Former cop walks 15,000 km to assist Filipino youngsters

His t-shirt had the phrases “Kuya Thom goes residence. Strolling 15,000 km to present youngsters a house” printed on it.

In keeping with Thomas, his journey shouldn’t be for journey or document breaking.

Thomas is strolling for Filipino youngsters whose lives rely upon landfill websites. These youngsters at the moment are being harassed and handled with violence.

The Swiss is the founding father of the charity organisation Island Children Philippines (IKP), primarily based within the metropolis of Cagayan de Oro, the Philippines. Two years in the past, he began this 15,000-kilometre journey with the goal of elevating funds to construct faculties for Filipino youngsters.

The now 41-year-old Thomas Kellenberger (right) and his companion on a part of his Kuya Thom goes home journey, at the private house of the Ambassador of Switzerland to Vietnam, on March 22. Photo: VnExpress/Phan Duong.

The now 41-year-old Thomas Kellenberger (proper) and his companion on part of his “Kuya Thom goes residence” journey, on the personal home of the Ambassador of Switzerland to Vietnam, on March 22, 2023. Picture by VnExpress/Phan Duong.

Along with his Swiss hometown Intelaken as the place to begin, Thomas has handed via varied deserts and mountains in 22 totally different nations since August 25, 2021. Vietnam is his final vacation spot earlier than he flies to the Philippines to finish his journey this Might.

Thomas famous that it had not at all times been attainable for him to stroll, attributable to water obstacles and safety conditions in some nations. However the adventure-loving man has nonetheless typically chosen tough paths, whether or not it was deserts in Kazakhstan and Pakistan, or a path via 5,000-metre-high mountains in Nepal. One of many hardest elements of his journey was when he was stung by wasps whereas passing via the mountains in Nice Himalayan Nationwide Park.

“The irony is that though I survived all of these harmful locations, I nearly died strolling down an bizarre avenue when a rock fell down from above,” he stated.

Loneliness was a factor that Thomas needed to cope with throughout his journey. Typically he had companions, however for almost all of the journey, he was on their own. Particularly in distant areas. He didn’t even see any human beings for eight consecutive days when he was in Ladakh, India. He additionally suffered from meals poisoning, diarrhoea, and fever thrice.

“My survival equipment included chloramine B to deal with consuming water, a conveyable kitchen, a tent, and an air-mattress,” he stated.

Nonetheless, slightly than bodily challenges and instances when he was threatened and kidnapped by felony gangs, messy visitors and extreme air pollution conditions in India and Bangladesh had been the issues that scared him probably the most.

I didn’t hesitate for even one second as a result of I didn’t begin the journey as a result of I needed to interrupt anybody’s document. Nor did I do that to transcend my very own limits. It was just because there have been youngsters ready for me at my remaining vacation spot.”

Thomas in Manali, the state of Himachal Pradesh, India, in October 2022. Photo courtesy of Thomas.

Thomas in Manali, the state of Himachal Pradesh, India, in October 2022. Picture courtesy of Thomas

The person who comes from one of many richest nations on this planet occurred to be launched to the Philippines 15 years in the past. He visited the Southeast Asian nation upon an invite from a good friend, anticipating to discover the islands and go sea diving. Nonetheless, he was extra impressed when he noticed poor youngsters wandering on the streets and making their livings at landfills.

“That was not even the worst. There was one other time whereas having dinner by the ocean, somebody approached and requested if I used to be focused on youngster prostitution. I used to be shocked,” Kellenberger remembers.

That second was when the 25-year-old (on the time) police officer knew he couldn’t stand nonetheless. Throughout that journey, he and his good friend rescued 4 youngsters and acquired them to secure locations. After going again to Switzerland, he began to boost funds. He then give up his job to deal with his new calling. Many tried to stop him from doing so, aside from his mom Ruth Kellenberger.

The mom and son then grew to become the founding members of Island Children Philippines (IKP) in 2007. Over the previous years, Thomas has stayed in his “second hometown” and operated the organisation, whereas his mom has stayed in Switzerland and raised donations. Nearly all of their funds have come from Switzerland and Germany.

Thomas said that serving to the kids harmed by trafficking, violence, and abuse was not straightforward. He stated that lots of the culprits had been, for many of half, the victimized youngsters’s family members, or folks of energy and wealth.

Amongst roughly 1,500 victims helped by his organisation, there’s at the very least one case that break Thomas’ coronary heart each time he remembers it.

It was a 10-year-old lady who was offered to a brothel and was rescued 4 yr later. She was despatched to a secure village constructed by Thomas with plenty of bodily wounds and a damaged soul. It was IKP that introduced her help and lit her interior perception once more. Social psychological specialists and different folks joined the power to assist her heal.

There was one other case, during which a baby was abused by a determine of energy and wealth. IKP supported the kid’s household and introduced the case to court docket. Nonetheless, the plaintiff’s lawyer and the decide had been bribed, and the kid misplaced the case. So, Thomas says, there are positively instances when the battle for justice appears about to fail. However that’s by no means been an event for him to surrender.

Taking the benefit of his personal abilities as a former police officer and a Grasp of Social Actions degree-holder, Thomas efficiently collected extra very important proof and introduced the case again to trial. This time they gained, and the offender was punished.

Thomas (far right), his associates, and Filipino children at a school built by IKP in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Thomas.

Thomas (far proper), his associates, and Filipino youngsters at a college constructed by IKP within the Philippines. Picture courtesy of Thomas

In 2020, Thomas was notified that his mom was affected by the final stage of most cancers. He needed to come again to his residence nation to deal with her. His mom advised him her final want was to pay the village in Cagayan de Oro a final go to.

That final journey was extraordinarily particular, because it was not solely an opportunity for Thomas to indicate gratitude to his mom after a very long time dwelling removed from her, but additionally an event when Ruth might see together with her personal eyes what her son had achieved after 15 years. Two faculties, with 12 courses, had been constructed, and hundreds of kids got the fundamental rights. “My mother was proud after the journey,” Thomas shared.

Regardless of these plain achievements, youngster trafficking and prostitution nonetheless exist. The variety of youngsters in poverty stays excessive. Therefore, Thomas determined to begin his stroll for Filipino youngsters.

Presently, Thomas has completed 13,000 km and raised $US 92,000. That is nonetheless removed from his goal of $US 165,000, which he needs to make use of to construct a second secure village. He’s planning to jot down a e-book and make a documentary movie about his journey with the goal of elevating extra funds.

Throughout his journey, he additionally met lots of people accountable for working different non-governmental organisations. He formulated connections to boost public consciousness about youngster victims of abandonment, abuse, and exploitation. Many in his new community have promised to help each other in instances of emergency.

“I wandered round Hanoi and was shocked. Each Vietnam and the Philippines are in Southeast Asia. Nonetheless, I didn’t see many avenue youngsters right here, not like the Philippines. Hopefully I can communicate to the authorities in Vietnam to be taught out of your nation’s experiences,” the Swiss man stated.

The Ambassador of Switzerland to Vietnam Thomas Gass referred to as Thomas Kellenberger a “hero”. “We are able to actually be impressed by and be taught loads from what he does,” he famous.

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