French NGOs bring their work to Paris

18th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

MANILA (AFP) — Father Pierre Tritz may not be a household name in France but in the Philippines he is as well known as the late Mother Teresa for his work among Manila's army of street children.

MANILA (AFP) — Father Pierre Tritz may not be a household name in France but in the Philippines he is as well known as the late Mother Teresa for his work among Manila's army of street children.

Father Pierre Tritz

His Educational Research and Development Assistance Foundation (ERDA) has become one of the best known non-government organisations (NGOs) in the Philippines educating more than 200,000 poor street children since it was founded in 1974.

The soft-spoken 93-year-old Jesuit priest will be among dozens of French NGOs making their way from the Philippines to Paris this month for the first ever exhibition of their work at the Palais D'Iena and home of the Economic and Social Council.

The brain child of Hubert d'Aboville, president and founder of the Together Ensemble foundation, he hopes the exhibition on October 19 will be a bridge between France and the Philippines.

"Much the same way as Together Ensemble is seen as a bridge between business and the poor in the Philippines," said d'Aboville, who has spent more than 25 years in the Philippines.

The exhibition will also form part of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between France and the Philippines.

"Many ordinary Frenchmen and women see the Philippines as a poor country constantly hit by natural disasters," said d'Aboville. "This exhibition, however, will also show that despite the disasters Filipinos have this wonderful ability to keep on smiling."

No one knows how many French NGOs there are in the Philippines but the embassy estimates the number at 25.

Bernard Pierquin, 58, came to the Philippines in 1990 seeking out faith healers who could help him with his drug rehabilitation programme back in La Rochelle, France, but found charlatans instead.

Drawn in by the poverty he lived for two years in a squalid slum in Manila's Malibay district which straddles a putrid river that serves both as a garbage dump and sewer outlet for the hundreds of families who live there.

*quote1*"I had no money and sold everything I had just to survive. I wanted to know what it was like to be poor," he told AFP.

Home was a small wooden room deep inside the slum connected by a maze of damp dark alleys.

"When it rained water poured in to my room and at night rats would run around the place," he said. "It is a completely different world inside the slums," he said.

The experience had a profound impact on him and in 1993 he registered the Alouette Foundation to help educate children of the poor.

Today the foundation operates in eight areas of the Philippines including Cebu, Abra and Palawan.

Dominique Lemay, a former French social worker who established the Virlanie Foundation 20 years ago in Manila, said his biggest problem, he says, is "money".

Last year 95 percent of Virlanie's funding came from outside the Philippines.

"Each year our costs go up and so do the number of children we look after so money is always one of our major concerns especially when it comes to planning future growth and programmes.

Virlanie runs 13 homes providing shelter, food and safety for Manila's street children, child prostitutes, children with disabilities and more recently the elderly. It also provides education for the children.

*quote2*Lemay says that over the last 20 years the foundation has probably helped some 10,000 disadvantaged children.

But he says the problem of street children is no better today than it was two decades ago.

"Except today you see more families on the streets. There weren't as many 20 years ago," he said.

"As an NGO you can only do so much. It's heartbreaking at times but if you can help just one child that is something positive."


Subject: French news

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