When asked where he lives, Iverson could not tell the name of his village but knows that home is in Bukid Community, an informal settlement located in Pasay City, Metro Manila. “It’s fun here. You have a playmate every day,” he says with a smile.
“My favorite activities are playing basketball and soccer. Sometimes the ball rolls down to the river. But no child has ever fell into the river,” Iverson reassured.
Iverson and the rest of the community do not consider their location a danger area despite being near a river and being prone to fire incidents because of the population density and the type of housing materials used. “I feel safe in our house. If there is a fire, we can immediately go down [and out of the house],” he reassured once again.
Many hazards surround Bukid Community but they are not as serious as the threat of eviction facing the residents. “I was told we were moving somewhere else in March because our house here would be demolished, but I don’t know why,” Iverson shared.
When asked whether he wanted to move, Iverson says “It’s okay for me to move so that we could have a clean house. I want to move to a nice house that looks like the homes of rich people, where I can sleep comfortably on a bed.”
Iverson lives with his parents, his sister, his grandmother, his uncle and aunt, and his cousins. “There are more than ten people living at home. We are nine children in total,” Iverson said.
Due to the lack of space, Iverson and his extended family need to take turns sleeping in their house. “Our house is too small for the whole family. My relatives have to leave first so that the others can sleep properly then they come back in the morning. Now I sleep on the floor. But I don’t mind as long as it is a happy home,” he explained.
Iverson and his family are among the target beneficiaries of Save the Children’s Building Urban Children’s Resilience against Shocks and Threats of Resettlement or BURST project. Through building partnerships with government decision makers and civil society organizations, the project is working towards reducing risks for girls and boys and their families in informal settlement communities and resettlement sites.
Though Iverson wants to move houses, he does not want to transfer to another school. “I don’t want to switch schools. I want to keep going to my school here. I want to continue studying so that I can support my family,” Iverson said.
“Whenever I attend school, my favorite activity is learning how to read. I am good at reading now,” Iverson proudly shared.
Although he enjoys school, Iverson cannot attend classes regularly because both his parents have no work. “I am in Grade 2, but I can’t go to school today because I have no food or money,” he said. Iverson relies on his uncle and aunt to get by, but also helps out by looking for ways to earn money. “On weekends, my friends and I help take out garbage to earn some money to buy food, or sometimes I hand [the money] to my mother,” he said.
Children like Iverson who live in informal settlements face threats varying from child protection, education, health, and discrimination. The BURST project will help address the lack of meaningful participation of these children so that they can also be included in the resettlement process.
Although the residents consider Bukid Community safe, feuding between gangs still occur. Children as young as Iverson are part of these gangs. “We are called Demonyo (devil) gang by the adults here. We are made up of more than 20 other children,” Iverson said.
Even if they are known to spread violence in the community, Iverson thinks that the Demonyo gang can also spread good saying, “If we were given other opportunities like coloring and art activities, then I think the fights among children would lessen.”
Growing up in an informal settlement has made it difficult for Iverson and other children who live in Bukid Community to achieve their rights to survival, development, protection, and participation. But despite this, Iverson still hopes to achieve his dreams someday. “I dream of becoming the president of the Philippines. I also want to become a basketball player,” he said.
“When I become president, I want to help others and I want my family to be rich so that I could buy a basketball. I also wish that children would have a good life,” he added.
When asked what having a good life meant, Iverson answered: “A good life is having a house, being able to go to school, being able to finish college, having access to electricity, clothing, and food, and living in a safe place where nobody gets into accidents. I want children to have a beautiful life.”
Through the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, Save the Children’s BURST project ensures that children in Pasay City, whose families have been relocated or are in the process of relocation to Naic, Cavite and Tanay, Rizal are safe and secure, and have access to basic social services and appropriate spaces to play, learn, and thrive.