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Helping 100 Children At-Risk in Payatas, The Philippines – Final Update

Children at Fairplay Sports Centre in Payatas

We wrote previously about a project we’re co-funding with our partner Fairplay For All Foundation that launched in February 2018. The project set out to help 100 children living in poverty and at-risk in the Payatas slum area, The Philippines. Over the course of the project, the physical growth and mental status of these children has been looked at periodically, using five key performance indicators (KPIs): Body Mass Index (BMI), Learned Optimism (LO), Growth Mindset, Risk of Depression and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Now, a little more than a year from when the project launched, we can present the third and final wave of results. The KPI scores measured in this study not only indicate the impact of the Fairplay’s current activities in Payatas, but also give crucial suggestions for the organisation’s future work.

If you would like to find a summary of the first and second wave of results and also read more about how the KPIs are measured, you can check out our previous articles on this project.

As for the final update of the KPIs…

The third wave of measurements were taken in March 2019, with 72 out of the original 100 players available to participate.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The final scores for BMI are some of the most positive among the various KPIs measured. While the average BMI has stayed relatively steady over the course of the project (still being in the underweight category), there was been a 23 percent increase in the number of children reporting a ‘normal’ BMI. This is due to several previously underweight and overweight children finding a better BMI – a combination of improved nutrition and exercise.

Overall, these results are trending in the right direction and suggest that the sport and meal programs are having a positive impact on the children in Payatas.

Learned Optimism (LO)

As with BMI, the average scores for LO have stayed mostly similar over the period, at around level 5 for self-esteem (moderately low) and level 0 for optimism (very pessimistic).

There were, however, some bigger changes within some of the specific categories. The proportion of children described as ‘very pessimistic’ has fallen from 70 to 58 percent, reflecting a positive change at the bottom end of the scale and thus for those deemed most ‘at-risk’. On the other hand, self-esteem scores have dropped markedly, as those with ‘moderately high’ self-esteem fell from 23 to 4 percent and those in the ‘moderately low’ category increased from 33 to 58 percent.

Growth Mindset

Again, like BMI and Learned Optimism, the results of the mindset test have stayed relatively stable in the time frame, with the average score staying the same at 36 and the majority of players (60 percent) still having either a strong growth mindset or a growth mindset with some fixed ideas.

Upon reflection, Fairplay has admitted that this test does not seem to translate too well in the context of the children in Payatas. The measuring tool appears to be too Westernised and relies on self-reporting to a large degree with the ‘right’ answer being relatively easy to spot. As such, a more appropriate tool to measure the children’s resilience will be considered in the future.

Risk of Depression

The average score for Risk of Depression has remained at the ‘severely depressed’ level. The biggest change is that a high proportion of children with a ‘moderate’ risk of depression (Wave 1: 41%; Wave 3: 19%) have been tipped into the ‘severely depressed’ category (Wave 1: 45%; Wave 2: 65%). Essentially, this means that the children are at greater risk of depression now than they were a year ago.

The obvious culprit for this is the infamous War on Drugs in the area which has led to several of the players’ parents to be killed or imprisoned and also resulted in the children themselves being increasingly harassed or threatened by the police. Economic inflation has meant that many of the children face rising financial pressures at home too.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

The ACE measurements differ from the other KPIs used in this study in that they cannot go down – once a child has experienced a certain type of childhood trauma it is added to their score accumulatively, up until they reach the age of 18.

As expected, the average ACE score for the children in Payatas has increased and is now at 4 out of 10, compared to 3 out of 10 last February.  This represents a ‘moderate’ level of childhood trauma, which is worrying given the young age of the children involved. If this trend continues, it is likely that many will reach the critical level of childhood trauma (level 6) before they are 18 years old.

These results make Fairplay’s work in Payatas ever more important and suggest a growing need for projects that help relieve trauma and stress experienced by the children and target those who are hit the hardest.

Final conclusions

Overall, it is fair to say that the children taking part in this study have made only slight progress over the course of the project, with some positive changes in the KPIs and some more negative.

Unfortunately, these children have faced increasing external challenges during the time period, notably the impact of the War on Drugs and economic inflation, which has affected not just them as individuals but also the Payatas community as a whole. It may be the case that, in the context of these rising pressures, the programs offered by Fairplay have actually acted as a buffer, helping the children better deal with the challenges they face. Without the use of a control group, however, it is impossible see how their results compare to other children in the area who haven’t had access to the programs.

Nevertheless, this project has played an extremely helpful role in recognising the challenges faced by the children in Payatas and given Fairplay a good indication as to how they can streamline their programs to better benefit the children in the future.

Next steps

The Youth Center: The Youth Center is one of the biggest developments in Fairplay’s work in Payatas so far. The centre will open Tuesday to Saturday and act as a social support system for children in the community. There will be a range of facilities offered at the centre, many of which build upon the activities currently being provided. These include economic opportunities, counselling sessions, academic tutoring, free healthy meals and a mother’s club. In this way, Fairplay aims to offer a more holistic approach in relieving the pressures felt by the children in the area and getting the wider community involved in achieving success.

