One community in the Philippines banded together to transform their neighborhood so successfully that even their city's government took notice.
Block 38 is a lively, urban-poor community located in Mandaluyong City. The neighborhood is congested with more than 16,000 citizens crowded into narrow lanes and small houses.
Crooked alleyways are crammed with sari-sari stories, food stalls and packs of children running between pedestrian traffic.
One of the community’s major challenges was sanitation. Litter and dog poop choked whole sections of the streets. Some residents faithfully cleaned their areas early in the morning; but it was difficult, if not outright impossible, to keep stray animals away and people passing by from littering.
“Some streets were so dirty and smelly that you wanted to avoid them altogether,” a local team member reported.
To make matters worse, the trash quickly clogged drainage grates and caused the area to flood during the wet season’s torrential storms where the city can receive over 12 inches of rain in a single day.
Creating Healthy Competition
In October 2019, the two block leaders worked together with World Challenge partners to call for community meetings. They used these to address this issue of sanitation and flooding.
More than 50 people showed up, and their unhappiness with the community’s problems as a result of the garbage resounded in both meetings. Together they agreed to a project: The Block 38 Cleanliness Contest.
Neighbors would group together, choose their own leader and take charge of cleanliness of their section in the block. Twenty-two groups with a total of 196 families participated. They were not only responsible for cleaning their area but also with maintain it until the end of the contest. The contest kicked off with a parade through the whole neighborhood to raise awareness and encourage accountability.
Mothers took turns cleaning their sections during the day. Fathers joined in after they returned from work, some saying that they always cleaned anyway.
Each week, judges inspected the different areas, and the result was announced two months later. The idea was to encourage them to keep cleaning the community even after the contest ended.
World Challenge’s local partners and trainers met with the Barangay Chairman of the district who was very happy with the project. He offered to send one of his administrators with the trainers to help judge the contest.
Catching People’s Attention
At the award ceremony, contest participants brought food to share with their neighbors, and the entire event became a community party. The Barangay council was present in the ceremony, and the contest winners received a cash prize for their hard work.
The collective work and community potluck were a great encouragement for those who participated. Many felt this was a step toward making their neighborhood a model of cleanliness for other communities in the Barangay. When the city’s Vice Mayor heard what had happened, he donated t-shirts to the people who were on the committee for this contest to congratulate them for their efforts to improve the neighborhood.
In a country where many people are nominally Christian or Catholic, acts of love and service like this are what truly catch people’s attention and make them interested in hearing more about a real relationship with Christ.