“At night, I would look at the sky and pray: ‘Is there another side to my life? Will there come a time where it’s a ceiling I see before I sleep?’”
Sharry Angel Getigan used to sleep rough in Manila’s alleyways. She was raised by her grandfather after her mother became a drug addict.
People who sleep along the street like her would utter discouraging ‘life-wisdom’ such as, “You’ll just end up marrying early. Your mother went to school but look where she is now.”
Even her grandfather would sometimes tie her to a tree, so she wouldn’t wander off while he was peddling cigarettes.
Surrounded by people who dwarf her hopes didn’t dim her dreams.
As a child, Angel was fascinated with children going to school in their nicely pressed uniforms. So, Angel asked her grandfather to enrol her in school. Well, he did. He took a copy of her cousin's birth certificate and changed the name into Angel’s.
She excelled in school, scoring good grades (even often on an empty stomach) and devouring in her school books. Finally, she encountered a chance that will transform her life into a better future.
Her friend asked her to join a meeting where she met street kids who turned out successful. Most of them come from shelters, so Angel asked to be brought into one of the shelters. Then she arrived at Tahanan Sta Luisa.
Tahanan (Tagalog for “home”) is an intervention centre for street girls founded in 1999. The girls are often victims of abuse and exploitation, such as human trafficking and prostitution. It provides shelter, counselling and basic education to help the girls recover, reconcile with their families (if possible), and acquired skills needed to be self-reliant.
These girls are usually referred to the centre through social workers and outreach educators from non-profit organisations or agencies. Tahanan takes up to 23 girls at a time. Now it has supported more than 500 girls as of July 2018.
For Angel, Tahanan became a home. She found a safe place that enabled her to go to school. Even the centre’s staff felt like mothers to her.
She shared that on her first night at Tahanan, she found it hard to sleep. It was because her bed felt so soft. There was also a fan, blanket, pillow and a door in her room. Angel was so happy, moving from the streets to be provided with a proper bedroom.
Angel is now pursuing a degree at the University of the Philippines. Tahanan sponsors part of the cost. She plans to become a teacher.
“I want to inspire my future students that, ‘If my teacher came from the streets and succeeded, I can also achieve my dreams’,” she said.
Watch Angel’s inspiring story
This story was first published on Our Better World.