Changes to the research process: Fairplay hopes that their research concerning children’s physical and mental wellbeing can continue to inform their work in Payatas. Ongoing research should offer a long-term perspective on the challenges faced by the children in the community and evolve each year as more appropriate tools are found. Some suggestions have already been mentioned in this post:

  1. If funding is available, a control group – a group of children of a similar age and situation who do not have access to the project – should also be tested. The control group results can be compared to those of the children at the centre to see if these children experience any ‘buffer’ effects due to being part of the programs.
  2. The ‘growth mindset’ test should be replaced with another measure of childhood resilience, resulting in a more appropriate and child-friendly way of exploring this factor.

Here at Poverty Child we are optimistic that the change in operations at Fairplay’s centre will lead to positive changes in Payatas and that the research collected over the course of the project will be used to better reflect the needs of the children in the community. We are excited to see that the donations raised by our fundraisers and kind sponsors are being used positively and are working towards helping vulnerable and at-risk children.

Street Children: Everything About This Global Humanitarian Crisis

Street Children in Cambodia

Across the world there are millions of children who face the reality of spending their everyday life living or working on the streets. The quality of life of these children is poor, as they are exposed violence, deprived living conditions and a lack of access to basic necessities, healthcare and education. The numbers of street children around the world are also likely to be rising, especially in developing countries where rapid urbanisation has led to the creation of urban slums in which children often experience extreme poverty.

A global crisis is rapidly unfolding and yet the international community continues to largely ignore children connected to the street. As a result, the need to alleviate the problems causing children to become involved with the street as well as support and protect those already living in these conditions is ever more vital.

Here we introduce the crisis, with four main sections:

  1. Who are street children?
  2. What causes children live and work on the street?
  3. Life on the street
  4. How do street children process into adulthood and what are the long-term effects of street involvement?

Who are street children?

Who does the term ‘street children’ refer to?

Street children are a group of children with diverse characteristics and have very complex lives. Because of this, definitions of the term ‘street child’ are often disputed and vary significantly between policy makers, researchers, NGOs and other social actors.  Earlier work on street children tended to focus on just those living (sleeping) and/or working on the streets (1). More recently the term has also come to include those who spend a significant amount of time on the streets (2), whether that be hanging out with friends, accompanying their parents working on the street or for any other reason.

Generally speaking we can say that street children are children who, for whatever reason, depend on the streets for their survival. The street is a central reference point for them, plays a significant role in their everyday life and forms a vital part of their identity (3).

How many street children are there and where do they live?

Latest figures on the number of street children living globally emerged more than a decade ago, published by the international children’s charity, Unicef. In 2005, the organisation predicted that there are more than 100 million street children around the world (2). This is just an estimate, however, and many other agencies working with street children have doubted the accuracy of the claim (1).

Finding a more accurate and up-to-date figure for the number of street children globally is difficult due to the challenges which come along with counting these children: street children tend to move around a lot, they may also not want to be found or are scared and mistrustful of authorities (2). Since definitions of the term ‘street child’ and methods used for counting vary significantly between organisations, it can also prove unreliable to compare and compile data collected in different cities or regions (3)(4)(5).

While the true number of street children living globally is disputed, many researchers and NGOs agree that their numbers are rising. This is occurring alongside the world’s growing population and due to certain global trends, such as rapid urbanisation, increasing inequalities and migration (3). Although it is often thought that street children only live in the poorer nations of Asia, Africa and South America, they are found all over the world, including in richer countries and regions (2).

Street children have diverse characteristics and experiences 

As mentioned above, street children are not a clearly defined, consistent group (5). Their characteristics are diverse, coming from a range of different backgrounds, ethnicity and ages (3).

Stereotypically street children are often thought of as boys and it is true that studies in many locations have counted more boys on the street than girls (2)(5). This is likely due to the more traditional gender roles at play in many cultures, which encourage boys to be independent, work and socialise outside of the home, while girls stay indoors (5). Girls are also often less visible on the street, keeping out of sight to protect themselves from the dangers of street living or being more likely to work as domestic servants or involved in commercial sex (5)(6).

As a result of their varying identities and locations in which they live, street children will have different experiences, needs and struggles and will use the street in diverse ways (5)(7).

What causes children to live or work on the street?

Push and pull factors

Broadly speaking we can put the presence of children living, working or spending large amounts of time on the street down to a range of so called ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. Push factors are aspects which force children on to the street (3). These could be reasons such as family collapse, death, economic difficulties, domestic violence, abuse or neglect (8)(10). Pull factors, meanwhile, are circumstances which make the street attractive to a child, for example friendships or the sense of independence, freedom and adventure (3)(2).

In many cases, the process of a child becoming involved in the street is not the result of a single one of these factors, but rather a combination of reasons which have left them in an extremely vulnerable position and meant that the street has become their best or only option for survival (2)(5).

The society in which a child lives also has a huge influence on their likelihood of taking to the streets. In many countries there are wider societal problems at play which make life challenging for children and intensify the conditions which make street involvement more likely.

Broader societal problems

Poverty and income inequality: In societies where income inequality is high, children from the poorest families can be forced onto the street as a means of economic survival for themselves or their families (4)(10). Once there, they are likely to take part in income-generating activities, such as begging, street trading, collecting raw materials, or more dangerous practices, such as stealing or commercial sex work (6)(9)(10).

Financial instability not only puts a strain on families economically, but also emotionally (10). Research has found that stress associated with economic hardship can cause a weakening of relationships between family members (10)(4). This can lead to more conflicts within the family and increased incidences of domestic violence, abuse and neglect, all of which can contribute to a child leaving home (4).

