Born to Be: the Deutsche Bank youth engagement programme
Street children are a common sight in Manila – so common that they can go unnoticed. It’s estimated there are more than 30,000 children who make a living working or begging on the street. Each day spent out there exposes these children to danger, from neglect, abuse, exploitation and crime.
Since 2009, Deutsche Bank has run the Rock-Ed music education programme for street children together with NGO ChildHope Philippines. Learning music and dance builds confidence, self-esteem and raises aspirations. And when the children sing, it gives all of Manila’s street children a voice that demands to be heard.
Rock-Ed was the idea of local Deutsche Bank employee Kris Buckham. Here, he explains how he became an advocate for the street children of Manila.
What gave you the idea for Rock-Ed?
You can’t ignore what’s going on around you. Some people here in Manila live in extreme poverty and have to survive on less than $2 a day. I was seeing children who have to work on the street to support their families, or because their situation is so desperate. That made me want to act.
Music has been a passion of mine for my whole life and it’s a big part of Filipino culture. I want these children to be able to access the same opportunities to learn that were available to me when I was growing up in Australia, because that’s what every child deserves. I knew colleagues at Deutsche Bank who were into music. That gave me the idea to set up an education programme where the teachers are all Deutsche volunteers.
How does the programme work?
We run classes at the Bank’s office in Manila on Saturdays throughout the year. Around 30 children attend. They can learn an instrument, have singing lessons or take dance classes. While they are with us they get a healthy meal and they can talk to ChildHope, which runs an outreach education programme that offers help with getting off the street.
We are fortunate to have a group of volunteers at the bank whose dedication makes the programme possible. They are not all musicians. The people who take care of the administration and logistics are just as important to the success of Rock-Ed. Everyone says they’re happy to give their time and talent to support the programme. It’s worthwhile and a lot of fun.
Deutsche Bank employees have volunteered more than 10,000 hours on Rock-Ed since the project began in 2009.
How does learning music improve the lives of these children?
A lot of these kids have been damaged by the violence they’ve experienced out on the street or they come from broken families. They find confidence and self-belief through music: we see kids progress from being very shy to performing before an audience. It also gives them a more positive outlook on life.
The structure that Rock-Ed brings to their lives is very important. They look forward to Saturdays, when they can put aside their troubles. But there are rules they have to follow. If they use drugs or are involved in crime, they’re banned from the programme. That may sound tough but it encourages self-discipline. Being part of Rock-Ed gives them a reason to stay out of trouble. Hopefully that becomes a habit that stays with them.
The efforts of the Rock-Ed team have been recognised with a Deutsche Bank Global Volunteer Award. Rock-Ed was voted the most popular volunteering project by Deutsche employees in the Asia Pacific region and received a financial donation from the bank to further spur the project.
What are some of the successes of the programme?
Rock-Ed changes the attitudes and ambitions of these kids. Their school attendance improves. Kids who’ve come through the programme have gone on to higher education and full-time employment. It’s very rewarding to empower these achievements.
We’re raising the profile of street children through Rock-Ed. The kids perform at events around Manila and there are bands that have emerged from the programme that are recording music and playing gigs. Music has been truly life-changing for them. The programme has been visited by people in the public eye as well, like the singer Joss Stone, who sang with the kids and made a film that can be seen online. We’ve made a documentary film of our own to raise funds for ChildHope.
All these avenues are helping to make people aware that street children are just kids living in difficult circumstances. They have the same hopes, dreams and potential as other kids their age, but they don’t have the same opportunities. They need our support. Using music to change that situation is what motivates everyone who’s involved in Rock-Ed.