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Philippine floods: what do you want to be when you grow up?

Written by Heidi B. Anicete, Save the Children, Philippines

Sometimes, the simplest question brings out the most interesting answer – especially when this answer is from the innocent mind of a child.

Kids have the most uncomplicated replies. And it never fails to amaze me that despite their short wordings, their answers always speak the truth.

During my visit to Laguna province, the first child I got a chance to talk to was an 11-year-old girl named Jean.

I first saw Jean sitting beside her mother while watching her two younger brothers take part in the activities inside the child-friendly space put up by Save the Children in a local high school.

When I asked Jean what she wants to be when she grows up, she told me that she wants to be an engineer. And unlike the other kids I have met before who say that they want to pursue a certain profession in order to help others, Jean’s explanation about her choice was mainly personal.

“I want to build a sturdy house for my mother. If possible, I want to make her a house in another country, in a place where there will be no flooding, because I don’t want my family to get accustomed to the life of constantly seeking shelter in an evacuation centre.”

Jean at one of the child-friendly spaces created by Save the Children in Laguna province

Living away from home

Jean’s family is one of the numerous Filipino families who were displaced due to the flooding caused by the south-west monsoon last August.

For a month now, a classroom has served as a temporary home for Jean’s family – and this goes too for the several other families they have to share it with.

I didn’t have a chance to see for myself what their room looks like, but based on how she described it, I had a strong feeling that it’s not the most comfortable place to be, especially for a child like her.

“The place is so crowded. Currently, my family and I are staying in a room packed with 32 different families.”

No place to study

It’s ironic that despite the fact that they are living in a classroom, the place is not exactly conducive for studying. With hundreds of people constantly chatting at earshot, it didn’t come as a surprise to me when Jean said that doing her homework is a challenge she has to live with every single day.

Many would have given up under such circumstances and personally, I admire Jean for not giving in.

Despite their predicament, Jean has managed to keep up with schoolwork and, as her mother told me, maintain an excellent academic standing.

With Jean’s potential, I know for a fact she deserves to stay in school, but not like this.

If you would like to support our work in emergencies, please donate to Save the Children’s Emergency Fund, which allows us to respond quickly when disaster strikes.

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