Brief History

The project was conceptualized by Lars C. Jorgensen and Monica D. Ray during their first visit to the Philippines.


It was the year of our 30th anniversary, and it was the year where a virus put the entire world to a halt.  In January, the Taal Volcano in Tagaytay blew its top on the same day that students from Harvard returned to Manila after another successful Youth for Change Camp at Stairway. That was the first and the last camp of the entire year. Following the eruption came the Corona virus pandemic. We closed our Manila office at an early point in time to protect our colleagues from commuting on crowded public transportation. Our Mindoro Center followed suit a few weeks after, when a total lockdown prevented anybody from leaving home. We ran our Family Home Program with the help from our house parents, who stayed in house, our head cook, who moved in, and a group of amazing volunteers, who had decided not to leave the country.  With this great team, there was absolutely no compromise in the quality of care and education for the 13 boys in house. While our local community suffered under frequent and long power cuts, we had stable power from our solar panels, and in terms of food, we had access to a steady supply of fresh organic vegetables and fruits from our farm in the mountains. All our farm workers decided to stay at the farm and continue the production.

Our Community Assistance Program was challenged, as nobody was allowed to go out. For a couple of months, all we could do was assisting our friend and volunteer doctor, Francis Daytec, on his trips with food and medical supplies into the mountains. Fake news had caused a high level of panic amongst the indigenous people and many had fled deep into the mountains out of fear for the virus. As Dr. Francis’ vehicle had broken down, we could bring our new Hilux 4WD to good use by lending it to him throughout the lockdown.

While under lockdown, we adjusted our action plan in the new context of the pandemic. As the entire municipality of Puerto Galera was financially crippled due to a full stop in tourism, we were faced with acute severe poverty issues. We put focus on food security and emergency assistance. We also stressed the role of the local government and barrio councils to monitor and secure the safety of children under lockdown. We increased the number of beneficiaries in our educational assistance initiative to more than 600 children and youth. Aside from the usual education assistance activities, we partnered with the local government unit of Puerto Galera for the distribution of learning kits to all enrolled public school students of PG.  Overall, we provided 47,000 Break the Silence (BTS) Advocacy notebooks, 214,000 pencils and 18,422 ball pens, while the LGU provided crayons, portfolios, pad papers and other supplies. The BTS notebooks contain useful information about the COVID-19 and the touching rules, along with contact information for local helplines. With the indigenous community in Baclayan, we established three feeding stations, powered by the local parents with supplies from SFI. From the time that the Enhanced Community Quarantine was moderated, we have fed more than 300 children every day, even during holidays. The need for assistance was greater than ever.

Throughout a year dictated by the threat and the devastating effects of the Corona virus, our e-learning platform became an asset of immense value for our child protection work in the Philippines and beyond. Nationally, we reached more people with our trainings in 2020 than ever before (more than half a million), and at the same time we laid the ground work for localizing and utilizing the e-learning in several other countries starting 2021. Our collaboration with the Department of Education and the Department of Social Welfare and Development was further strengthened thanks to the e-learning, and with regards to our long time work with the National Law enforcement, we started working on new plans and strategies that will make the child protection component under their training program more sustainable. In 2022, we will start to develop online training modules customized for the police and to be included in the Philippine National Police training curriculum.

Our Environmental Awareness for Children and Youth program was also seriously affected by the pandemic, as children were not allowed to leave their homes from March and throughout the entire year. The Sea Adventure School made 27 trips in total, but the floating classroom was substituted with other activities that focused more on the adult population in our community. We made good progress in our local community in terms of waste segregation, making compost, development of food gardens (back yard gardens or community based), and through community partners, we planted several thousand trees, with families accountable of taking care of each one of them to enhance survival rate.

Since we started EACY Dive a few years back, it has been in a constant positive development, and we ended 2019 on a very high note. 2020 also started out with great promise, even though the Taal volcano was already putting a dark cloud over tourism and travel to Mindoro. We still had dives almost every day in January and were looking forward to a great season based on the number of inquiries and interest in our unique concept and approach. However, in March we closed the dive center for the remainder of the year.


It was the 30th anniversary for the United Nation’s Convention on the Right of the Child, which we marked in various ways. We launched our e-learning Platform after nearly 4 years of development work and comprehensive testing. We were the country representative at the Facebook Global Safety Summit in New York. The Stairway CyberSafe initiative was presented during the Facebook Asia Pacific Safety Summit held in Bangkok, Thailand. We developed a database for the BTS National Network with some very encouraging results. Since the start of the network development some 10 years back, we now have 46 member organizations spread over 12 regions, who have delivered 12,894 training sessions on child sexual abuse prevention reaching nearly one million individuals, mostly children. Opportunity for national-level legislative advocacy has been opened for the BTS NN through membership of the Child Rights Network (CRN) — the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the country. After more than a year of struggle with customs issues, we were finally ready to give 660 anatomically correct dolls to the national police, to assist them in investigations on child sexual abuse. The dolls were made specifically for Stairway as a donation from IKEA. We were invited to speak at the DepEd First National Summit, and what made our presence even more special was the nearly 100 children participants running a parallel session using our cybersafe e-learning course. Our programs with DANIDA are progressing according to the plan, and that is also the case with our collaboration with the British Embassy on a major child protection program covering three municipalities in Metro Manila. We started a new 4-year program on cyber safety to reach 40 schools in four regions, working with three BTSNN partners. The program is financed by Kindernothilfe and the BMZ under the German Department of Foreign Affairs.

