Living with poverty

UPLIFTING TRIP: Amy Pollok spent 10 days in the Philippines to learn more about the work done by charities helping people out of poverty.
UPLIFTING TRIP: Amy Pollok spent 10 days in the Philippines to learn more about the work done by charities helping people out of poverty.

Amy Pollok landed in the Philippines a week after Typhoon Haiyan and was expecting to find a lot of victims needing plenty of help.

Instead she found people who'd been left with very little working tirelessly for those who had nothing.

The 22-year-old Remuera student travelled to the Philippines after completing the Live Below the Line challenge.

Participants survived for a week on just $2.25 a day to raise money for charity.

Miss Pollok topped the fundraising table for TEAR Fund with $3500 and was invited to the Philippines to see how the proceeds are put to use.

The trip was also an opportunity to see what those who live in real, fulltime poverty are struggling against and she worked with two organisations, Green Minds and Compassion, during her stay.

Green Minds is a small outfit working in the south of the country to help remote communities in Mindanao improve their farming practices beyond subsistence.

Compassion is a child sponsorship organisation.

Miss Pollok spent time in Manila before heading into the remote rural area of Mindanao.

"We went about a week after Typhoon Haiyan and it was amazing to see the Filipino people banding together to support each other in such a crisis.

"We hadn't planned on visiting any typhoon-struck areas but the impact the disaster had on the whole country was really interesting.

"People who we would consider to have nothing at all were finding ways to send help to their fellow citizens," she says.

The extreme poverty in some areas was hard to see but also provided Miss Pollok with inspiration to continue her fundraising and awareness raising efforts.

The sounds of poverty - crying and arguing - were constant but so were the sounds of laughter and play.

It just depends what you listen for, she says.

"The slums are really hard to prepare for.

"They're often filthy, stink so badly you dry-retch your way through the alleys.

"It's not easy to see the sickness and starvation of entire families when you're going back to your hostel with a roof over your head and running water.

"But kids are kids everywhere. We hung out with heaps of children playing basketball, cards and tag."

She says the work of charities and sponsorship is evident.

"There's an amazing sense of community in a lot of these places and I was blown away by the differences between families who have sponsored kids and families who don't.

"There's so much hope and it was amazing to see such big dreams in such small places.

"I felt really privileged to meet a lot of the kids, and so inspired by their attitudes to life, in spite of their circumstances."


Tear Fund is fighting the trafficking of women and children for the sex trade.

Amy Pollok got a first hand account of the problem in the city of Cagayan de Oro.

"Tricia (the only other woman on the trip) and I went with Rose from Green Minds to the red light district. Joe, our driver, offered a young prostitute twice her hourly rate to come and chat to us in our van.

"Rose translated and I got to hear the story of a girl my age, who had been working for a family as a nanny and was sexually assaulted by her boss.

"They fired her, her family disowned her and she has been living on the streets for five years. She's my age. That means as long as I've been at university, she's been selling her body and sleeping under a bridge.

"On bad nights, she doesn't have enough money to use the public restrooms. She wants to be a flight attendant and there are no services that can help her. It just hit me that after nine days of seeing incredible stories of success and change, there is still enormous need for aid and services to help lift people out of poverty."

East And Bays Courier