Inadequate social protection for vulnerable children: Many children experiencing hardships and violations of their basic rights at home are reliant on government social services or support from NGOs to provide them with care and protection. In situations where these provisions are unavailable, not accessible or inadequate to meet their needs, children are left vulnerable and exposed to many forms of abuse (3)(11). These children may take to the streets as a means of protecting themselves from the dangers they face at home, after being left with no feasible alternative (1).

Wars, conflicts, epidemics and disasters: Numbers of street children often increase during times of crisis, such as wars, health epidemics, natural disasters, famine and economic recessions. While the consequences of such events are varied, they typically result in death, displacement and disruption of the normal running of services. All of these factors lead to a deepening of poverty and can leave children without care and protection stopping them from becoming involved in the street (5). Recent examples of crises that have had a damaging impact on children include:

  • The 2014 Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone to which over 12,000 children lost their primary care giver (12).
  • The war and refugee crisis in Iraq which forced more than 12.3 million children from their homes (13).
  • The HIV/AIDS pandemic which has left an estimated 16.6 million children as orphans, 90% of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa (5).

Patterns of urbanisation: Over the last fifty years, movement from rural to urban areas has increased significantly. Currently the highest levels of rural to urban migration are taking place in Asia and Africa, where rapid urbanisation has led to the creation of large unplanned, informal settlements and urban slums (5). Physical conditions in these areas are poor and the settlements are often characterised by poverty, limited resources, little access to social provisions and large family populations per household (3)(5). Children living in these slums are at risk of being forced onto the streets to earn a living or survive, given their poor economic background, little education and limited means for securing their basic needs (11).

Discrimination against certain groups: Studies in many locations have found higher percentages of children from ethnic minorities on the streets than those from native backgrounds. This is the case in South Eastern Europe where children from Roma backgrounds represent a large proportion of children on the street, as high as 89 percent in Serbia and 67 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In these countries, Roma families face many challenges in their everyday lives, including extreme poverty, unemployment, little access to services, as well as prejudice, discrimination and intolerance, which are likely to be the reasons behind this trend (10).

Discrimination not only affects ethnic minorities but also other marginalised groups. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the HIV pandemic has led to an extreme form of discrimination targeted at AIDS orphans. These children are frequently accused of witchcraft, shunned by their extended families and left with no option but to struggle on the streets to survive (5).

Life on the street

Challenges faced by street children

For the many children who have moved onto the street to live or work, life is extremely challenging. On the streets they are subjected to poor physical conditions and have little access to basic necessities, such as food, clothing and shelter (10). They are also likely to find it difficult to access relevant social services, such as healthcare, either because they do not have the documents required for using such services, lack information or are discriminated against by service providers (3).

Low school attendance is common among children in street situations too. Many street children struggle to stay in standard education because of the attendance requirements, routine and discipline of school, especially when having to juggle work on the street alongside. In addition, street children often experience discrimination from other pupils and teachers, have little family support to help them with schoolwork and find the topics taught irrelevant to their everyday lives, meaning that they do not enjoy school (2)(10)(11).

Violence becomes a part of everyday life

Another major difficulty of life on the street is the constant threat of violence. While the street can be a place for friendships, violence between street children is also common. A study looking at children living alone on the streets in Kenya and Tanzania found that incidences of violence took place as a result of stealing, conflicts over owing money and securing places to stay. A lot of this behaviour was directed at younger children, who not only experienced physical abuse, but also sexual abuse at the hands of older street youths. Many of these older children had been raped themselves when they were younger and used sexual abuse as a means of expressing power and anger over their younger peers (4).

In addition to violence from other street inhabitants, street children are vulnerable to experiencing abuse from the police, local business owners and other members of the public (3)(5). Police brutality against street children has been witnessed in many locations worldwide. In Kenya, for example, there has been extensive reporting of the maltreatment of street youths by the country’s authorities which has sometimes led to bodily harm and even death (14).

Forced sex-selling and begging is also common on the streets, leaving children at risk of abuse and exploitation from the adult organisers of this work. Sex work is particularly prevalent among girls: a study in Tanzania found that 79 percent of girls counted on the street at night were involved in commercial sex work, rising to 86 percent of the 15 to 18 year old girls counted (9).

Crime as a means of survival and coping mechanism

Street children are often viewed negatively by officials and others in the community. They are seen as a problem and associated with crimes, such as stealing, loitering, sleeping in prohibited places, selling goods illegally, as well as using drugs and alcohol (2).

Stereotypes of street children as ‘criminals’ and ‘delinquents’ fail to understand the complex lives that these children lead (1)(3). In many incidences, street children only resort to illegal work practices or crimes like stealing after being left with no other alternative to earn a living or for survival (2)(4). They can also be forced into it by adults and other children who are exploiting them. Drugs and alcohol, on the other hand, are often used as a coping mechanism by street children, thought to offer a relief from the harsh realities of their everyday lives (1)(4).

How do street children process into adulthood and what are the long-term effects of street involvement?

Pathways in adulthood

Research has shown that children’s lives can develop in numerous directions once being involved with the street (4). Some of these pathways are more negative, as former street children are more likely to take part in organised crime and end up in the penal system. In Brazil it is thought that over a third of street children have been placed inside young offender institutions (13).

