Music therapy to save children from Manila's streets

Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:04pm EST
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By Rolando Ng

MANILA (Reuters Life!) - Scarred by a life of neglect and abuse, street children in Manila have many poignant tales to tell, which a local shelter is helping to turn into song as a form of therapy.

Tahanan Santa Luisa, a home for abused and abandoned children, teaches adolescent girls guitar playing and song writing, urging them to release their emotions through lyrics based on their experiences to help develop their self-esteem.

Their compositions, ranging from street rap to sentimental tunes, tell of torment, anger and fears for the future. The girls have also written about betrayal and their longing for love and appreciation.

"Once it's taken away from them, their innocence, you cannot really bring it back. They have lost so much already," said social psychologist Gladys Cruz, who works at the shelter.

"But what we can offer is to direct them to the path that they would view themselves as something better," she added.

The Philippines' social welfare department estimates there are up to 200,000 children on the streets of Manila. At least a tenth have been victims of trafficking since 2001, and more than 7,000 were either physically or sexually abused in 2007.

But teaching youth hardened by a life on the streets is no easy task.

Retired marketing officer Ramon Chito Ramos, who volunteers his time to give guitar lessons at the shelter, said many girls were initially resistant.   Continued...

<p>A girl practises the guitar during a free guitar workshop for street children, conducted by instructor Ramon Ramos (not pictured), at a shelter in Manila February 19, 2009. REUTERS/John Javellana</p>