Meet Manuel. He’s six years of age, although if you look at his tiny, lanky frame, you’d swear he was four. He, his four siblings, and his mother live in a cardboard house on a sidewalk in Metro Manila. None of his siblings (who are eight, nine, and twelve years old) go to school; instead, everyday they ply the streets, barefoot and with grimy faces, looking for plastic to sell to Manong Pete’s junk shop, asking for alms from passersby as they search.
Manuel is not a real person. He is the embodiment of countless of homeless children stuck in the same predicament, scattered all over Manila, all over the country, and all over the world. He is the embodiment of the poverty which, for so many people around the world, has become the norm for daily life.
Manuel lives in the children you see on your daily commute—the children who, with somber faces, stick their palms out in the hopes of your one peso making their day. He lives in the children who would swim the Pacific Ocean or walk slowly across a bed of coal for food. He lives in the men and women who, long after everyone has gone to sleep, ply the streets, collecting the garbage people consider unimportant and useless. He lives in the homeless, the broken, and the uncared for, who would, with genuine gladness, eat the food you tossed in the trash because you thought it “tasted bad”.
Manuel is that part of society which we have come to neglect and not care for. He is the demographic whose plight has been eclipsed by our statesmen’s endless, nonsensical politicking, our own personal greed, and the entire laundry list of superficial problems we bother ourselves with everyday. Manuel is the people whose cry for help we’ve so easily turned a deaf ear to.
The simple fact that Manuel has to live his life in such a sad way—without schooling, without steady income, without proper clothing, with hardly a proper home—should be enough to alert us to the urgency of poverty. It should be enough for us to turn our attention away from ourselves, if only for one day, and ponder the predicament. It should be enough for us to, even in our own little way, take action. It should be enough for us to come together to help alleviate his situation. It should be enough for us to unite not as one community, region, religion or country, but as one human race concerned with one universal cause—a cause so fulfilling, something greater than ourselves, something worth spending time on.
Manuel is the future of the world. He will one day become a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer. He could become your jeepney driver, your gardener, the security guard at your office. In him lies the future of the world. In him rests the fate of society. In us lies his fate.
Manuel needs you. He needs you now. Take action, for his future, and for the world’s.
This is my contribution to Blog Action Day 2008. The focus this year is poverty. If you have a blog, it’s not too late to take part. If you don’t have a blog, simply commenting on this blog post with your thoughts is participation enough.[Header image source]