Brief History (page 3)

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


Everybody experienced ‘a hard landing’ after the “Goldtooth” tour. Almost the entire TASK group went on to either work or pursue further education. We constructed a new building with dormitory and schoolrooms. We opened SFI non-formal education school and received recognition from the Department of Education. We had the first group of students from the International School come to Stairway for a week of exposure and education on street children and children’s rights. Twenty-two endangered street children were admitted into SFI for therapy and non-formal education.


With the musical “Goldtooth” as the main element, SFI launched an international advocacy campaign promoting children’s rights. The TASK group, consisting of 17 former street children, performed for more than 20,000 people in 5 different countries. One of these performances was at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Through a very authentic performance, TASK made clear how the reality of millions of children around the world is still worlds apart from the promises of the words in the convention.


SFI now had a population of around 20-25 children and youth. The drama therapy, as an integral part of the development of the musical, was the overall focus and the core of the program. We hosted a Danish television crew for 2 months, making a film for Danish National Television. The film was broadcast nationwide and viewed by hundreds of thousands of children and families in Denmark and other Nordic countries. The director of the film, Katrine Nyholm, became a close friend and a staunch supporter of Stairway’s work, and later she became chairperson of Stairway Denmark from 2001-2007. “Goldtooth, A Street Children’s Musical” had two preview performances in a theatre in Manila. With an overwhelming response from audiences and partners, the foundation was laid for planning a local as well as an international tour for the musical.


SFI received license and accreditation from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The script and the lyrics to the songs in “Goldtooth, A Street Children’s Musical” were written, and 17 more or less hardcore children/ youth from the streets were recruited as the cast. The initial phase of this project was merely drama therapy, but as the children and the quality developed, the idea of TASK, Talented Ambitious Street Kids, was conceptualized. Over the next year and a half, the musical grew into a remarkable piece of creative advocacy. On the side of Stairway Denmark, Nich Poulsgaard took over as chairperson.


The activities were low during this year due to the absence of the program coordinator and the director, who spent most of the year in Denmark as the result of a serious illness.


For the benefit of the earthquake victims, SFI organized a major fundraising concert in Manila with the participation of some of the best musicians and artists in the country. To respond to the high prevalence of diseases in some of the victims’ relocation sites, the overhead was invested in materials for building toilets and septic tanks for 67 families. The program continued with creative workshops and camps for hundreds of children from Manila, and the rupture center was running with a population of around 8-10 children at the time. During the 3rd quarter, the activity level was negatively affected, as one of the founders came down with a serious illness leading to more than a yearlong hospitalization.


SFI established a formal partnership with the Baguio Arts Guild, from where we recruited young artists as facilitators for some of the many creative workshops we held. We also initiated a close partnership with a Manila based drop-in center, Tanglaw ng Kabataan (TNK), and started to operate as a rupture center for particularly disadvantaged street children, who needed to be distanced from a life-threatening street environment. In the middle of the year, we received the first external funding for the programs from DANIDA. Until then, all developments and programs were entirely financed by the founders. In that same year, SFI responded to a local natural disaster, when a strong earthquake hit Mindoro, killing about a hundred people and leaving tens of thousands homeless. Our focus was on play and art related therapeutic intervention for the many child survivors in the evacuation centers.


The creative camps and workshops developed further and reached more than 400 child beneficiaries over the year. Our network was expanded with another 5 Manila based street agencies, and we registered Stairway Foundation Inc. (SFI) under the Security and Exchange Commission, with Human Rights Lawyer Johannes Ignacio as chairperson. Later during the year, we founded our Danish sister organization, Stairway Denmark, with Christian Lund as the founding chairperson. We also wrote and submitted our first proposal to an international funding agency, namely the Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA). We had our first advocacy presentations at Roedkilde Gymnasium in Denmark, which led to the school committing to officially support the Stairway Project. Around 500 students spent one or more days doing various jobs and all sorts of creative initiatives to collect money for the project. This became the beginning to a long and still ongoing partnership between Roedkilde Gymnasium and Stairway, which has raised millions of pesos over the years. The Roedkilde initiative, with the massive support from the students, was a huge inspiration and turned out to be the beginning of what later became our Youth for Change Program.


Development of the site continued as we formed our first local partnership with Kaibigan, a Manila based street children organization. During their first visit to Stairway, Kaibigan brought 75 children for a camp. Stairway became a resort for children and staff from our partners in Manila, where small and big people alike could have a respite from the chaos of the city and pick up inspiration and motivation for further development. With the abundant exposure to nature and a wide range of visual and performance arts activities, Stairway had already found its niche in the network of organizations working for street children.


Initial construction of the center with help from friends and volunteers continued. Everything was built in light materials like bamboo, coconut wood, and using straw for roofing.