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Garbage Dump Philanthropist Helps Thousands in Philippines Escape Poverty

  • Jennifer Glasse

When Briton Jane Walker first saw children rummaging through trash heaps while on a trip to the Philippines in 1996, she decided to do something about it. As we hear in this week's Making a Difference report.

When Jane Walker first saw children scraping through tons of rotting garbage on the outskirts of the Philippine capital, she says she saw hopelessness.

"The families live on a day-to-day basis. Nothing is about the future; everything is about just finding food for this day," she said, "And that is a dreadful way to live when you think that that's the way they have to live for the rest of their lives."

But Walker says she also saw people of honor who deserve a better future.

"They don't have many options when they haven't had an education. It's either the sex industry or crime or begging, and this particular group of people who work on dump sites, have chosen it because they consider it to be the most honorable thing that they can do as a way of sustaining their family," Walker said, "and it is most definitely the hardest job I've ever done."

Jane Walker picked through Manila's garbage herself to earn people's trust. She established a daycare center for the children there and worked four jobs at home in London to keep it going.

Today, Walker's charity, The Philippine Community Fund, or PCF, provides schooling for needy children as well as food, health care and other programs.

"We run a lot of out of school programs for our children like ballet; we have choir; we have dance groups, camera clubs, book clubs. We have PCF United soccer games. And all these things are increasing and the needs of the children are growing as they become older, so our budget is never static. It's always growing," Walker said.

Walker's organization also teaches job skills to local adults. Widows and those physically unable to comb through the dump, recycle discarded materials into aprons and handbags that help support families and the Philippine Community Fund. Meanwhile, Walker says, their children attend school.

Her philanthropy has earned her recognition from the Queen of England. But Walker calls her work a team effort.

"All we do is we make it possible for them to change their own futures. That's all we do," she said, "They're the ones who do all the hard work; they're the ones who come in to school every day, they're the ones who study hard every day. The parents are the ones who sacrifice, so their older children who could be earning money for them come to school. I mean, they're the real stars. They're the real beautiful, amazing people."

Jane Walker lives in the Philippines now and her efforts touch the lives of some 20,000 people each year.

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