iLead ODC-ET (iLead Open Day Center – Education and Training), stands proud, big gates open and full of life. At its opening in 2007, the center initially provided a safe place for families and street children to shower, wash their clothes, and eat. In this way, the center gave them the opportunity to see the streets not as a permanent residence, but a temporary situation that could still be overcome.

After years of success, the program then went through a transformation made possible by a partnership among Aide et Action (through their iLead program) and Amade. iLead ODC-ET was inaugurated in July 2015 after months of renovation.

The center is now a fully developed education and training center where young adults and marginalized mothers living on the street can receive training that allows them to earn income or have opportunities to support themselves and their children. The center aims to recruit, train, and support beneficiaries who have a strong motivation to change their financial situation.

During our visit to the center in Quiapo, Sally welcomed us. She is the social worker of the center. With a wide smile, she introduces some of the mothers to us and led us upstairs, where children’s drawings were displayed on walls, and shelves were lined with books and educational toys. She then sits at the central table and starts sharing her story.

“I’ve been working for Virlanie for almost 10 years. At this time, the reception center had another mission. It was our way to prevent children and families from returning to the streets. The center helped people mainly on hygiene and health issues. It was something very important for the Foundation,” she pauses, her eyes sparkling nostalgia.

“Today, the center has a different mission. We help families to get off the streets through workshops and training courses in cooking, sewing, and most recently in aesthetics. Mothers and children are welcome at any time of the day. Workshops are set up for mothers and young adults by batches, while a nursery is available for small children where they can learn reading, writing, and mathematics. We also have regular courses teaching on children’s rights and sex education for young people over 14 years old on Saturdays.”

While we were upstairs, the scent of freshly baked cupcakes begins to make us want to descend. The hum of working sewing machines cease, and the silence was then broken by the children’s laughter who just got back from school. The phone rang, and Sally excused herself as someone called her attention.

“That’s Mylene. She’s one of the first beneficiaries of the center. Before her arrival at iLead ODC-ET, she’s had a long history prostitution, drugs, and other vices. She was greeted by several organizations without success. It was through the center the she was able to change her state of mind, and was able to feel like she belonged. The presence of Kuya Dom helped tremendously. She now works for the center as a junior staff. She works directly on the street and encourages mothers and families to join the center. She does an outstanding job.”

The iLead ODC-ET is still in its infancy, but it aspires to become a model on assisting disadvantaged mothers and young adults living on the street to change their lives and those of their children in the long term.

MAKE A DONATION: Support the program! If you wish to support the daily effort produced by the team at iLead ODC-ET as they work with marginalized mothers and young adults, contact us at info@virlanie.org today!