The Kaibigan Ermita Outreach Foundation (or Kaibigan for short), was originally established in 1986 in – as the name suggests – The Ermita district of Metro Manila. In the early years, Kaibigan was envisaged as a small outreach service for the many poor and vulnerable children who gathered in that neighborhood – in those days a notorious red light district. In the 1980s many poor children made a livelihood in Ermita by begging, selling flowers and cigarettes, and sometimes engaging in prostitution. The first services provided by Kaibigan were counseling and on-the-street assistance. Very quickly, the need to provide educational opportunities for these children became apparent.
Aside from many hundreds of children now sent to school each year by Kaibigan, the impact of the foundation extends deep into the six communities it serves, reaching mothers, fathers, siblings, local officials, other NGOs and government offices. While it is probably impossible to quantify precisely the extent of this outreach, it maybe asserted with confidence – especially after talking with the local community leaders themselves –that Kaibigan now reaches several thousand people each year. Kaibigan’s influence, reputation and example are constantly growing.
For many years, Kaibigan strove to make a difference to the lives of street kids in Manila. By the 1990s an essentially child-centered approach had evolved and over the years more programs and services were added, including camping, adolescent reproductive health seminars, sports and arts, case management and sporadic income generating activities for selected groups of mothers, the latter albeit with only limited success.
All the while, Kaibigan worked hard to become more relevant to the groups it served, and through partnerships, training and self-assessment exercises further refined its fundamental approach to the problems facing its poverty-stricken clients, namely, urban and street children.
By the start of the new millennium, Kaibigan, recognizing that development and social programs worldwide were beginning to change, began to examine and assess in a much more in-depth fashion its existing programs and services, and some major changes were implemented after informal program assessments took effect. After questioning and testing its former practices and approaches – and the effects they were having on client children – a view emerged among key stakeholders that Kaibigan’s programs should be strengthened and realigned more directly with the families and the communities, and not exclusively targeted at the children themselves. Kaibigan staff and management began to fully recognize that it was the problematic families and communities which were creating problematic children, often leaving them with no option but to go out into the streets and lives of high risk and low expectation. Stemming from this realization, new community-based programs and services were designed and developmental activities began to be rooted in the communities themselves. At the same time and in tandem with these new approaches, Kaibigan’s more traditional programs – including outreach work, teaching/educational activities, and a range of recreational and health-related services – continued.
Finally, in 2005, after two decades in development work, Kaibigan undertook a major and comprehensive strategic planning exercise, involving the Board of Directors, management, staff, mothers from the community, and, most significantly, representatives of the client children themselves. By looking closely at and critically reviewing its past experience, Kaibigan was now in a position to chart a new course for the future – and to ensure that future reviews would keep the processes of growth and evolution in motion.