfully undertake recovery, rehabilitation and development programs that aim to lead them back to be responsible family members within society once again.
  • provide the children with evidence of caring adult role models
  • provide the Luzon Religious Brothers, the Lay Community both local and foreign, the opportunity to better understand the issues of the marginalized and to reflect and respond to the challenges this experience provides in their own Christian formation in a “Gospel-enriched” way.


The aims of Kuya are to:
  • reach out to as many children on the streets of Cubao, Katipunan, Philcoa, Tandang Sora, Fairview Market, Ever Gotesco, Anonas, Commonwealth, Sta. Lucia Cainta, Marikina and through gentle encouragement entice them to leave the streets and reside at Kuya.
  • reconcile those in residential care at Kuya with their families but failing that determine, together with them, the best educational options possible.
  • provide a safe and stable environment where they can respond to the needs of others in a positive, unselfish way through Christian religious formation, good socialization skills and living and relating as family

These aims and goals should provide many religious brothers in formation the opportunity to practise the Gospel values as expressed by their respective founders’ charisms within a challenging, but supervised and supportive environment.


People Targetted


The principle groups of people targeted by the organization are:
  1. Children Living on the Streets - who have no family connections (abandoned, orphaned, lost runaways), who have family connections but prefer to live on the streets (runaways),who reside with their low-income families but “work (street families).
  2. Children living with their low-income family members in the community - who are more than likely ‘working children’ too economically poor for the families to be able to afford even public education


Development and Key Direction

Kuya Center has Five licensed social workers, One educator, Three house parents/cooks, One religious brother who acts as program director and Scores of generous volunteers many of whom are College students and young religious in formation. Staff places much emphasis on making Kuya a home. The children’s behaviour and values are modelled on that of a Nazareth-caring, sharing and loving family.

Kuya provides three different programs for children at risk, these are:

Center Based Programs

These are provided for the boys who come to the center through Kuya’s street-based outreach and by referral agencies like Rehabilitation Action Center (Government), Bantay Bata, Child Hope, the Department of Social Welfare and concerned citizens.

The main thrust of the center is to reconcile the child with his family. When children choose to leave the streets and live at Kuya they must give up the practices of solvent sniffing, drug use, acts of wantonness and vagrancy. They are encouraged to willingly take an active part in the center’s programs. These programs are tailored to suit their needs as best as possible. There is regular schooling (catholic and public) for those of normal school age and attainment, special education classes at De La Salle Greenhills for older boys with low attainment levels, evening high school classes for young adults at La Salle Greenhills. Finally literacy classes are held at Kuya itself for those whose current socialization habits, practices and lack of attention span require a more intensive rehabilitation. Since all non center-based classes require the boys to travel each day, their growth in responsibility and trust, is fostered.

Small income earning programsare also encouraged through the making of rosaries, t-shirts. Proceeds are shared between the center and the children.


Community Based Programs

This is one of support for low-income families would otherwise be unable to afford even public schooling. In particular the ex-Kuya children reconciled with their families have together monthly counselling and educational assistance given to them to assure they can continue with their schooling and not return to the streets. This has been a highly effective and successful program. Without Kuya’s support these children would regress and most likely be ‘employed’ as vendors, car washers, car minders, sellers of flowers, candy, peanuts, cigarettes to motorists, shining shoes, selling snatched and stolen goods, prostitution and drug running once again. The family’s need for additional income and its inability to purchase the basics needed for education would normally stymie any educational ambition for them. Keeping the family together and going to school is seen as the best means of reducing the number of new children forced to live at risk on the streets.

Street Based Programs


These programs deal with those children and youth who continue to live a vagrant-like lifestyle on the streets. They often eke out an existence as vendors, barkers, prostitutes, car-minders, rag sellers, junk collectors, snatchers, newspaper sellers and scavengers. They are encouraged to come to the center but failing that Kuya’s street outreach programs try to provide them with psycho-social intervention, medical care, food, street education, legal advice, jail visitation (if apprehended), counselling and, in the case of a few, school assistance. Kuya staff encourages the young children to play street games and act out street issues to help their articulation of life’s struggles and self-expression.

Immersion Experiences

Kuya also provides live-in or short term immersion experiences for Religious plus personal growth and formation opportunities for many local and overseas visitors both lay and religious, Christian and non-Christian.



Contact Information


Kuya Center for Street Children
#6 St. Michael's Street, Brgy Immaculate Conception, Cubao.
Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
tel. Nos.: (632) 721-2351
Current Director: Br. Rey Acabado, sss
email: reynaldo_acabado@yahoo.com or kuyacenter@yahoo.com