Photo: Keith Blundy

Vicar’s daughter inspires churches with street children work

A remarkable vicar’s daughter from the Anglican Diocese of Durham is being supported by churches across the North East in her work to transform children’s lives in a slum area of the Philippines.

Naomi Tomlinson is the co-founder of a charity which works to help street children in the Philippines‘ capital Manila, a task she started four years ago. Now aged 22, she began the work because she was bored when she was seventeen at a time when she was training to be a chef.

She went to Manila to help out a charity there, working to help young people in slum areas, and the experience transformed her life.

She said: “I was brought up helping others and training to be a chef was not doing it any more for me. I was not helping others and it was not calling me. When I went to the Philippines that first time I visited the street children and we met a family and the mother asked me to hold her six-week-old baby. As I held the baby I looked round and saw the life that lay ahead for the baby, drugs, poverty, and for me it was a key moment.”

Wholly unpaid, she now runs a drop-in centre in the Payatas, an area the size of a small city that is home to thousands of impoverished Filipino families. Most of the children work in the garbage industry, often from the early hours of the morning, scavenging for survival. Payatas, ironically, means Paradise.

Naomi works seven days a week helping improve their lives and regards the dumps as home and the street children as her life for the foreseeable future.

Her father is the Revd David Tomlinson, who is vicar of St John’s, in Shildon, in the Durham Diocese, which supported her when she created her Triple E charity to help the street children. David is the secretary of the charity, which is now known as Fairplay for All, and includes a football scheme and a drop-in centre based in a derelict building that Naomi and her fellow workers refurbished it, and which has become a focal point for 170 plus children every day.

Naomi is the Director of the charity, which she co-founded with Roy Moore, its Executive Director, who began its football schemes.

She said: “Previously, we were in a rented building which had rats and cockroaches. If you got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom you had to stop half way down the stairs and put the light on and wait for all the rats to run away. The city was also hit by heavy rains during a typhoon and we had snakes coming into the building. The new building is much better.”

Employing five staff, the charity offers lessons in English, maths and science, nutrition, personal hygiene and behaviour. It also provides vegetarian food – Naomi’s the chief cook - and has opened a small health food shop, has a library and study area and an urban garden.

Ray Moore, the charity’s co-director, runs football courses for boys and girls, broadening horizons physically and socially, and next year they’ll be sending a team to the Street Child World Championship, in Brazil.

Naomi said: “I have always wanted to help the street people. We have achieved a heck of a lot since we established the charity. I love the work and see my future being in Payatas for the foreseeable future.”

Churches of all denominations in County Durham have supported the initiative, including raising funds and providing money collected at funerals as well as supplying volunteers to do work in Payatas.

David said: “Naomi has always had a strong sense of social justice and I remember her coming home one day and saying to me ‘I knew I was lucky but did not realise how ridiculously lucky I was. Naomi has inspired people.”

Naomi returns to the Philippines in mid-September after a holiday with her family. The charity marks its third birthday next February, an occasion for which she hopes her parents will visit.

Information on the charity can be obtained from the Rev David Tomlinson, St John’s Vicarage, 1A Burnie Gardens, Shildon, County Durham, DL4 1ND. Tel: 01388- 778998. He’ll take shirt orders, too. Further information on

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