“At night, I would look at the sky and pray: ‘Is there another side to my life? Will there come a time where it’s a ceiling I see before I sleep?’” shares Sharry Angel Getigan.
Raised by her grandfather after her mother became addicted to drugs, Angel, as a child, was fascinated by the children she saw going to school in smartly pressed uniforms.
So she asked her grandfather to enrol her in school. He did — by taking a copy of her cousin’s birth certificate, erasing the name, and adding Angel’s instead.
“You’ll just end up marrying early. Your mother went to school but look where she is now.”
These words, uttered by others living alongside her on the streets haunted her, but none of her experiences dimmed Angel’s dreams of going to school.
Angel’s determination was enough to help her excel in school, but it was a chance encounter that landed her on a firmer step to a better life.
One day, a friend invited her to a session for street kids. In of one of the meetings, she met street kids who turned out successful.
“Most of them came from shelters. I asked one of them to bring me to one of the shelters. She brought me to Tahanan Sta Luisa,” said Angel to Our Better World, a digital storytelling initiative of the Singapore International Foundation.
Founded in 1999, Tahanan (Tagalog for “home”), is an intervention centre for street girls, who are often vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, such as trafficking.
Taking up to 23 girls at a time, Tahanan has supported 560 girls, as of July 2018.
“Tahanan equips the girls with the skills so that if they reintegrate in the community, the will have the skills for the real world, “ said Nellen dela Fuente, Officer-in-Charge at Tahanan Sta. Luisa.
She added with teary eyes, “In effect, the can now defend themselves from abuse and never again return to the streets.”
Going from the streets to a cosy bedroom took some getting used to — on her first night at the shelter, Angel couldn’t sleep “because my bed was so soft”.
“There was a fan, a blanket, a pillow, there was a door,” says Angel. “I was so happy.”
Under Tahanan’s care, Angel was able to go on to university. She is now pursuing a degree at University of the Philippines, with Tahanan sponsoring part of the cost, and plans to become a teacher.
“I want to inspire my future students that, ‘If my teacher came from the streets and succeeded, I can also achieve my dreams’.”
A story by Our Better World – telling stories of good to inspire action