Archive for the ‘Philippines’ Category
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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Today I’m writing from the comfort of my home as I watch the snow and ice fall from the sky. A stark contrast from the t-shirt and shorts weather I just left in Manila. Although the trip had it’s difficulties with travel delays and some health difficulties, once again I left wishing there was more time to do more, but satisfied at what was accomplished.
Over the years people have asked the question, “wouldn’t it be better to send the money instead of traveling there?”. Well, that might be true in some cases, but for me, there is no substitute for being there. Personal contact is so important in the work we do. The best way for me to describe it is by example. In my earlier blog I shared the story of Regina Grace, one of our sponsored high school students. When I was visiting with her I found out that she had gotten ill during her exams and was not able to make the tests. Her teacher was very accommodating and told her she could make it up by doing a project instead. That was good news, except Regina did not have the money to buy the supplies she needed. I made arrangements with one of the staff to take her out to get everything she needed. On Saturday we headed out and I could see both excitement and hesitation in Regina. She told me all she really needed was a dictionary, that I didn’t need to get her any supplies. Having traveled to the Philippines for over 20 years, I know Filipinos can be “shy” about expressing their needs and I knew what she needed was more than just a dictionary. When we got to the mall we discovered this was her first trip to any mall (hard to believe at 15 years old, can you imagine an American 15 year old girl not ever going to a mall?). At the store we picked out her dictionary and I told her that I knew she needed much more than that and I wanted her to get whatever she needed, it was no problem. She fought back tears when I told her that and at first she was very hesitant, but gradually she expressed her needs and we got everything she needed. During that process I watched a shy, quiet, defeated girl blossom into an excited student who kept thanking me and hugging me through the whole shopping event. I’ll tell you, there is no substitute for that kind of interaction. I was honored to be there to help this girl as she works to trade her hopelessness into dreams.
So an afternoon of shopping turned into an unforgettable event for both Regina and me. Those are the moments I live for and that keep me going back. Those are the moments that make our trips worth it!
Thank you all for your support and encouragement! Maraming salamat!
Today I was listening to the update from the team of workers who are trying to help those infected with TB who live on the dump site. They currently have 14 people receiving the much needed medication, but many more are in need. They shared the story of visiting a young mother who is infected with TB. They told her they would provide for her the medication, but her response was “no”. They pressed her for an answer, but she didn’t have one, she just said “no”. It’s so hard to understand why someone would refuse help, especially when it will cost her her life, and maybe the life of her young child. This is what can really frustrate those of us who are out here trying to help people. Whether it’s ignorance, pride or hopelessness sometimes there seems to be a wall that cannot be penetrated. The reality is you can’t help everyone, but you can help someone. I have such respect for the folks here who are risking their own health going to the dump site day in and day out. I know that their presence here and the love and compassion they show to the people here will be one thing that will be able to penetrate and make a difference.
The picture above is of a boy walking through the rain to the feeding program to get his meal. It’s interesting to watch the children. Some of them will race home to share their meal with the family and others won’t leave until it’s all gone because they know they’ll have to share it.
Whether it’s the young mother who needs her medication or it’s one of the children holding on to his plate of food, I know that in this sea of poverty there are individuals with individual needs. Please join us as we reach out to these “individuals” and bring them the help they need. You can provide the TB medication to save a life for $100 per patient. Please visit www.h4cinternational.org
Thank you for reading and for your support!!