Former dumpsite scavenger, Jomel Otadora, is pursuing his dream to become a special education teacher thanks to VFV’s groundbreaking Dumpsite Project.
The 18-year-old is in the third year of his four-year-long Bachelor in Elementary Education, specialising in special education at Leyte Normal University.
Five years ago Jomel spent every weekend at the city dump — picking his way through rotting, foul-smelling and dangerous rubbish — to earn money for school excursions and food.
Until VFV’s Dumpsite Project connected Jomel with a sponsor — who provides him with food subsidies, clothing, school supplies and weekly meals — it was hard for him to imagine being able to pursue his studies.
“I am very happy to be sponsored and that they sent me to school and paid for my tuition fees,” said Jomel.
“If I hadn’t met VFV I wouldn’t be at university because my family couldn’t afford to send me to school.”
Now the special needs children of Leyte can benefit from Jomel’s passion to provide quality education.
“It is my passion to teach; I love children,” said Jomel.
“There needs to be a focus on helping children with special needs so they can move forward without discrimination.
“It is important that they feel the same as the other kids.”
Jomel is happy to have his weekends back — no longer needing to spend 8 hours sweating a the dump.
“It was not good to work there with the toxic materials and it is unsafe to be around the garbage trucks,” said Jomel.
“Now I spend my weekends at VFV’s Santo Nino community centre getting involved in the programs there.
“The Dumpsite Project is very special because it helps families send their children to school and it helps passionate students pursue their studies and their dreams.”
*Written by volunteer Emma Bailie, journalist from Australia