This week I am in the Philippines for an Urban CHE TOT1 followed by our annual South-East Asia and Pacific CHE Network Conference.

Much of my experience to date has been with the poor in rural communities but the first two days were spent examining various theories on the causes of poverty, the different types of poverty and the realities of life for the urban disadvantaged population. Unlike the rural population, urban neighbourhoods are often a complex mix of many different ethnic groups that are highly unskilled, often transient with little access to steady work. They lack green space, playgrounds, space to grow even a few vegetables and never experience the peace and beauty of nature.

They are often not from the city and hope to eventually return home, yet find themselves living in very crowded conditions, with many sharing one small space that lacks clean water and sanitation. With limited access to city services they face many health problems, have a high birth rate, and experience mental illness, drug and alcohol addictions often forcing them into a life of prostitution and crime. Inspite of all of these tremendous struggles, the poor build strong bonds as they tend to be very relational and they have many skills that enable them to survive and even thrive.

It is clear that a very different strategy is needed in order to reach out to those who are dwelling in urban slums and that is what we are here to learn.