In this period of uncertainty and ever-pervasive challenge, the operation of the Second Chance Program (SCP) has evolved in a spirit of creativity and innovation.
On one hand, the Pandemic brought the opportunity to review, evaluate, and update the fundamental documents of SCP: the Program Concept, the Program Manual, and the formation training designs. On the other, it also gave an opportunity for the program staff to enter a phase of in-depth analysis to determine the actual needs of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) and how to respond to those needs. With Center activities limited due to lockdown, the Program developed innovative ways of reaching out to our youth who need support to reintegrate society successfully.
Since March 2020, with the declaration of the pandemic and lockdown, children and youth apprehended were no longer taken to Youth Homes to prevent the spread of Covid 19. Instead, they were kept locally under the supervision of the local Council for the Protection for Children or in the Police Station under the care of the Women’s and Children Desk.
As the SCP team was no longer allowed into the Youth Detention Centers, we had to adjust. As the youth at risk were now in the District Offices, we needed to reach out to them there. Thus, we have developed the SCP GOAL program to provide training at the local district level commonly known as “Barangay”. Dealing with CICL or Children at Risk (CAR) is truly a challenge. The government staff gave us a very warm welcome. They expressed such relief to have the support of an NGO to collaborate with them. Together we aim to fight to lessen recidivism.
During our first visit to the District Office whilst formalizing the official documents for this new partnership, families and children arrived in the hall where we were received Seven youth aged 15 to 20 listened to our presentation and shared their first impressions. Home visits followed to see the reality of their lives. These young guys, usually “working” in their gang, expressed their joy that, for the first time, they felt that people wanted to help them change their lives.
Most of them are out-of-school youth and some don’t know how to read and write. ACAY committed to conducting a four-month training program destined to equip them for new choices in life.
In the two Youth Homes, where we have also signed an agreement, we will train forty youth for three months using the GOAL training program. One of our previous partners, a Branch of the Family Court, has entrusted us with five youth under their diversion program for weekly online training.
The Aftercare subprogram is also blooming again. Many young people released before lockdown experienced the hardship of reintegrating society without any clear plan. A number of these youth have become part of the Aftercare: the first batch graduated in December 2020 and the second is ongoing. These youth have appreciated a conducive support system that strengthened their resolve not to go back to their past lives.
What is our aim for all of them? To lead them along a new path by way of different trainings enhancing basic academic competencies, life skills, anger management, peer pressure, emotional management, and more. Their parents and guardians will also have monthly training and formation about parenting roles and responsibilities.
From all the innovations of SCP on reaching the youth, in the end, what matters is how people work together and human acts of kindness, resiliency, and optimism still exist. On this occasion, SCP is moving forward to think and do something for the better in lessening recidivism and for the youth to be an ambassador of change.
A testimony of JM an Aftercare beneficiary:
“I was released from the Youth Home last 2019. Time passing, I saw myself slowly going back to the negative influence of my friends and getting into trouble. What came to my mind was the time spent with ACAY in the Youth Home.
I remembered their impact on me. ACAY gave me different trainings which helped me control my negative behavior. Realizing this, I contacted ACAY again and asked them if I could be part of their Aftercare program. I told myself, I’m not getting younger and if I stay like this, what will my future be? I do not want to go back to my old life. I want to learn and be guided on the right path in life.
I am so thankful to ACAY for its work and for its passion to help the youth. They know very well what the youth are going through. All that they taught me about resolving unresolved issues, anger management, and peer pressure is so relevant for my life. Thanks for helping so many youths find direction in life.”