Hospitable, Beautiful, and Optimistic?


by Mouna Chatt, United World College Maastricht
November 11th, 2018


TFD: How would you describe the Philippines in three words?
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Kesz: 3 words?! Oh, this is a hard one. Hmmm. Can we come back to it later?

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TFD: Yes, of course. What brought you to where you are today? What is your story?
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Kesz: Well, I am from the Philippines and as I child I used to live on the streets. I was begging on the streets to help my family and picking up trash to survive, so I started working at a very, very young age. But when I turned five, I had an accident, which completely turned my life around. It changed everything for me. It set the line from what I was before to what I have become now.
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TFD: And what was this accident?
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Kesz: I was at a dump site, picking up trash, and more was coming in. There were a lot of other children around me, who were excited for it. For all of us, it was like gold. So, everyone was pushing each other, trying to get the best pieces. It was almost like a stampede. And then, yeah, I was accidentally pushed into a fire and every part of my body was burning, paining until I was saved by someone, who later became my father figure.
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TFD: Who is this someone?
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Kesz: He is everything that my father was not. He is my non-biological father, who adopted me after my accident, took me in, and changed everything for me. He gave me the love and care and safety that I had never gotten from my biological father because of his alcohol and drug abuse. My biological father was abusive, used to beat me as a child, and did not even arrange for my birth certificate. Before my non-biological father became my legal guardian, I didn’t know when my birthday was.
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TFD: Do you have any relationship with your biological family now?
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Kesz: No, I was legally separated from them after I was adopted and I actually don’t know where they are, but I am not sure I would want to reconnect with them either. Well, I forgive my father for what happened in the past and I forgive my mother as well, but it is still awkward between us. I don’t think I would be able or want to talk to them. But I would like to reestablish a relationship with my siblings and help them come out the abuse if it is still there.

TFD: And you actually established an organization, Championing Community Children, to help Filipino street children. How did that begin?
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Kesz: Oh, well, when I was adopted by my father, he was the leader of an organization called “Club 8586”, which is also an organization that helps educate street children in the Philippines. After my accident, I was advised by doctors to stay in safe and clean environments, which was the exact opposite of where I had been living before, so, when I was around 6 or 7 years old, I decided to volunteer for Club 8586, where I became a hygiene demonstrator. I would push a cart through streets where there street children and teach them about how to wash properly or brush their teeth or anything with hygiene. Then after this, I became a first aider and when I was around 8 I was inspired to start my own organization, called Championing Community Children or, short, C3. I established it with the help of a couple of friends and some adults.
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TFD: What is the main aim of the organization?
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Kesz: It is similar to Club 8586 in the sense that it is about educating and reaching out to Filipino street children. The main goal is to teach them about their rights, the children’s rights, hygiene etc. Basically, everything that is necessary for them to know. And actually, we managed to reach out and help more than 10,000 children.
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TFD: In 2012 you actually won the Children’s Peace Prize for your work with C3. How was that?
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Kesz: Ah, it was really a surprise. I didn’t know that I was nominated for it at first, and when I was told about the nomination, I just said: “yeah, OK, sure”. I was really young and I could not understand what I was nominated for. I mean, I just wanted to do my work with C3 and help out where I could, but this was actually a very crucial nomination and prize to win. So, when I won the prize, I was very shocked and amazed, because I am not the only child doing what I am doing. There are other children like me in Syria or any other countries doing the same work for their people. But I was really honoured to receive the prize because it made the name of our organization more known, it supported me with my education, and allowed me to travel around, share my story, and inspire other children to do something for their community, because really, age is nothing.
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TFD: Would you like to return to the Philippines and live there again?
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Kesz: Yes, but I would want to finish my studies first, work abroad, and then go back home to share the knowledge I have gained and use it in my community.
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TFD: What is the biggest difference between your life here and your life in the Philippines?
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Kesz: It is way more stressful back home because I have so many things around me to deal with and balance. On one hand, I have to handle an organization, but I also have to take care of my studies and be part of the family. Here I can rest more and just focus on my studies and my future because even though I am in touch with the organization, it is not in the same way. Actually, I wouldn’t really say that I miss home, because here I have a family as well and here I have already made a home for myself.
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TFD: Now back to the very first question! How would you describe the Philippines in three words?
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Kesz: Ah, it is still difficult! Maybe hospitable, beautiful, and optimistic?

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