Tejanne Zarzoso and her team of police officers in the Philippines have a novel approach to street kids who commit petty crime.
They take them out on field trips. Why? It's their way of encouraging them to learn, believe in themselves, hope and dream.
The senior police officer is the founder of Protect, Feed and Save, a project that aims to get the children in Cabadbaran off the streets and back in school.
“In the earlier years of my police career, I was already exposed to problems in my municipality in Mindanao, Philippines, involving children in conflict with the law,” says Tejanne to Our Better World, a storytelling initiative of the Singapore International Foundation.
At that time, the police and social welfare officers were in a constant dilemma as to what to do with these children.
They were arrested, referred to the social welfare office and then returned to their parents, only to re-offend again - and again.
However, in the 3rd quarter of the year 2001, Tejanne was picked to represent her region in a training of trainers for law enforcement and corrections officers in Manila. The training was sponsored by UNICEF, the UN's children's rights organisation.
She remembers one moment during the training that opened her eyes to the plight of children in conflict with the law, “I met a child who was jailed for years, just for stealing 1kg of fish.”
“It ignited my passion to better understand them [children] and help them I now see these children not as suspects but as victims,” she says.
This experience became the turning point of her career and led her to start the Protect, Feed and Save community project in Cabadbaran, in the province of Agusan del Norte, in Mindanao, Philippines. Since then, the project changed her life and the lives of street children in Mindanao.
The project conduct a series of year-long activities for the street kids and help them get back to school. “After some time, they started to behave well. So we took them on an excursion.”
These experiences encourage the street children to learn, hope, and dream.
One of the children whose life is touched by the Protect, Feed and Save project is Jorge Manulat. Tejanne met Jorge when he was a still glue-sniffing petty criminal who lived in the streets.
However, with years of advocacy by Protect, Feed and Save community project, Jorge now has grown and gone to Criminology school with a scholarship. He even wants to be a police chief.
“Without the scholarship help, I probably would still be on the streets or I would have ended up a criminal,” shares Jorge about how the Protect, Feed and Save community project helps change his life.
“I want to help and protect kids on the street,” says Jorge.
You can also help and reach out to children, specifically using field trips to sow seeds of hope and worth in them. You can help fund The Protect, Feed and Save team project here.
A story by Our Better World – telling stories of good to inspire action.