Some of the pathways which street children take into adulthood are more positive. They can find routes into housing, off-street work or education (1). In many cases, children require interventions from the government, NGOs or other support networks to help with the transition into off-street life and overcome barriers, such as costs, lack of documentation, fear and discrimination (1)(4)(5). With this support not available for every child, it is the case that many children remain street dwellers into late adulthood (1).

Worryingly, several studies have also indicated that there is a high mortality rate among street children. Incidences of death among street youth can be linked to a number of factors, including their exposure to violence, high rates of substance use, mental health problems and susceptibility to illness and diseases like HIV, combined with their lower uptake of health care (1)(14). The nature of street work is often dangerous, meaning that street children are also prone to accidents, such as when begging close to traffic in busy cities (10).

Long-term effects of street involvement

The experiences which street children face in the early stages of lives can have a range of impacts on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. All of these factors have consequences on a child’s long-term health and personal development through adolescence and into adulthood.

Mental and emotional impacts: Violence is one of the biggest dangers of street life, affecting children not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Research suggests that incidences of abuse can severely affect children’s ability to trust and form attachments and, thereby, make it difficult to form appropriate and meaningful relationships in the future (3)(4). The violence experienced by street children can also result in trauma and emotional distress, which if not addressed can cause psychological damage and mental health problems, such depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety (4).

High levels of substance use, which is common among street children, has also been proven to have a negative effect on mental health (1)(3)(4).

Physical impacts: The physical conditions which street children are subjected to are poor. They often work and sleep in areas which are dirty, polluted and exposed to harsh weather. These environments pose a major risk to children’s health, as chest problems are likely and infectious diseases like malaria and cholera spread easily. Since many street children lack food or have a poor diet, it is also common for them to experience shunted growth and appear physically much younger than their actual age (4). Being deprived of nutrition negatively affects a child’s activity and motivation levels too, which are important for their cognitive development (10).  

Given the lack of medical care accessible to children on the street, those suffering from health problems or injuries from accidents and assaults frequently do not get the treatment they need (4)(10). This can increase the severity of the issue in the long term and even have fatal consequences.

To conclude…

With millions of children living and working on the streets around the world and evidence to suggest these numbers are rising, it is clear that the global humanitarian crisis of street children needs to be tackled. Before coming to the streets, these children have already lived in deprived conditions, often experiencing extreme poverty, family collapse, death, abuse or neglect at home, meaning that the street has become their best or only option for survival. On the streets they face more dangers, including high rates of violence, poor physical conditions and a lack of access to healthcare, education and basic necessities, like food, clothing and shelter.

Without proper support street children may struggle to adapt to life off the street and pursue negative pathways into adulthood, such as becoming involved in organised crime and ending up in the penal system. If their issues are not addressed, they are also likely to experience long-term impacts on their mental and physical health, and even face higher risks of death. As this is the case, the support from charities and NGOs is vital in helping alleviate the problems of street children and providing them with the care and protection they need.

Sources used in this article:

  1. Benitez S (2011) State of the World’s Street Children: Research. Consortium for Street Children.
  2. Consortium for Street Children (2015) Street-Connected Children Myth Busters: Challenge Your Perceptions.
  3. OHCHR, United Nations Children’s Fund, Consortium for Street Children and Aviva (2013) Protection and promotion of the rights of children working and/or living on the street.
  4. Smeaton, E (2012) Struggling to Survive: Children Living Alone on the Streets in Tanzania and Kenya. Railway Children.
  5. Ray P, Davey C and Nolan P (2011) Still on The Streets – Still Short of Rights: Analysis of policy and programmes related to street involved children. Plan and Consortium for Street Children
  6. Railway Children (2016) Children on the streets of Kitale: Headcount findings 2015.
  7. Consortium for Street Children (2015) Advocacy and Action Guide: Making rights a reality for street-connected children.
  8. Comic Relief (2009-12) Street and Working Children & Young People’s Programme (SWC&YP) Strategy 2009-12.
  9. Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and USAID Kizazi Kipya Project (2018) Street-Connected Children in Tanzania: Headcount Findings 2017.
  10. Duci V and Tahsini I (2016) Regional research on prevalence of street children phenomenon in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. Save The Children.
  11. Guga E S (2010) Final Evaluation of Building the Capacity of Local CBOs and Government Agencies to Improve the Lives of Migrant Children Project. FTF/ICT/ CSC, Dar es Salaam.
  12. Street Child (2015) The Street Child Ebola Orphan Report.
  13. Consortium for Street Children (2016) Street Children: A Global Picture (Infographic/Map).
  14. Embleton L, Ayuku D, Makori D, Kamanda A and Braitstein P (2018) Causes of death among street-connected children and youth in Eldoret, Kenya. BMC International Health and Human Rights, 18 (19).


Improving The Fairplay Sports Centre In Payatas

A safe space to play

Children must be able to play. This allows them to relax, get exercise, create social support networks and life skills. Payatas, a slum area in The Philippines, is far from a united community. With limited space and resources, conflict between differing groups often arises. Children can get caught up in this. Our partner, Fairplay For All Foundation, provides a space for every child. It doesn’t matter which part of the community they come from. They come to play sports at the centre in an environment of cooperation and teamwork. This environment is crucial as it helps them develop confidence and social skills.

Problems with the sports centre

Fairplay approached us in 2016 about the issues they had with their space and equipment. Children played barefoot during training sessions and competitions. Every day Fairplay carried water in so that players could drink and wash after football. Many groups had to share one pitch, which was of poor quality and flooded in the rainy season. There was no electricity to light the pitch. Plus, it had no protection from fly-tippers and trespassers.

