“Do you hear that?”
When she was a young girl, Ruby’s mother made her painfully aware of the noise outside their home. It was night and the neighbors were fighting again. About what, one could only guess. They heard the sound of a mother shouting, followed by the cries of a child, then more shouting. The last shout was amplified by the sound of furniture hitting the concrete floor, scaring the child into a more deafening wail. Ruby’s mother held her closely. She knelt down to her level, looked her in the eye and asked:
“Do you want to stay here forever?”
Ruby didn’t know what to say nor did she understand what was going on. She only knew that it was dark now, and after an entire day of playing in the streets, it was time for her to sleep. She couldn’t understand why she was being made to listen to all these scary noises outside the supposed safety of her home. She didn’t feel safe at all.
“Please,” her mother pleaded, eyes glistening, “get out of here.”
Ruby was one of the thousands of children who experienced this environment growing up and living in Payatas. She understood from a young age that she needed to work harder than everyone else in order to survive, in order to escape the toxic environment crippling her community. There was no way she wanted to end up like most kids here—watching their parents work as scavengers in the garbage industry only to become scavengers themselves one day. She especially did not want to go down the path of several young, Payatas women either—early pregnancies, dropping out of school, and unable to escape the poverty trap. This was the reality in the world she lived in, but she did not want it to become her reality.
So Ruby made a clear plan for herself: finish school and escape Payatas.
Fast forward a few years and Ruby didn’t stray away from that plan. She became one of the top students in her school. Through grit and determination, she was able to power through those hardships and continued towards the final years of High School.
Then one morning Ruby was greeted by someone she had never met before—a Fairplay staff member collecting stories from the community for “Humans of Payatas”. She asked Ruby if it would be alright to feature her for the project. The Fairplay staff member was so moved by Ruby, who mentioned she wanted to become a teacher and was looking for some part-time work, that she invited her to apply as a part-time teacher in Fairplay’s own school.
With her mother jobless, two younger siblings, and her father out of the picture, Ruby decided to apply as a teacher just so she can earn a little for her family and for herself. What she didn’t expect was that she would receive much more.
Ruby was placed under the guidance of May, the Fairplay School’s head teacher. With May, she fostered a strong bond with the Fairplay students and learned to fall in love with the process of teaching and serving the children of her community. It was thanks to May that Ruby realized what she wanted to do—she wanted to help kids play, learn, and enjoy their childhood. She wants children not only to survive, but to live and thrive in this community.
Later, May would recommend that Ruby apply and join Fairplay’s Educational Sponsorship Program so she could obtain the financial support she needed to make it through school and accomplish her new goal.
The environment of Payatas forced Ruby to toil for her own goals and success, but the caring example set by those she worked with at Fairplay taught her to look beyond herself and understand that she could do so much for the people—especially the kids—around her. As Ruby journeys toward her new dream, the Educational Sponsorship Program helps Ruby overcome the daily struggles of a Filipino student.
Today, Ruby is still with us at the Fairplay School. As a Senior High student in her final year (and still one of the top students in her batch), she hopes to make it to a good university, and one day become a great educator or social worker. Fairplay will be supporting her all the way.