The project was conceptualized by Lars C. Jorgensen and Monica D. Ray during their first visit to the Philippines.
1999With the musical “Goldtooth” as the main element, SFI launched an international advocacy campaign promoting children’s rights. The TASK group, consisting of 17 former street children, performed for more than 20,000 people in 5 different countries. One of these performances was at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Through a very authentic performance, TASK made clear how the reality of millions of children around the world is still worlds apart from the promises of the words in the convention.
1998SFI now had a population of around 20-25 children and youth. The drama therapy, as an integral part of the development of the musical, was the overall focus and the core of the program. We hosted a Danish television crew for 2 months, making a film for Danish National Television. The film was broadcast nationwide and viewed by hundreds of thousands of children and families in Denmark and other Nordic countries. The director of the film, Katrine Nyholm, became a close friend and a staunch supporter of Stairway’s work, and later she became chairperson of Stairway Denmark from 2001-2007. “Goldtooth, A Street Children’s Musical” had two preview performances in a theatre in Manila. With an overwhelming response from audiences and partners, the foundation was laid for planning a local as well as an international tour for the musical.
1997SFI received license and accreditation from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The script and the lyrics to the songs in “Goldtooth, A Street Children’s Musical” were written, and 17 more or less hardcore children/ youth from the streets were recruited as the cast. The initial phase of this project was merely drama therapy, but as the children and the quality developed, the idea of TASK, Talented Ambitious Street Kids, was conceptualized. Over the next year and a half, the musical grew into a remarkable piece of creative advocacy. On the side of Stairway Denmark, Nich Poulsgaard took over as chairperson.
1996The activities were low during this year due to the absence of the program coordinator and the director, who spent most of the year in Denmark as the result of a serious illness.
1995For the benefit of the earthquake victims, SFI organized a major fundraising concert in Manila with the participation of some of the best musicians and artists in the country. To respond to the high prevalence of diseases in some of the victims’ relocation sites, the overhead was invested in materials for building toilets and septic tanks for 67 families. The program continued with creative workshops and camps for hundreds of children from Manila, and the rupture center was running with a population of around 8-10 children at the time. During the 3rd quarter, the activity level was negatively affected, as one of the founders came down with a serious illness leading to more than a yearlong hospitalization.
1994SFI established a formal partnership with the Baguio Arts Guild, from where we recruited young artists as facilitators for some of the many creative workshops we held. We also initiated a close partnership with a Manila based drop-in center, Tanglaw ng Kabataan (TNK), and started to operate as a rupture center for particularly disadvantaged street children, who needed to be distanced from a life-threatening street environment. In the middle of the year, we received the first external funding for the programs from DANIDA. Until then, all developments and programs were entirely financed by the founders. In that same year, SFI responded to a local natural disaster, when a strong earthquake hit Mindoro, killing about a hundred people and leaving tens of thousands homeless. Our focus was on play and art related therapeutic intervention for the many child survivors in the evacuation centers.
1993The creative camps and workshops developed further and reached more than 400 child beneficiaries over the year. Our network was expanded with another 5 Manila based street agencies, and we registered Stairway Foundation Inc. (SFI) under the Security and Exchange Commission, with Human Rights Lawyer Johannes Ignacio as chairperson. Later during the year, we founded our Danish sister organization, Stairway Denmark, with Christian Lund as the founding chairperson. We also wrote and submitted our first proposal to an international funding agency, namely the Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA).
We had our first advocacy presentations at Roedkilde Gymnasium in Denmark, which led to the school committing to officially support the Stairway Project. Around 500 students spent one or more days doing various jobs and all sorts of creative initiatives to collect money for the project. This became the beginning to a long and still ongoing partnership between Roedkilde Gymnasium and Stairway, which has raised millions of pesos over the years. The Roedkilde initiative, with the massive support from the students, was a huge inspiration and turned out to be the beginning of what later became our Youth for Change Program.
1992Development of the site continued as we formed our first local partnership with Kaibigan, a Manila based street children organization. During their first visit to Stairway, Kaibigan brought 75 children for a camp. Stairway became a resort for children and staff from our partners in Manila, where small and big people alike could have a respite from the chaos of the city and pick up inspiration and motivation for further development. With the abundant exposure to nature and a wide range of visual and performance arts activities, Stairway had already found its niche in the network of organizations working for street children.
1991Initial construction of the center with help from friends and volunteers continued. Everything was built in light materials like bamboo, coconut wood, and using straw for roofing.
1990After their first visit in 1988, the founders had saved enough capital to move to the Philippines in April 1990 to begin the construction of the center. Friend and architect Christian Lund, who spent 3 to 5 months at the center every year during the initial period, took care of the design.