A US-based non-governmental organization (NGO) organized by a mother and daughter team in California four years ago has found fulfillment in their outreach efforts by focusing on the poorest of the poor children in slum areas of Manila.
Using their Project Pearls NGO, Melissa and daughter Francesca Villa Mateo had initially focused their attention on the poorest children in a place called Uligan, a slum area located in the heart of Manila near the harbour in the district of Tondo.
Ulingan is a garbage dump site area where around 400 families are subjected to harsh conditions almost unfit for growing children.
Children of these families contend with fumes and dust coming from the city dump site where flies and mosquitoes lurk.
Many of the families living in Ulingan survive on leftovers from eating places nearby and waste food found in the dump site.
Project PEARLS which stand for (Peace, Education, Aspiration, Respect, Love, Smile), has several outreach programs designed to uplift the social conditions of the children.
These programs include among others — feeding, scholarship, medical, birthday and brain boosting which are essential in the development and welfare of growing children.
Last week, Mellissa's NGO along with the Filipino community in the Bay Area, have bonded together — not to solicit funds for the poor children of Ulingan— but this time they want to help the affected victims of Troprical Storm Sendong which battered Northern Mindanao, killing close to 1500 people including hundreds of innocent children.
"The grief is overwhelming and we're just traumatized. I think it's worse than Hurricane Katrina [because] we don't have technology there," said Villa.Donations from concerned people in the community were handed over to Melissa's NGO in the form of used clothing, food and other items for the victims of the devastating flash flood.
"It's a small group of family and friends who want to make a difference and the response is overwhelming," said Villa.