Jerico’s story has only just begun. At 18 years old there are so many ways, so many paths, for him to go down. He has just started Senior High School for the second time, and is determined to finish it this time. Research says the odds are against him. One study in the Philippines, for example, showed re-admitting students who dropped out of school in the past had no effect on the graduation rate later on. In other words, if a kid dropped out of school and later went back, they would typically drop out again.
Fortunately, Jerico’s story is not typical.
Jerico is taller than most of the people around. At 5’6” he is lean and lanky. He is the eldest of three boys, one of whom stays with their grandparents at night because there isn’t enough room in their house – a roughly 3m x 3m space with makeshift wooden dividers. Jerico is born and raised in Payatas and has lived here most of his life with his mother, father, and siblings. Everyone shares everything, including the single bed they all sleep on.
Most people in the area dream of living in a slightly bigger house. They dream of providing just a little more for their family. And few look beyond the garbage industry for work. It’s all they’ve known their whole lives. For a time, this was Jerico’s story too.
To help support the family’s basic needs, Jerico worked as a scavenger and as a jumper-boy – one of the kids climbing the garbage trucks and filling their rice sacks with trash to sell at a nearby junk shop. Jerico could have been like the countless number of children who grow up this way, who end up having their own children as teenagers, who watch as their own kids drop out of school to help with basic needs at home, and who for the next 40 or 50 years keep telling this story over and over again.
Jerico was part of the football team by this point. In 2012 he started playing football with us weekly, along with his friends. It was a nice thing to do on the weekends, a safe space to play and have fun. Sometimes they’d get to join a tournament and play in another area, see that not everywhere is like Payatas. But ultimately they’d go back home. And reality would set in. This is home and this is where the odds said Jerico would end up too.
Fortunately for Jerico, there were a few kids ahead of him who could show that his story didn’t have to end that way. Many of his friends finished Senior High School as Fairplay Scholars. They had gone on to University and Jerico could now see it was possible.
As an older player, he was also invited to join the coaching courses. It was tough at first. Being a Fairplay Coach demanded being organised, on-time always, and taking responsibility for everything that happens. These are not habits he was used to in the area.
Jerico assisted with the training sessions for a long time. We watched Jerico and saw the anger and frustration, his understandable lack of patience, gradually calm down and allow his real core to shine through. He began to have fun with the kids and feel like a child again.
Sometimes we have to go back in order to go forward.
The childish fun allowed everyone to enjoy training more, especially Jerico. He gradually saw that making mistakes was inevitable and instead of being shouted at, it was an opportunity to learn and get better. Jerico gradually became better and better at coaching. The kids listened more and looked up to him more and now treat him with that curious mixture of respect and cheekiness that the best youth coaches encourage.
He took the Level 2 Coaching Course and began being responsible for training sessions.
Yet Jerico couldn’t have done this alone. The path was already laid out by his friends who are now in College. Several older coaches showed him how to coach and treat the kids well. A foreign volunteer from New Zealand came alongside him and helped him have fun and believe in himself more. Now, Jerico handles two age groups at Payatas FC and he is also the head referee for the Fairplay Futsal League and not only referees the games but organises and helps teach the other young referees each week.
See Jerico by himself has the odds stacked against him. For all of us, it’s pretty much impossible to beat the odds alone. The good news is that most of the time we don’t have to. There are people who want to help us, who are willing and able, and sometimes we just need to ask.
‘When I see kids learning something new’ he says in Filipino, ‘I feel inspired. I can make a difference.’ In a community where kids are regularly looked down on, this is a big thing. Through helping others, Jerico has found he can help himself and believe in himself more.
Looking ahead, Jerico wants to gain more qualifications in coaching. He wants to take sports science at University, like Ronalyn, or maybe social work. Either way he has found his passion in helping the kids around him. Jerico also hopes to stay in the dormitory currently being built by Fairplay, thanks to the support of NIVEA and the Australia and New Zealand Association (ANZA). It’s an interesting idea as the older kids will have more independence while also giving back to the younger students and earning their support too.
No-one gets anywhere by themselves and no-one beats the odds alone. Everyone needs that support system. It’s not just in one area either… Jerico needed to play, to have responsibility, financial support, academic support, and to mature emotionally and socially. This is why we work in each area of our support, holistic mentoring, as we know that to beat the odds we need to level the playing field. That’s what we hope to provide and that’s what Jerico is now part of providing for our kids in Payatas too.
That’s the greatest success story for us – as we help one of our students, they in turn help more. And little by little, we change the odds.