Life in London for a thirty-something usually revolves around juggling nights in Hoxton with getting up for work on time.
Not for Simon Lewis.
This guy gave it all up last year to help underprivileged kids living in extreme poverty – without even planning to.
While travelling on a six-month trip of a lifetime through the Philippines, Simon accidentally took a wrong turn and found himself in the slums of Tondo, Manila.
The area is said to be one of the worst slums in the country, existing of temporary housing units constructed on a dumpsite surrounded by rats and open sewers.
Speaking about stumbling into Tondo, Simon says he was left speechless.
He said: “When I first walked in, I could not believe my eyes.
“I saw young kids running barefoot on this rubbish dumpsite. Kids from two-years-old to 10, half-naked, dirty.
“It was there and then that I knew I had to stay longer so that I could make a difference.”
And while many would have turned back, Simon felt the urge to remain.
Simon explained the children run around on mountains of rubbish to scavenge through the dumped bags for food to eat and metal to earn money from for their family by collecting screws and wire in the hopes of making £1 for the day to buy some rice.
It is typical for families of 15 children to live in one small room with no beds, electricity or fresh water, and often the ’houses’ are stacked on top of each other with little space.
The kids can be seen roaming the streets at 2am waiting for lorries to dump more bags where they can be seen running to them and ripping them open to search for recycling materials to sell as well as for food to eat. Meanwhile, those who don’t have homes sleep on the roadside of a busy motorway.
Over time, Simon took a small group of children under his wing and began to feed them two meals each day. He also started teaching martial arts classes to both boys and girls.
Having had help from the beginning by the Purple Community Fund, a charity in Tondo founded by fellow UK resident Jane Walker, Simon had all the support he needed on his journey.
Jane had been equally moved on her first visit in 1996, embarking on a mission to help break the cycle of poverty through education by building the world’s first school out of recycled shipping container vans and transforming the lives of thousands of families.
Now, Simon continues to fly that beacon of hope and is searching for new ways to inspire the children to reach their full potential with self-sustaining aid and education.
In particular, he has discovered a machine that can turn plastic to oil, with the hope of building a plant in the area to not only clean up the plastic, but also supply jobs.
He has also found a derelict building, which he hopes to create into a community centre, complete with school and martial arts centre.
Simon said: “It’s so easy to think our problems are the biggest, they feel like it in our reality. But when you experience someone else’s reality, your views change.”
To donate to the mission, click here: Simon Lewis.