Tourism with a difference
In November 2018 Hannah Rae was invited to take part in a Social Entrepreneurship Study Trip to Manila because of her interest in TVET, ( Technical and Vocational Education and Training). She accepted and joined the 20 strong group of strangers, comprising of social activists, youth workers, teachers, teenage social entrepreneurs and education professionals. Read about her experience.
Arriving in Manila
We were met and shepherded to our air-conditioned coach by the Mabuhay Restop’s young tour organisers and guides Mara and Glenn, who had safely arranged everything for us. As our excited group pulled out into the traffic choked highways of Metro Manila, I looked out onto the streets to place myself in the architecture and people. I began to feel bombarded by scenes of the grit and the reality of life for the people surviving day to day in a developing country, where 42% of every child born will live and die in abject poverty unless they, or one member of their family, receive a tertiary education.
What we would experience
I didn’t know about the 42% yet. And I didn’t know that we would see whole families asleep on the streets at night, or that we would meet street children who would charm us with their intelligence and cheek, or that we would be shocked and then haunted by the sight of starving and disheveled youths holding out their weak hands begging for alms. Or that we would have the privilege to meet the third generation of family’s living sustainably on the notorious Smokey Mountain rubbish site and that we would meet a whole host of selfless and innovative people.
We were bonding as a group, watching, networking and wondering what amazing social entrepreneurs we were to visit. Filipinos who have made it their life’s work to support these marginalised communities.
What impressed me most about all the social business people we met was the understated way in which they got on with their work. Happy Helpers are a team of women providing paid cleaning jobs and motivational workshops to women in the community. They had the most energising and genuinely happy team meeting I have ever witnessed. Women working and learning together, sharing their life stories safely, earning an income and still being able to care for their families, in a well-structured rewards based environment. For positive feedback from satisfied customers the women were given bags of rice and high praise from their managers and peers.
Yet, perhaps the most inspirational experience was the visit to Messy Bessy. The young female CEO set up this now successful natural cleaning products company, by finding online recipes, to fund her work rescuing young people living in risky situations.
From exploitation to sustainability
Young homeless people and children in Manila are abducted from the streets and exploited for work, sex and drugs trafficking and organs. Messy Bessy provide a safe haven of employment and training within the business created for them. The offices and product development areas that we visited were staffed by these young people. Their CEO pays their degree tuition up front and they pay her back with their time and skills in making Messy Bessy more successful – a self-sustaining social business, not reliant on sponsors or cause marketing.
To date Messy Bessy has seen 3,500 young people graduate and many now work for multinationals. Employment is gained competitively, no concessions are made with regards to their adversarial background – it is pure merit.
A 24/7 experience
We stayed in Makabata Guesthouse which is situated in one of the poorest parts of Metro Manila. We were immersed in Filipino cultural highs and lows, as people noisily celebrated the life of a deceased relative until the early hours on the street outside the chapel of rest just opposite our rooms. We mingled with street people as we went to buy water from the barred access shops and stepped over the cockroaches, who in turn stepped over the sleeping families as we returned from our long days of visits.
We were welcomed and fed by a hardworking team of young people, rescued from risky life situations and employed to run the Guest House – one of many examples of the enterprises set up by the amazing and humble Lily V Flordelis of the Bahay Tuluyan Foundation. She has dedicated her life to helping children. She is known and respected in the wider community for her work and passion for children’s rights.
That the trip to Manila was life changing is a big statement to make. What I have taken from my full on, sublime and confronting visit to Manila is the matter of fact and humble approach these social entrepreneurs have. The work they do quite simply improves the lives of other people, every day.
‘Start small and dream big’ is the message. Be willing to listen and connect together, support and build each other towards a common cause. Help your family and your community and be a safety net for those who have no say in the way their life is leading them. Providing skills, tools and opportunities to pave a better way is key.
Live simply, give much and do as you would be done by.
Wife and mother to 3 daughters. Youth centered educationalist, Guidance Coach and newly fledged social activist.
Feature Image: er_davad – Pixabay
Other Images provided by Hannah