On a recent trip to the Philippines to report on our Children’s Feeding Initiative there, I visited a squatter village on top of a city dump in Cebu City. The village full of “pickers” is actually built on feet and feet of landfill. As soon as our team stepped out of the car, the smell of rotting garbage hit us like a brick wall. Then realizing the fact that there were people living here, making a living off of garbage, hit us even harder.
We made our way to where Convoy of Hope had set up a feeding site that afternoon. There were kids laughing and playing around a huge pot of soup being cooked over an open fire. The kids were covered in soot and dirt from living among the trash heaps and you could tell they had hard lives. But on this day they were all smiles – because they were getting food.
As the kids pushed and shoved their way to get their scoops of the rice mixture, I noticed a boy in line that couldn’t keep his eyes off the food. I could tell he was starving. He got to the front of the line and as the woman serving the food pulled the ladle out of the pot, he slowly lifted a small plastic bag up in front of her. She looked at the bag and then at him.
“No,” she said to him. “I’m sorry you can’t put food in there. It’s too hot and I don’t want you to get burned.”
He looked devastated as he walked away and I watched as he sat down about 100 yards away, put his head between his knees and began crying. Raul Manuel, our country director in the Philippines, and I immediately started looking for something to put the rice soup in. All of the other kids had whatever they could find – plastic bottles, old plastic containers and even cardboard boxes.
After not finding anything, I went over and began talking to the boy through our translator. His name was Lee, he said he was twelve years old and that he was hungry. Lee had heard about Convoy of Hope’s feeding program and had walked from the other side of the dump to get a bite of food.
“Come back over here,” we told him. “We will get you some food.”
Lee handed me the plastic bag and followed us back over to the pot. I held it up to the volunteer and Raul told her to go ahead and pour the soup. She hesitated and looked at us a little funny, but poured Lee’s ladle of soup into his plastic bag. Then, just as fast as he grabbed it, a kid who had already finished his food, handed Lee his plastic container. Both boys smiled as Lee poured his soup into the bowl and began eating. Photographer Jeremy Denief snapped the above picture of Lee shortly after he got his bowl of soup. I think it speaks for itself.