In the Family Home program, we had 13 boys graduate and move on to their next safe destinations. Before their graduation, they did a series of performances of the Lorax reaching a record high number of local school children with an important message on environmental conservation.

In the Community Assistance Program, we increased the number of youth beneficiaries for scholarships up to 500, while enhancing the quality of the program with more workshops and sessions for the students. The feeding program for around 180 indigenous children ran better than ever with stable parent participation, and the collaboration with the teachers at the school improved as well. Our efforts at the Baclayan Indigenous School were reinforced through a collaboration with the organization Teach for the Philippines, as they placed three fellows at the school. With new human resources placed at the Children Health and Education Center, we ran several trainings and workshops for the local community, including health and hygiene, family planning, livelihood - and with assistance from a specialist volunteer, we also engaged into the training of teachers on more child friendly and participatory teaching methods. Finally, we agreed with the LGU that SFI will run a comprehensive 5-year child protection program to capacitate their people to be able to deliver their mandated tasks in relation to child protection. Kindernothilfe will finance majority of this program.

The Environmental Awareness for Children and Youth (EACY) Program was enforced with an additional team member, which had become necessary, as our services and advocacy are more and more in demand. We had several talks and presentations in schools, and the LGU is increasingly placing environmental protection on its agenda. The Baclayan organic farm was 100% run and managed by indigenous team members, and the production over the year was record high. The farm also functioned as classroom for a group of local women interested in learning about organic methods in growing their gardens. We also extended the garden training to students from the local school, who develop their own plots in a section of the farm. The EACY program attracted several groups of senior high and college students to do their internship at Stairway, which led to their further engagement as active environmentalists in their respective communities.

The EACY Dive center had a remarkable year in terms of advocacy and business as well. As the Sea Adventure School boat needed a serious overhaul, we invested a portion of the profits into repairs and improvements of the boat.

Last, but certainly not least, with the generous assistance from Solenergy Inc., we expanded our solar power capacity to cover between 75 to 100% of our total power consumption, depending on load.


We opened our Children Health and Education Center for the Mangyan community in Baclayan, which is complete with a medical clinic, library, outdoor sport court and a roofed veranda for classes and workshops. In the last four months of 2018, we served 259 patients at the clinic. Also in Baclayan, we hosted our first seminar at the farm, where men and women from the community came together to learn about organic farming practices. Our Advocacy and Capacity Building Program also continued to thrive with the Break the Silence National Network campaigning - together against the proposed lowering of age of criminal responsibility in the Philippines. We also continued partnerships with the National Police, the DSWD and DepEd and formed many new partnerships offering training and consultancy with organizations including Plan International and the British Embassy in Manila. The documentary film, “A Year of Hope” was premiered at the Danish International Documentary Film Festival. The film follows a group of boys going through a full year of the Family Home Program. It was praised by the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social welfare and Development for its potential as a tool to inspire and educate staff working with children in government centers. The EACY program kept on gaining momentum with more teachers and LGU officials getting actively involved and taking on the cause. The Stairway children reached a record high number of school children with their performance of the Lorax. One highlight was a special performance at the Malasimbo International Art and Music Festival in front of a large international audience. The EACY Dive School also grew in scope and quality, as our long-time volunteer, Magnus, completed his instructor training and took full charge.


It was a big year for our advocacy and capacity-building program as it saw the launch of the Break the Silence National Network, which consists of 45 active child protection organizations from across the Philippines. Together, they provide a powerful collective voice for change at governmental level whilst campaigning and building capacity at grassroots level in their local communities. In this first year alone, the network trained 118,420 children and adults, including police, government workers, teachers and students. We also scaled up our engagement to our ASEAN neighbors, collaborating with German NGO Kindernothilfe to deliver trainings in Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh and Lebanon. 335 students were supported through our Community Assistance program and 13 boys lived in our Family Home program. We were also very busy on our Environmental Awareness for Children and Youth (EACY) program with many sea-adventure-school trips and an increasing number of performances of the Lorax. We developed a strong partnership with the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office, and we opened our own dive shop, EACY Dive, which is a fantastic opportunity for us to train environmentally aware divers, whilst helping to sustain the cost of other EACY program activities.