Improving security at the sports centre

At first, we committed to building a second pitch. We wanted to help expand their facility so that more children could play sports. This proved too far a goal for us though, as we failed to raise enough funds to meet the costs of doing so. Fairplay faced a dilemma. Where were the funds going to come from to expand? A question too often asked by NGOs. An answer soon presented itself leading to them securing funds from another partner.

Upon reevaluation of our budget, we decided to contribute towards security instead. We paid for a perimeter wall around the pitch. Once completed, the wall immediately improved the centre both in appearance and security. Trespassers were no longer able to get in where before they caused much nuisance. Some would use the pitch as an open toilet. Others would use it to burn copper wires that they’d scavenged. The copper extracted from the burnt cabling fetches up to £1.50 per kilo.

We’re super proud of the impact of our contribution. Thanks to our supporters, Payatas’s children can continue their development through football unimpeded.

Further improvements to the sports centre

Fairplay have by no means sat on their laurels since then. The’ve continued to find new funding partners to make the space much better. Their efforts are bearing fruit. A new second court has doubled the number of coaching sessions and games played. Improved drainage now prevents pitch flooding; meaning usage even in the rainy season! A new water filter means players have clean drinking water and can shower before they go home. Pitches, toilets, showers and offices are now used in the dark thanks to a new electricity feed. Opening up new opportunities for the community to enjoy the centre. A new shoe bank provides children with second-hand but good quality trainers. This not only reduces the risk of injury but makes all the difference to how children enjoy football.

These improvements to the sports centre may seem basic, but they are essential. The changes Fairplay has implemented means more of the community can benefit. More children can play, they can play for longer and they better enjoy taking part. The impact is huge.

What’s next?

There is still more work needed to complete all the desired improvements at the centre. The challenge is setting the right priorities in line with available resources. Fairplay want to build a roof over one of the courts. This would make the pitch usable in heavy rain, and protect it from the elements prolonging its life.

We want to continue to play a role in improving the sports centre with Fairplay. The benefits to the children and community are immediate and tangible. Stay tuned for updates. Read more about our work in Payatas with Fairplay.

Some images of the sports centre

Helping 100 Children At-Risk in Payatas, The Philippines – Mid-Term Update

Street Child with Football

We wrote previously about a project we started with our partner, Fairplay Foundation for All, which set out to help 100 children living in poverty and at-risk in the Payatas slum area, the Philippines. Thanks to kind sponsors and the hard work of our fundraisers, we’ve funded the nutrition aspect of this project: the initiative to provide free healthy and nutritious meals to children after the twice-weekly football sessions.

In our last article we talked about how Fairplay had measured the children against five key performance indicators (KPIs) to use as a baseline to understand how they are suffering and what could be done about it. Six months on, all of these KPIs, aside from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), have been measured again. We’ll give an outline of how these results compare below, as well as some details about what will happen next in the project.

Be sure to check out our previous blog post to see an outline of the project and the baseline results in more detail.

Update on the KPIs

During this second wave of measurements, only 93 out of the 100 children who originally took part in the project were available. This means that the sample size is slightly smaller.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The mid-term results show that there has been a slight improvement in the physical growth of the children in Payatas. While the average BMI is still classified in the underweight category, it has increased slightly from 18.4 to 18.6. The majority of the children are still also underweight, but this proportion dropped by 7 percentage points, from 68 to 61 percent. Meanwhile, the number of children at a ‘normal’ weight increased from 26 to 29 percent.

This is particularly pleasant news to us here at Poverty Child, as it means that our funding towards providing nutritional assistance to the children has had some effects and has led to improvements in their physical health.

Learned Optimism (LO)

On average, the reported level of optimism and self-esteem amongst the children has remained relatively steady. The average score for self-esteem has stayed at level 5, described as ‘moderately low self-esteem’, while average level of optimism has increased just slightly from -1 to 0, both of which are in the ‘very pessimistic’ category.

There has, however, been positive changes within some of the specific categories. The number of children reporting ‘moderately high self-esteem’ has grown from 23 to 35 percent. At the same, the proportion of those described as ‘very pessimistic’ has fallen from 70 to 54 percent. These results have been offset by changes in other categories, which is why the average scores have stayed very similar. Nevertheless, if the trend continues, it does suggest significant improvements for the most at-risk groups.

Growth Mindset

The mid-term results suggest that the overall mindset of the children has stayed largely stable. The average score in the last round of testing was 36, characterised as a ‘growth mindset with some fixed ideas’, and this has remained the same in the tests this time around. While some of the children have shifted between categories, others have improved only slightly and within their steady category, which is why the overall percentages have remained very similar.

Although there has been no strong improvement in the mindset of the children, we did mention in our last article that baseline results of this test were unusually positive compared to the other KPIs. In addition, the Emotional Quotient (EQ) club which is targeted at promoting social and emotional development was delayed in starting and is due to begin in September. It is understandable, therefore, that the project has seen no specific changes in the children’s mindset so far.

Risk of Depression

The results of the depression test mid-way through the project are alarming. Since the baseline test, the average score among the children has increased from 24, classified as ‘moderately depressed’, to 26, categorised as ‘several depressed’. The proportion of children in the ‘severely depressed’ category has increased too: in the second round of testing, 67 percent of children were categorised as ‘severely depressed’ compared to 45 percent in the first round.

