I had last been to Tondo in 2010 to inspect the site of the future Centro Salvador, which was completed and inaugurated in 2013. Tondo is the largest (and oldest) district in Manila. The section of Tondo where Centro Salvador is located is right across from the shipping ports, and is densely populated and very poor. The day we visited was relatively overcast, but quite hot and humid anyway.
The goal of the planned facility was to act as a transition point for children who began to age out of the San Martin de Porres location and began to seek work or further their education back in Manila. Some of the children originated from the Tondo area as well and have family and community ties.
As we have learned, and witnessed firsthand in our visit, Centro has become more than its original mission, and serves many different people in many ways, including a small clinic on the first floor which may need to expand to meet demand. Additionally, another program Centro Salvador is sponsorship of over 800 school aged children, who can gain services like daily meals, school support/tutoring, and music lessons. A group of musicians showed us their talent to greet us.
Lunchtime meal was being prepared as we arrived.
Each story of Centro serves a different purpose. The first floor is the kitchen and feeding center and the clinic. The second floor is filled with desks, books, seats for tutoring, musical gatherings and administrative office of the staff. The third floor provides a temporary place to stay for children and families in urgent need. We paused to take a photo with a group of girls on this floor.
Currently, the fourth floor is set up as a sewing shop where home-made goods are being created to help fund the programs, as well as provide the opportunity to teach local women and girls skills.
The top floor is an open space suitable even for large gatherings, and provides a dramatic view of the area.
In 2013 when the location was considered, one of the benefits of the area chosen was the close proximity to Don Bosco Vocational Training Center. Currently, five SMDP graduates are in the Don Bosco training program, which is a 15 month curriculum starting in the classroom in Tondo, and ending with on-site work training. Training programs including machining, plumbing, welding, hospitality and food services.
It was inspiring to meet these young men who, having left after years at SMDP, are now on their own in Manila and are working hard to learn a profession.