In the 2018 Miss Universe, Catriona Gray said that working in the slums of Tondo encouraged her to find the beauty in the faces of children despite the fact that living there is poor and sad. What she was referring to was the voluntary work that she does in Tondo with the organization Young Focus. They help children there with their education from pre-school to college.
Young Focus believes that education is the key to have a better life thus, ending poverty.
Young Focus International started in the Netherlands by a Dutch/English couple Paul and Ann Wijgerden, who expanded the project to the Philippines in 2008. It is based in Tondo near the Smokey Mountains where there are thousands of families in need and who are scavenging for food or money.
Young Focus sees a future with the improved mental, physical and social well-being of the youth in poor communities via education, health care and personal support.
Young Focus gives these children a chance to be more, with programs like the Child Care Plus, School Sponsorship from elementary to college, Love2Learn (a special program for school drop-outs), YoUNgLI (Young Unlimited) and Alternative Learning System.
It also has Combat Malnutrition in Tondo and provides Family Care and Social Support to those who need it.
Child Care Plus or Early Childhood Education is for children aged 3-5. Here, the group provides quality education to help the development of their social or emotional, physical and cognitive wellbeing.
Almost 300 children ages 3 to 4 attend preschool and 125 are 5-year-olds enrolled at the local school. Uniforms, school books and school supplies are provided for 5 years old.
School sponsorship for elementary, high school and college are for 6-year-olds to 20+ young adults. Young Focus also provides school fees, uniforms, books and school materials.
It also tutors these sponsored students at its student’s center that has a library, a computer room and recreational areas. Aside from tutoring, it has a writing class, arts and music lessons and dance groups catering to children’s interests.
Once the students graduate from college, Young Focus also helps them get a job via a network of companies and contacts that support the organization.
Love2Learn is part of Catch-UP: A special program for school drop-outs. It helps children who were dropped out of school because of personal, financial or family reasons, teaching the lessons they missed for one year before enrolling them back to their proper year.
It also works out the problems of the family so they can go back to school with ease. Children on this program are aged 8-15
YoUNgLI or Young Unlimited is also part of the Catch-UP programs that cater to school dropouts, but this is for 15+-year-olds who never received education and more often than not are addicted to solvents.
Some live alone and/or supporting children of their own. The program aims to recapture their love for education and receive training in hygiene, education, personal coaching and life skills. They are assisted in finding job training programs or in enrolling to school again.
Alternative Learning System (ALS) is another part of the Catch-UP programs that allow students that have been out of school for too long to be in a one year course to catch-up on the things they missed. After the year is done, they receive a four-year high school certificate that enables them to enrol to senior high school or any vocational course.
ALS is also a program of the government for ‘study acceleration’.
The Young Focus’ Combat Malnutrition provides healthy food by means of feeding programs. Children from the Catch-UP programs receive health food when they are at school.
In addition to that, they also teach children and their parents all about nutrition, health and hygiene.
Mothers are also taught how to cook healthy meals with a budget of P200+ for a family of 4.
Family Care and Social Support are for parents where they teach the value of education as well as training on health, hygiene, nutrition, parenting, family planning, spiritual and mental health including the rights of children.
Young Focus also tries to pinpoint the cause of the drop-outs and guide them.
What started in the Netherlands that expanded in the Philippines now has 1,085 students in its program, 185 school drop-outs in its Catch-UP programs, 750 in its regular programs and 150 who enrolled in their preschool. Maybe in the future, they will help millions more.