Last week I had the opportunity to take some images for the Gift of Grace Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides resources to elementary school children living within the Umapad dumpsite of Mandaue City, Cebu. There are four large dump sites around metro Cebu with more than 5000 people living and scavenging for materials just trying to survive in whatever way they can. Many of the children living within these dumpsites are born into a life of extreme poverty and are often given very little opportunity to escape the cycle. Meagan Kelly, founder of the Gift of Grace, started the foundation in hopes to educate children starting at a young age so that they can follow their dreams and eventually provide for their families away from the dumpsites.
The Umapad dumpsite is in the middle of Mandaue City which is one of the bigger cities of metro Cebu. Honestly, I never knew this dumpsite existed until I went there last week. I had been to another dumpsite before in Cebu a few years back, but I never realized that people live within these dumps in an actual community. There are homes, small sari-sari stores, a child day care center and even a small chapel. However, I was told that the land where the Umapad dumpsite is located is privately owned and therefore makes all of the residents there illegal squatters and the chapel and child day care center only temporary structures. Nonetheless, the dumpsite is home for many people who know no other way of life. The living conditions are unimaginable and the smell of garbage is sometimes overwhelming. It’s amazing to me that people live in these conditions and are able to survive.
I’m not one who usually likes to take pictures of poverty in it’s raw form. I think it’s always better to show people a little more dignified and therefore tend to not take those types of images. However in this context I believe it’s important for people to see the conditions that children are living in. The dumpsite provides families living there with everything they need including toys for their children, clothes, well water to take a bath, wood for their homes, food to eat, and sometimes medicine.
A child without any clothes on plays with a toy found in the dumpsite. I also came across a boy and girl rinsing off with well water found within the dump. It is heartbreaking seeing children living in these conditions. Second photo, well water within the dumpsite.
Working with the poorest of the poor certainly takes a special type of person with a heart of compassion and dedication to serving a greater cause. I met a number of people last week doing incredible work with the children of Umapad. Two of those people, Meagan Kelly, founder of the Gift of Grace and Father Heinz Kuluke are certainly impacting peoples lives first hand.
Going to the dumpsite and visiting the children in their school was an experience that I will not forget. By the end of our short time there the children were calling me Kuya Jake (Big Brother Jake) and I felt a strong sense of community despite the conditions they are living in. The dumpsite is only 20 minutes from my home and I am going to try and revisit some of the children again in the near future. My best goes out to those helping people living in extreme poverty and to the people working directly with scavenger children in Cebu. It is a noble mission and is always in need of more people extending their help.