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100 children project

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.

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,