Fairplay has sought to identify reasons why these scores may have increased so much over the last few months and have highlighted the recent political and economic struggles in the Payatas community. The drug war in the Philippines has now become infamous internationally, with recurring incidences of police brutality being reported in Payatas.  Several children taking part in the project have had one or both parents arrested, while others have had family members killed. This has not only had an emotional impact on those affected directly, but also created anxiety and fear in the community as a whole. On top on this, the worsening economy, with high inflation, has created additional financial stresses on already vulnerable families.

It is likely that these deeper issues have threatened the mental well-being of residents in Payatas, as well as the outcomes of the project so far. They suggest the need for extra social and emotional support for the families in the long-term.

What happens next?

The results of the tests mid-way through the project have given a good indication as to how the project is going so far and what can be improved upon in the next six months and beyond. Here are some of the next steps the project will take:

  1. Starting the weekly EQ club in September: Due to difficulties in finding the right person for the role, the Emotional Quotient (EQ) club that was intended to begin in February has been postponed and is now scheduled to start in September. Currently in Payatas, there is a large social divide within the community, where residents who live on different streets and areas have negative views and stereotypes of one another. The EQ club intends to work on this problem by helping the children grow more self-awareness and empathy, before mixing youth from opposite groups together. This is with the aim of reconciling their perceived differences and potentially breaking the social divide in Payatas.
  2. Sport sessions for mothers: Another new initiative is to organise social sport for mothers of attending children, including volleyball sessions, Zumba classes, and similar activities, so that they are able to participate in exercise together. Hopefully, this will build relationships in the community and help gain the trust of parents who sometimes have reservations about sending their children to the centre.
  3. Expand topics covered at the Youth Group sessions: Taking into account the results of the mid-term tests, the Youth Group will seek to include more sessions on topics such as promoting optimism and seeing stress as a challenge rather than a threat. This is with the hope of sustaining improvements in growth mindset, optimism, and lessening the risk of depression.
  4. Further recommendations to come at the end of the project: It is difficult to know how the situation in the community will develop and unfold in the next six months and beyond this. Currently, the economic and political pressures in Payatas are the biggest challenges faced by the project, and the community development team is still learning how to overcome these. The final tests done at the end of the project will indicate the overall effect of the interventions and these outcomes can be used to develop strategies to support the children most at-risk.

To see a final update on these KPIs and how the children are doing at the end of this project, be sure to keep up-to-date with our work.

Helping 100 Children At-Risk in Payatas, The Philippines

Child at-risk in Payatas

In February 2018, our partner Fairplay For All Foundation launched a project we’re co-funding aimed at helping 100 children living in poverty and at-risk in Payatas, The Philippines. The project intends to support these children by providing regular sport, nutrition and social groups that help to improve their quality of life as well as their physical and mental wellbeing. Four main interventions have been developed with the children in mind and form the basis of this project. These are:

  • The organisation of football sessions held two times a week;
  • The provision of free healthy, nutritious meals at the Fairplay Café;
  • Weekly sessions aimed at improving the emotional intelligence of the children;
  • For children aged 13 and above, youth groups teaching life skills held twice a week.

Thanks to kind donations and the hard work of our fundraisers, we’re funding the nutrition aspect of this project. The plan is that free meals will be provided to the children at the Fairplay Café after the twice-weekly football sessions. Since the café specialises in vegetarian, healthy food, it guarantees a much higher standard of nutrition for the children who have poor diets.

For us, nutritional support is an extremely important aspect of the program. Not only is nutrition an important determiner for physical health and growth, but it also has a huge impact on mental health outcomes. Without adequate and healthy food provisions, children may experience stunted growth, difficulties in learning, behavioural problems and emotional issues such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder¹.

Before the start of the program, Fairplay gave the children taking part a series of tests to measure them against five key performance indicators or KPIs. These KPIs are body mass index (BMI), adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), learned optimism (LO), growth mindset, and risk of depression. The results of the tests have been used as a baseline to identify how the children are suffering and what can be done about it. They also offer the possibility to determine the overall success of the project, as the children will be tested again both mid-way and at the end of the programme.

We hope to see improvement in these KPIs over the period. The collected data will show whether the work we have done in collaboration with our partner has been beneficial to the children and has increased their quality of life.

A brief outline of the baseline results for the 100 children is given below. You can click through the link on each of the KPIs to find a description of them and why they are important. Be sure to keep up-to-date with our blog to see how the project is going and if there’s been improvements in these KPIs midway and after the programme has ended.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The baseline results show a large degree of malnourishment among the children and indicate the need for nutritional assistance in the group. The average BMI of the 100 children is 18.4, classified in the underweight category. Furthermore, 52 percent of the male children, and 59 percent of the female children are considered underweight. The most underweight group is 7 to 12 year olds, with the average BMI generally increasing with age.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

ACEs is a tool used to measure the level of childhood trauma an individual has experienced. According to the baseline results, the children supported by this project are highly at-risk. Only 12 of the 100 children said they had not experienced any of the types of childhood trauma listed in the test, while 37 percent had encountered four or more. The most common types of trauma experienced are emotional abuse (59 percent), parental separation/death (52 percent) and physical abuse (42 percent).

