Truly a Ticket to Life

Ticket to Life is a flagship project by the Asia-Pacific Region of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). Started in 2006, it is now in its ninth year of operation. The project involves street children, guided and mentored by young but trained volunteer Scout leaders of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines’ (BSP) Youth Programme. The Programme inspires the street children to learn teamwork and leadership, and assimilate the values of Scouting: “Duty to others” and “Duty to self”.

In conjunction with the World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June, let us continue to take action to help end child labour and make sure every child has the opportunity to attend school and receive formal and non-formal education. Let us all work together to say “NO to child labour, YES to quality education” to create a better world for our children and the generations to come. #Nochildlabour

During a visit to the Philippines recently, Global Director of Communications & External Relations of the World Scout Bureau, Lin Lin Yeoh, met with several individuals involved in the project, from the street children to the Parish Priest and the Project’s National Coordinator. Here is an account of her visit.

Truly a Ticket to Life

“Yes...” that was his response when in January 2014 His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden asked if he could lead a Scout troop some day. The King of Sweden was then on a visit to the Ticket to Life Project in the Philippines.

Today, six years after being actively involved in Scouting, Jerwin Gonzales is the leader of the Ticket to Life - St John Bosco Scout Troop in Malate, Manila.

A street child, who did drugs and was thrown into jail for theft, and whose life was in shambles, is now responsible for 27 street children between eight and 12 years old in the APR Ticket To Life project.

“Scouting gives me hope,” said 20-year-old Jerwin. His parents, once feeling hopeless, are now pleased to see the positive change in their eldest son. His sister is now an active Scout in the Ticket to Life project too.

Life is far from easy for Jerwin who has started work as a janitor in a shopping mall. He, however, hopes that through his involvement in Scouting, he will continue to develop into a better person with strong life values. His ambition is to be a seafarer, “to earn a better living to support my family”.

Another street child who joined the programme a year ago is Andrea. She is 11 years old but looks more like a six-year-old.

Unlike young teens her age, her life is far from carefree; on her shoulders lies the heavy responsibility of minding her two-year-old brother after school daily. And “home” to her and her seven siblings, tricycle peddlar father and street sweeper mother is on the streets.

“My parents are too busy working to feed us. They do not have the time to care for me and my siblings. They will only tell me to “take care of myself,” said Andrea.

“I love Scouting; it teaches me to be respectful to others. And I enjoy the activities. I have made many friends too,” she added.

Despite the very difficult living conditions, Andrea is progressing well in school. In a recent school examination, she secured the fourth position in a class of 44 students.

“I want to be a nurse,” she said. “I want to help others.”

There is indeed hope for these poorest of the poor street children. Scout Messengers of Peace is working closely with Our Lady of Remedies, a Catholic church in Malate, to reach out to these children through the church’s feeding programme and the APR Ticket to Life Project.

The cooperation, which started in 2008, is progressing well. Father John Leydon, the Parish Priest said:

“We have social workers who monitor the feeding programme and work closely with the Scouts. We want the street children under our programme to progress – to do well in school and learn discipline. We make sure they diligenty and actively participate in the weekly Scout activities that are being conducted.”

Father Leydon, who hails from Ireland, fully supports the APR Ticket to Life Project. “It gives the street children structure and boundary. The project reinforces in the children that they are individuals of worth, they have people in their life, and they have hope and can change.”

“I applaud the Scouts for their passion and commitment, especially Sophie Castillo, who has taken the children under her wings. She is like their mother, elder sister and friend,” he said.

Sophie Castillo, the Philippines National Coordinator of the Ticket to Life Project, and a staff member of BSP, shared:

“It was in 2006 when I met Rev. Fr. Enrique Escobar at BSP’s National Office. He wanted to start a Scout troop in his parish in Malate for the less fortunate children. We tried to organise a troop but it did not work out at that time.

In December 2006, I attended the APR Ticket To Life National Coordinators Seminar Workshop. Then in 2008, the Regional Director of APR at that time, Mr. Abdullah Rasheed, told me that I could start to organise a troop under the Ticket to Life project. Malate instantly came to my mind. I remember the place that I had seen two years before – families living on the streets, children running around in squalor environment. I decided then to start a troop there.

I have been asked what motivates me. I am a nobody, but I am a Scout. It is the Scout Promise in me that drives me to be a partner with these children in their life journey. I see hope in them. And I know Scouting can change them, develop them to be better individuals and good citizens of the community and the world.”

With the close collaboration between Scouts and the church, there is indeed a ticket to life for these street children; a better world awaits them and through them, a better world will be created.