Since me and Vicky attended the first Face the Children (FTC) banquet way back in 2005, empowering kids who live on the streets has been near and dear to our hearts. FTC works to get street kids in the Philippines off the streets, and into long-term care and educational facilities. FTC was developed by an outreach organization headquartered in San Pablo City called Philippine Frontline Ministries (Frontline) (www.thefrontline.asia). In 2006 I took my first trip to visit Frontline and FTC. On this trip I learned first-hand about all of the enormous barriers that kids who live on the street face. Abusive relationships, no shelter, limited access to food, healthcare or any of the basic necessities of life. The kids who live on the street lack the structure and the required uniforms and materials to attend public school. Even if somehow they were able to go to public school, the education they received would not get them very far. Most public schools cannot teach even the most remedial reading and writing skills effectively, in a country where two years or more of college are required just to be an entry-level worker at McDonald’s.
In the process of discovering the breadth and depth of these seemingly insurmountable barriers, I also got to meet several of the street kids. As I got to know them better, I learned their names and their stories. I began to realize that they were essentially no different than my own kids. They had wonderful gifts, talents, personalities, love and compassion in their hearts. As I got to know them better, I became more dedicated to do anything I could to remove the barriers standing in the way of these wonderful kids becoming all that God created them to be. I started to dream more with Frontline about what could be. My business partners and I and many discussions with the Frontline directors about how we could use business to support the Frontline efforts. After numerous discussion, we opened up a business, called RemoteLInk Philippines (www.remotelink.com.ph), in San Pablo City that had a partnership with the Frontline school, church and FTC. We endeavored to provide high tech courses in the school, and job training and employment opportunities for the community.
Over the next several years and more than a dozen trips, me, my family, my business partners, co-workers and friends continued to develop friendships with the former street kids who were now a part of the FTC program. We saw them begin to thrive as the barriers to their empowerment were removed. The children quickly progressed from grade school to high school. Some of these remarkable kids went on to graduate with honors and even as salutatorian and valedictorian, and many of them were among the brightest in their classes. These accomplishment are even more impressive when you consider that their classes included many wealthy, fully-resourced kids from San Pablo City whose parents opted out of the public education system for the superior private education provided by the Frontline Christian Academy (http://www.frontlineacademy.asia).
We started to put together college funding plans for the kids who were graduating high school. One of the kids has already graduated college, and is actually working in the company we started. Some of the kids are still in college. There is much to celebrate. At the same time, there have been some kids who have left the FTC program of their own free will; despite all of the wonderful benefits of the FTC program which include 24×7 housing in a family environment, good food, healthcare, education, tutoring and a loving community of people around them. Despite the new life and new opportunities they had been given, they willingly chose to go back to their old lifestyle. For everyone who had invested so much into these kids, it was a heartbreaking experience.
As those close to the FTC program continued to dig and look for answers, we came to the realization that, the kids who left, were never able to internalize the dream that God has for their lives. They never internalized the belief that the were special and they had the ability to realize God’s dream for their lives. Most of the kids who left never really believed that they had the potential to succeed inside of them. Despite the continual vision casting and investment by FTC staff and friends, these kids lost never gained the confidence they needed to take the next steps.
What we came to realize is that there are both external and internal barriers to success and empowerment. We were very intentional and aggressive about removing external barriers by providing a safe, loving place to live, a quality school to attend with teachers who were safe, encouraging, and gifted at developing kids, food, shelter, fun, family, etc. We did a very good job of identifying and removing the external barriers to success. However, some of these kids had deep wounds and very negative experiences that created significant internal barriers to success. For some, being in a loving, family environment in the FTC homes, and being in youth groups, small groups and church contexts, was not focused enough to overcome these internal barriers.
All of us have internal barriers to success in our lives. All of us have some ability to lead ourselves over and beyond some or many of these internal barriers. There is an expression which says that some people are their own worst enemy. Some people will never be able to move beyond certain barriers in their lives without a formal, concentrated and focused effort; while for others who already have the ability to lead themselves beyond those internal barriers, a focused effort will make the process faster and more efficient.
We are now in the process of engaging the kids at FTC in regular coaching and mentoring sessions using a structured, focused process and framework to develop inside of them, the personal leadership required to overcome the internal barriers in their lives. For many, the ongoing, regular process of coaching development will allow them to overcome the internal barriers to success; while some may require some additional, focused counseling to enable them to effectively deal with very deep wounds caused by traumatic events in their lives.
We are excited about building on the successful platform of removing external barriers that has been developed over the years at FTC. We are adding disciplined, intentional, focus on removing the internal barriers to empowerment and success in the lives of these amazing kids through a rigorous process and framework. Removing both external and internal barriers to empowerment and success will be the perfect combination necessary to fully unleash the masterpiece that God has created within each of these special children.