Learned Optimism (LO)

LO measures the degree to which people are pessimistic or optimistic about their experiences and what impact this has on them long-term. When this was tested in Payatas, the results showed that, on average, the children are very pessimistic. Around 70 percent of them scored within the ‘very pessimistic’ category and a further 13 percent were rated ‘moderately pessimistic’. Only three percent of the children were deemed to be optimistic. The test also showed that around half of the children reported low self-esteem.

It is worth noting that LO test is relatively complex and therefore, when it was used it Payatas, it was only given to children aged 13 and above (40 out of 100).

Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is the belief that basic qualities, such as intelligence, creativity and talent, can develop over time through hard work, dedication and training. It is an extremely valuable mindset for a child to have. On the opposite end of the scale is a fixed mindset. This is the belief that these basic qualities are essentially predetermined, fixed traits and cannot be improved much, if at all.

Fairplay tested whether the children in Payatas have mainly growth or fixed mindsets, finding the results to be overwhelmingly positive compared to the other KPIs.  Overall, 68 percent of the children have a predominately growth mindset, with this being strong in 13 percent. Less than a third of the children have a fixed mindset and none of them strong fixed mindset.

Risk of Depression

Fairplay used the  Center for Epidemiologic Studies – Depression Child (CES-DC) test to measure the likelihood of depression among the children. This involved asking them 20 questions about what they had felt or experienced in the last seven days. The results of the test are alarming as they show that the large majority of the children are at risk of depression. Almost a half of the group (45 percent) scored 25 or above, categorised as being severely depressed, and 41 percent scored between 16 and 24, categorised as moderately depressed. There were no significant difference in results between males and females or between children of different ages. All groups seem to experience similar risks of depression.

In Summary

Overall, the baseline results show that the children supported by our project in Payatas are incredibly at-risk. Not only do they have smaller BMIs than others their age, but they are also suffering mentally due to childhood trauma, risks of depression and low self-esteem and optimism. We hope that through our partnership with Fairplay we will be able to help and assist the children in these and other aspects of their lives. We will keep you up-to-date with our progress here on our blog. Until then!


  1. Fairplay For All Foundation (2018) Helping 100 Children At-Risk: How Much does Regular Sport, Nutrition, and Social Groups Improve the Well-being of Children in Payatas? Unpublished.
  2. How Poor Nutrition Affects Child Development,

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): What are they and why are they important?

For children living in poverty, their risk of experiencing trauma in their childhood is much greater than other children. They may be born into families that are dysfunctional, neglectful or abusive or alternatively face dangers on the streets. When we seek to measure Adverse Childhood Experiences, we can use them to understand how a child has suffered from trauma and what we can do about it.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)?

ACEs are a tool used to indicate the level of childhood trauma an individual has experienced. They are measured by asking respondents ten questions which each relate to a particular category of childhood trauma, such as abuse, neglect and household dysfunction. Each answer confirming the occurrence of a type of trauma is added up to give a score out of ten. As a person’s ACE score increases, they become more and more at-risk.

Why are they important?

It is important to look at the degree to which the children have experienced trauma in their childhood to understand the resulting negative impact on their mental and physical health. Research has found that those with an ACE score of four or more have a two to four times greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions, and an attempted suicide rate 12 times higher than individuals experiencing no childhood trauma. For those with ACE score of 6 or above, the attempted suicide rate increases to 46 times higher, and their life expectancy is reduced by up to 20 years.

How do they affect our work?

Our programme partner Fairplay is using risk of depression as a key indicator to measure progress of the work we’re co-funding. If you would like to find out more about our partnership project ‘Helping 100 Children At-Risk in Payatas, The Philippines’, please check out our work. As we continue to work with children living in poverty across the world, we hope to support those who have experienced trauma and create environments where these dangers are eliminated.


  1. Fairplay For All Foundation (2018) Helping 100 Children At-Risk: How Much does Regular Sport, Nutrition, and Social Groups Improve the Well-being of Children in Payatas? Unpublished.
  2. TEDMED: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime. Sep 2014.


Body Mass Index (BMI): What is it and why is it important?

Nutrition is a major problem for children living in poverty. Many do not have enough food and resort to eating whatever is available. For instance, scavenging for food from trash is commonplace. As a result, a healthy diet is a reality only for a lucky few. Therefore, it is necessary to measure the BMI of children living in poverty, so that any problems can be recognised and used to identify the best way to help them.

What is Body Mass Index (BMI)?

BMI is an indicator used to measure the ratio between someone’s weight and height and can be used to determine whether a person is a healthy weight, overweight or underweight. Unlike in adults, the healthy amount of body fat for a child changes with age and varies according to their gender. As a result, BMI measurements in children are always interpreted in relation to their age and gender.

Why is it important?

Since BMI gives an indication as to whether a child has healthy amount of body fat for their age and gender, it can be used to identify who is vulnerable to future health risks. Children who have too much or too little body fat for their age or gender are incredibly at-risk. They are likely to be stunted in both physical and mental development and can lose up to ten years on their life expectancy.

How does it affect our work?

Our programme partner Fairplay is using body mass index as a key indicator to measure progress of the work we’re co-funding. If you would like to find out more about our partnership project ‘Helping 100 Children At-Risk in Payatas, The Philippines’, please check out our work. We hope that through our work in Payatas and beyond we will be able to improve the BMI of children living in poverty across the world, so that they stay within the range that is ‘normal’ for their age and are not exposed to future physical and mental health risks.


