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Irish street cleaner pledges help to Filipinos

DUBLIN (CNS): Mark Crosbie, a street cleaner with Dublin City Council, Ireland, recounted how his perspective on life changed forever since he spent a few days cleaning the streets of the Philippines’ densely populated capital, Metro Manila, for a television documentary, Toughest Place To Be.

Crosbie, who was filmed by a television documentary crew as he temporarily swapped his job in the Irish capital for the poverty-stricken Philippines, pledged to spend the rest of his life helping the struggling family he lived with. The 47-year-old father of two stayed with the family of a local street cleaner, Mel Macaereg, who earns US$15 ($116) a week to support himself, his wife, Merney, and their six children.

The programme was viewed by 330,000 viewers when it was screened in mid-April on RTE, Ireland’s state broadcaster, 

Since filming ended in January, Crosbie has maintained weekly contact with his host family and has set up a charity drive to raise funds for the wider community that took him in.

“The poverty I saw over there was on a level I’d never seen before and I struggled to adjust to life back in Dublin when I came back, he said, adding, “I was scarred by it, but it was a positive scar.”

Crosbie, who sweeps the cobbled streets of Dublin’s Temple Bar district for a living, said, “The people I met had literally nothing, yet they embraced me and looked after me like I was one of their own. They were probably the warmest and most generous people I’ve ever come across.

Metro Manila is home to 25 million people, four million of whom live in slums.

In the documentary, Crosbie witnessed firsthand the daily hardship faced by thousands of people. He visited a city dump, where hundreds of impoverished people spend their days searching through rubbish for items they might sell.

“I found it very hard for the first couple of weeks when I returned to work in Dublin. The things people were moaning about really didn’t seem to matter in comparison,” Crosbie said.

He said he would love to help everyone he met in the Philippines, “but obviously I can’t make things better.” He added he planned to do a sponsored climb of the holy mountain Croagh Patrick in August to raise money for the community.

“I felt very emotional when I said my goodbyes to the family and I left them everything I had brought over with me, because I felt it was the least I could do. That wasn’t shown in the documentary, but I left my possessions on the bed I’d been sleeping in—clothes, toys for the kids, biscuits, coffee and about US$450 ($3,490) in cash. I’m not looking for any credit for that, it was just the right thing to do.”

He added, “If I’d have had $10,000 with me, I’d have left them that too.” 

Crosbie concluded, “Going over there was probably the best thing I’ve ever done. It opened my eyes in a way I could never have imagined.” 

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