Today we got the news that the mother of one of our college students passed away. She had been sick for a while with leukemia, she was only 40 years old. Our student, Vanessa is the oldest of 3 children. Being the oldest here brings a lot of responsibility. I haven’t been able to see her because the family had taken the mother to the “province” to get her out of the city. We’re hoping we can help in some way.
Since I’ve been here have been 5 deaths that have touched us here in some way. One of the staff lost an aunt and a 7 year old cousin hit by a bus, another student’s grandmother, Vanessa’s mother and the other day when I was visiting in the permanent housing, a little girl was killed by a truck……
I know this is not the most joyous blog you’ll ever read, but the reality is, death is very prevalent here and it seems age is not a determining factor. So they deal with death on a regular basis. As if the daily struggle here wasn’t enough, you have to keep moving on in the face of so much tragedy.
I guess blogging is a way of venting…..but the truth is….life really is short. Let’s make a difference with each day we’re given!
Here is a picture of Vanessa. When you think of her, say a prayer for her and her family……thank you!
This week, many hours have been spent interviewing potential elementary and high school students for the sponsorship program. The room has been filled with parents, students and brothers and sisters. With so many in need here it’s hard to decide who should qualify. During the interviews I observed a 12 year old who will be entering grade 7. She came with her father, who is older than most of the parents, but also looks a lot older than he is. I noticed her leading him around and telling him what to do, it looked like she was the parent and he was the child.
Looking over her report card there were a lot of absences and her grades were on the low side….79.9%….which compared to most of the students is low. But there was something about her that struck me. Just by looking at her, you could see hardship and struggle. Her clothes, her mannerism and the way she seemed to be caretaker for her father. My heart really went out to her, I really wanted to help her.
After the long day of interviewing, the staff started to evaluate the applications and when they came to her they called me in because they knew I had mentioned her. I shared my thoughts and suggested that it was her environment that was mostly contributing to her poor performance and maybe all she needed was the encouragement from other students and staff in the program.
Today as I was doing my visiting I stopped in to see how the other interviews were going. As I was preparing to leave, this girl showed up with her dad. They wanted to check and see if she would be included in the sponsorship program. I called one of the staff and said, “let’s talk to them”. So we asked if we could go to their home and visit for a while.
We arrived at building 16 unit 317. Compared to other units, it’s really in poor condition. Elena, the young girl, is the youngest with 4 older brothers. We asked a lot of questions about their life and why she had so many absences, trying to discern the situation. The longer I was there, the stronger my desire to help her. She said she would be diligent in her studies and the father said he would make sure she attended the high school meetings. As we talked on the way back the word “gamble” came up. Maybe it is a gamble to help Elena, but it’s a risk I’m willing to help, I’m willing to “gamble” on Elena and give her a chance! So, she will be sponsored for a year and we’ll see if the help and encouragement she’ll receive will make a difference……I’m betting it will!
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Over the past couple of days I’ve been visiting our students and interviewing new first year college students. It’s been great to spend time with them. So many of them make you laugh and are great fun. But it doesn’t take long to see the reality of where these kids live and what they face everyday.
Today I spent time with one of our sponsored college students, Ana Marie. After getting through the surface type conversation, the harsh reality of her life began to appear.
Ana Marie lives with her family in a squatter setting on the side of one of the housing units. Her father is an alcoholic and unfortunately has caused some major problems in the community. The problems are so bad that there are now death threats against the whole family. Here in this community, a death threat is serious. Ana Marie said she stays in the house at night crippled by fear. I confess to feeling at a loss listening to her and watching the tears roll down her face. “A nice shy young lady should not have to go through this”, I thought to myself. But that’s the reality of what we’re dealing with here. None of them should have to face this kind of life, but they do.
I was encouraged by this quote by Mother Teresa, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”. As I walk through this community I look around and feel like I’m just a drop in the ocean of need that I’m surrounded by. My hope is that there will be a little less because of what we’re doing.
When you think of Ana Marie and the children of Smokey Mountain, say a prayer and ask what you might be able to do to be a drop of much needed water in this ocean of need.
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Well this is my first day in Manila and it’s already been quite an adventure. I arrived last night around 9:45PM. The flight was on time, the service was good (I recommend Korean Air!)….no problems.
After breezing through immigration and getting my bags I took my iphone out to text my dear friend Paul Ariaga who was waiting for me. As it turned out the text didn’t go through and he was there waiting for me. We got into one of the metered yellow cabs (highly recommended) and off we went…..
Well, instead of putting the phone back in my bag, in the perfectly designed pocket that has a velcro cover, I put it in my pocket.
When I got to my room and began unpacking, a sudden wave of panic came over me when I realized my phone was no where in site. I searched everywhere, even went outside and looked all over, only to realize that it had slipped out of my pocket and was in the back seat of the cab, probably on Roxas Blvd by now.
I was beginning to really stress….I thought of all those contacts, emails that were now going to be in the hands of who knows who….in Manila of all places. I jumped on my computer in hopes of finding someone online to help me track the phone. My friend Derek was on and he tried the “Find My Iphone” app, but of course it just reported it offline……uuuugggghhh!
Well, after a bit of time beating myself up, I fell asleep. This morning we figured we would give it a shot and call to try and track it down. The interesting thing was, our cab driver was one of only 3 female drivers in Manila, so we knew we could track her down. We told them all the information and they said they would do their best….
Amazingly, about 3 hours later they called…..”We have your phone”…….unbelievable!! A miracle? Well, I think so……you decide!
So, it’s just been day one and already it’s been quite exciting. I’m looking forward to the next 4 weeks. I will do my best to keep my human error from causing more stress!
Thank you for reading. Please continue to follow and thank you all for your support.