  1. Fairplay For All Foundation (2018) Helping 100 Children At-Risk: How Much does Regular Sport, Nutrition, and Social Groups Improve the Well-being of Children in Payatas? Unpublished.
  2. NHS UK: What is the body mass index (BMI)? Jul 2016.

Growth Mindset: What is it and why is it important?

A person’s mindset has a huge influence on the way they go about their daily life and their likelihood of success. For children living in poverty, a positive mindset can be an extremely important factor in helping them overcome the challenges they face. By understanding the two main mindsets an individual can have – a growth and a fixed mindset – we can use these to support vulnerable children and equip them better for their future.

What is Growth Mindset?

It is thought that there are two main types of mindset which people can have.

  • A fixed mindset – the belief that basic qualities, such as intelligence, creativity and talent, are essentially predetermined and fixed traits, meaning they cannot be improved much, if at all.
  • A growth mindset – the belief that these basic qualities can continue to develop over time through hard work, dedication, specific training and other improvements.

Whether an individual has a mainly fixed or growth mindset can be tested by giving them various statements, and asking them the extent to which they agree or disagree. These results are then coded and added up to produce a score out of 60.

Why is it important?

A growth mindset is an extremely valuable skill for children to have, as it can give them the motivation to work hard and dedication to improve their mental and physical abilities. An improvement in the growth mindset of the children could therefore result in extremely positive outcomes in their emotional, physical, financial and academic lives.

How does it affect our work?

Our programme partner Fairplay is using growth mindset as a key indicator to measure progress of the work we’re co-funding. If you would like to find out more about our partnership project ‘Helping 100 Children At-Risk in Payatas, The Philippines’, please check out our work. As we continue to support children living in poverty across the world, we hope that we can encourage positive thinking and growth mindsets which set these children up for future success.


  1. Fairplay For All Foundation (2018) Helping 100 Children At-Risk: How Much does Regular Sport, Nutrition, and Social Groups Improve the Well-being of Children in Payatas? Unpublished.
  2. The Guardian: Research every teacher should know: growth mindset. Jan 2018


Risk of Depression: What is it and why is it important?

Children living in poverty are exposed to challenging situations including violence, illness and death, which others their age have not yet experienced. This can have a huge impact on their mental health, especially on their likelihood of developing disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar. By looking at the risk of depression in children, we can identify how they are suffering and use targeted interventions to help improve their mental health.

What is risk of depression?

Depression is a disorder that severely impacts the daily lives of individuals. Although it is considered a mental disorder, it also has a huge effect on someone’s physical health and social interactions. Some of the most common symptoms include being unable to experience pleasure, episodes of irritability, anxiety and fear. Changes in appetite, body weight and sleep patterns can occur also. The causes of depression are complex, ranging from genetics to chemical imbalances, medical problems, culture and stress from ongoing, recent or past events.

One way to measure the risk of depression in children is using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies – Depression Child (CES-DC) test. This involves asking children 20 questions about what they have felt or experienced in the last seven days. These answers are scored on a scale of zero to three and then added up to produce a total score. Overall, a higher total test score indicates a greater risk of depression for a child.

How does it affect our work?

Our programme partner Fairplay is using risk of depression as a key indicator to measure progress of the work we’re co-funding. If you would like to find out more about our partnership project ‘Helping 100 Children At-Risk in Payatas, The Philippines’, please check out our work. Depression is a very life-limiting condition for children to experience at a young age. We hope that, by giving positive opportunities to children living in poverty across the world, we can improve life for those who are most at-risk.


  1. Fairplay For All Foundation (2018) Helping 100 Children At-Risk: How Much does Regular Sport, Nutrition, and Social Groups Improve the Well-being of Children in Payatas? Unpublished.
  2. Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale

Learned Optimism (LO): What is it and why is it important?

The challenges children living in poverty face in their everyday lives can have a huge impact on the way they think about their experiences. Having encountered difficult situations at a young age, they are more likely think pessimistically and have a low self-esteem. We can use Learned Optimism to measure this and, consequently, decide on ways to help overcome these problems.

What is Learned Optimism (LO)?

LO measures the degree to which people are pessimistic or optimistic about their experiences and what impact this has on them long-term. It is typically tested by presenting people with a series of scenarios and asking them to choose the option they are most likely to think. This test is relatively complex and is therefore often only suitable for older children and adults, such as those aged 13 and above.

Why it is important?

LO can be used to predict a child’s motivation, level of self-esteem and willingness to use their abilities in good or bad situations. This has a huge impact on their likelihood of under- or over-performing, as those with an optimistic view on situations often do better than expected and those with a pessimistic view do worse. Pessimism can also have a severe effect of a person’s mental health, especially on their tendency to experience depression.

How does it affect our work?

Our programme partner Fairplay is using learned optimism as a key indicator to measure progress of the work we’re co-funding. If you would like to find out more about our partnership project ‘Helping 100 Children At-Risk in Payatas, The Philippines’, please check out our work. We hope that, through interventions that help children to think positively and build their self-esteem, we can continue to improve the quality of lives of those living in poverty across the world.


Fairplay For All Foundation (2018) Helping 100 Children At-Risk: How Much does Regular Sport, Nutrition, and Social Groups Improve the Well-being of Children in Payatas? Unpublished.