When I heard the first time about Happyland and I saw some pictures made by Ted McDonnell I had goose bumps and tears raced down my cheeks.
The situation in Tondo, the poorest area of Manila, is still dramatic and getting worst day by day. People there live surrounded by garbage. Junk covers the streets and there are literally mountains of trash everywhere. I can’t imagine how strong the smell can be and how many flies there are. But people who live there don’t really care about rubbish, for every lot of junk they choose and separate what they need but they still leave what they don’t need on the street. Everyone does it like that and obviously the junk continues to increase. This behavior seems like laziness – most of the people who live in Tondo don’t have a job and some of them have come from the provinces and don’t have any school education. The easy way to survive is by making easy money like selling drugs. The level of criminality is very high in that area. Some people do honest work such as peeling garlic for a few Pesos per kilo.
The population is still growing from 3,500 in 2006 to more than 12,000 today. Every family has a minimum of 4 kids but some have like 10 children. Girls are starting to have children at 14 years old. How can a teenager without education and school instruction provide to growing children? That’s a cycle of poverty that is really hard to break, but fortunately there are many ONG that provide people with food. But the problem is at the base. It isn’t enough just to give them food and make them dependent on ONG. As a starter point to fix the situation all the kids must go to school, but lots of them don’t have a birth certificate and families don’t have enough money to send them to school. You can see kids naked around the street, with dirty clothes and malnourished. But they are still the future of Tondo and they can make the difference if they have a chance to do that.
In the gallery below are showed pictures by Ted McDonnell. It’s possible to download the photobook “A life in Happyland” by Ted McDonnell here and the proceeds will be used to help the Happyland’s people.