We further developed our relationship with the National Police through two residential events, which saw directors, chiefs and heads of academic units from all of the 17 National Police Training Institutes nationwide come together at Stairway to learn more about child sexual abuse and what the police can do to further protect children. We also saw growing demand for our Cybersafe training and were invited to speak at several national and international conferences, like the 53rd Annual Philippine Pediatric Society Convention on how to detect Cyber bullying and abuse. We started up a comprehensive training program with the National Department of Social Welfare and Development with the potential of reaching up to 3 million households, or around 20 million people. Our Family Home program continued to run with a year full of music and arts activities. The EACY program also continued to thrive with local teachers and barrio officials taking part in our Sea Adventure School to learn about Puerto Galera’s marine life and the need to protect it. Our Community Assistance Program received a huge boost, as we entered a five-year partnership with Phoenix Foundation. In Denmark, Lars Kruse accepted to take on the position as chairperson.


We celebrated this year of our 25th Anniversary on several occasions and in great style. We had the Danish rock legends D-A-D play a benefit concert at the legendary Manila Hotel. We had the Harvard Radcliff Orchestra join forces with the Manila Symphony Orchestra in another benefit concert at the International School Manila, and we had the UPLB Voice Ensemble sing their hearts out at Stairway. The BTS program continued to gain momentum with more partners and great demand for our trainings and materials, both locally and internationally. We started a new extension program under DANIDA, and we embarked on an e-learning project, which would make us able to reach much farther with our child protection training and workshops. The Sea Adventure School came on leaps and bounds as the program was embraced by the local National High Schools. We started to take out classes with their teachers, so the experience could be contextualized in the students’ science curriculum. We also started up the EACY Club, which in this first year counted more than 200 members representing nearly all the barrios of Puerto Galera. In December, we were honored with receiving a prestigious international award for NGOs from Stars Foundation. The award was handed over at a ceremony in Versailles, France, and came with a cash price of 50,000$US.


We completed a new workshop for maintenance work and woodwork classes for the children in residence, and started construction of a small bakery. As part of the EACY program, we launched the theater production “The Lorax” based on the story by Dr. Seuss. The impressive sets and props were all built at Stairway, which was more than a year in the making. SFI Creative Director, Monica, created and directed the play, and the children in our family home were the performers. They had become a resource reaching hundreds of local children with an important environmental message. The SAS bangka started operations after some delays and additional work, but the concept proved excellent. The Break the Silence (BTS) program kept on expanding, and a new collaboration with the Department of Education came into play. New partners were included in the BTS Network, and we reached organizations in new countries. With significant support from the Firetree Fund, our Educational Assistance program reached new dimensions with more than 200 scholars in the local community. Yale University joined the Youth for Change program. In Denmark, Tune Nyborg stepped down as chairperson to re-focus on his role as proposal writer and link to DANIDA. Soren Sorensen accepted to get back in the position in transition to a new chairperson.


We entered into partnership with Marshall Foundation and opened up a new environmental program entitled EACY, Environmental Awareness for Children and Youth. Part of the program is the Sea Adventure School (SAS), and we started to build a 50 foot bangka to become a floating classroom. We celebrated 20 years of support from Roedkilde Gymnasium, and another Danish High School, Roedovre Gymnasium, joined in with their generous support. We added breakfast to the feeding of the indigenous students in Baclayan. Further, with support from our local friend, Doctor Francis, we introduced a health component to the program with bi-weekly medical check-ups for the entire Baclayan community. With an expansion supported by DANIDA, the Break the Silence Campaign continued to grow. We continued the close collaboration with the National Police and received yet another official recognition. The international trainings also increased immensely, and Stairway was chosen as regional trainer for KNH in their international move to introduce Child Protection Policies amongst theirs partners worldwide. The Break the Silence reach included Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, India and Nepal. The Family Home program ran smoothly with 14 boys in residence. Harvard University joined the Youth for Change Program. We obtained an interest free loan from Firetree Fund to make the final payment for our land, meaning we finally received the title of the land we had been renting for the past two decades.


We expanded our collaboration with the law enforcement to include the Philippine National Police Academy, which meant that all future PNP officers would undergo Stairway training on child protection, with special focus on child sexual abuse and exploitation. We completed the construction of new quarters for our children in residence, including dormitories, classroom, library, computer lab, and plenty of outside space for recreation. Break the Silence International entered into India through a partnership with ADM Capital Foundation. We ran a whole year of the feeding program at the Baclayan Elementary School for indigenous children with the result that the attendance more than tripled. Further, we also secured school supplies, slippers and raincoats for all the students. We started a partnership with Swedish VEM.


2011 passed with new concepts and ideas transformed into programs and activities. It was another year shaped by innovation and creativity, a year where we launched our nationwide Break the Silence Campaign, where we opened an office in Manila, where we reached and trained every single police cadet in all of the country’s 17 regional Police Training Institutes, where our animations and trainers on child protection reached into 6 Southeast Asian countries, and it was the year that our Youth for Change camps expanded to include schools from 3 continents and 6 nations. For the first time we hosted a group of students from our long time strong support, Roedkilde Gymnasium. We opened the Baclayan Community Assistance Program with support from AAP, including intensified work on the organic farm and a feeding program for the children in the local school. We also opened Orange House, another dormitory guest house to support the even increasing level of activities at the Learning and Resource Center. In Denmark, Soren Sorensen passed the chairperson position to Tune Nyborg.