For a common observer, Juliet, 17, (name has been changed to protect identity) look like any other girls of her age. However, she had quite an extraordinary childhood—Juliet used to roam the streets of Metro Manila from a very young age. Her single mother was unemployed, so she was forced to work so she can buy food.
Passion for learning
Juliet shared, “I used to ride jeepneys and clean the passenger’s shoes hoping they give me money”, the teenager recalls. She pauses. Talking about her past doesn’t come easy. “You know… my mother used to physically abused me.” She mutters. In the street, she faced more abuse, disease and exploitation. Facing this harsh reality, going to school became optional and finishing her education, a distant dream.
Virlanie helps former street children like Juliet to break this cycle by providing not only a loving and caring home, but also giving them education. Juliet is one of the young girls living in the Elizabeth Home. Surrounded by Mamas and Titas caring for the girls, Juliet slowly gained back her confidence and desire to learn.
“My mom wanted me to come to Virlanie” she says. “When she died, it was written in her will. The Mobile Unit used to come by the area we lived in.” Mobile Unit is Virlanie’s street education program. It was also Ate Marie, Mobile Unit Coordinator, who convinced Juliet to go to Virlanie so she can finish schooling. Through the Mobile Unit, Juliet saw the value of education. She knew then that with education, she can have a chance to improve the quality of her life and her brother’s.
Upon entering Virlanie, Juliet received pre-training to help her re-adapt to formal learning environment. While being able to immediately go back to school, she never had proper school records either because as a child, she had been transferring from one place to another or she had been dropping out from school because her mother can no longer afford her education. Because of this, the gap between her age and grade level grew along the years. At school, she had always been the oldest among her classmates. But these circumstances didn’t affect her desire to finish her education.
Juliet’s previous experiences in the street inspired her to become a lawyer. “I want to defend people’s rights, especially those who were abused just because they are women or they are poor or they are street children. Victims are usually silenced because other people don’t believe in them. I want to be the one who will listen to them, believe and protect them,” Juliet said. She studies well to achieve this dream. She works hard in every subject and because of her strong determination, she has always been a consistent honor student.
Living in the streets limits most children’s opportunities before they have even begun to realize their full potential. It is Virlanie’s mandate to save more children and create more Juliet’s out of them—responsible individuals who value education and dream big to help others. You can help us achieve this goal. Sponsor a child’s education! Find out here: http://virlanie.org/get-involved/sponsorship/sponsor-a-child/