Posts Tagged ‘Student Sponsorship’
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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Last year was Regina’s first year in the Sponsorship Program. It was my first meeting with her that I wrote about (you can search the archives for the blog). She is finishing her 3rd year of high school and I’m happy to report she is doing great! What a joy for me to have her run and give me a big hug when I arrived at her home. Her aunt was proud to have me see her report card…which was very impressive.
Although she is still very shy, she is starting to blossom in so many ways. Thanks to her sponsor back in the U.S. we were able to again take her out and get some things she needed, including new black shoes for school and more school supplies. This time, instead of the girl who felt she didn’t deserve to receive anything, she was excited and we had a great time shopping and having dinner, along with the local staff here.
During our visit, we discovered that Regina does not have a birth certificate….no legal papers at all. She was born at home, and if you read her story you’ll know how she was abandoned to live with her aunt. This is a problem, especially since this coming school year is her 4th year and she will have to begin the application process for college, without her birth certificate she will not be able to apply. So, we discussed the situation with her aunt and she is willing to take her to the area where she was born and do the paper work to get her birth certificate. She was worried about the cost of travel and filing fees. We asked her how much it would take…..about $30…..we will take care of that!
This is just another confirmation on the importance of regular visits. Just sending money to help a child is not enough. It’s so important to build relationships with these children and their families, it’s what I’ve been doing for more than 20 years, and I’m more passionate about it now than ever.
But, of course, without Regina’s sponsor in the U.S. we would not be able to help her. I can’t stress enough the need and how important sponsorship is for these kids. Again, I ask you to consider becoming a sponsor and help another Regina Grace pursue her dreams!
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I’m so impressed with the college students that are in the sponsorship program here in Manila. On their own initiative along with the sponsorship staff and a core group of former students (who are now working professionals),they began a project of their own to reach out to children 4 – 14 years old in a nearby squatter area. They taught songs, performed skits and fed over 60 children.
Remember, these students are in the population considered the poorest of the poor, yet they see the value in giving to others. They took the time to plan, practice and cook enough food for over 60 children.
One of my biggest struggles when I return to the U.S. is dealing with the “victim” mentality that is so prevalent in our culture. People have no idea how good they have it. All of these students suffer hardship that can’t be compared to anything in the states, yet they look outside of themselves and reach out to others who are even worse off then they are.
What better mentors could these 4-14 year old children have then these outstanding examples. Their character and giving hearts are inspirational to me, I am honored to know them. They are here because someone reached out for them and is sponsoring their education. It really makes a difference. Would you consider being a part of inspiring another student like these? Please join us. The need is great, there are many students without sponsors.
This week most of my time is being spent visiting as many of our sponsored student as I can. This task sounds easy, but in fact it can be quite exhausting.
The majority of our kids live in a housing area called “permanent housing” which came into being a number of years ago as a result of a government relocation project that relocated the almost 30,000 people living in the “Smokey Mountain” garbage dump. The residents here, however, prefer to call it “Paradise Hills”. I can assure you, it’s not really a paradise. The buildings are 5 stories and sometimes you climb 5 stories only to find out the family doesn’t live there anymore….then you have to figure out where they actually are. Visiting 3 students could take you the whole day!
This is one of my favorite aspects of what I do here. I love visiting the families, going to their homes. I enjoy the interaction with the people as they see this white guy walking in their neighborhood. One girl came up to me yesterday just to say, “wow…you’re so white!”. Being here really helps me understand the daily struggles that are so foreign to us in the West. It gives me the opportunity to meet specific needs that are above and beyond the sponsorship…..it’s an honor for me to be here and to know these people.
I’m thankful for our sponsors who I represent when I’m here. One in particular gave me extra money for the family of their student. When I went to visit I discovered that the family is a single mother with 3 children who, because the ex-husband only provides her with 250 Pisos per month (about $5), she lives in her parents unit….10 people all together in a space smaller than many master bedrooms in the U.S.
We will schedule a time to take her shopping for food and whatever else the family needs.
This is the value of being here. They are not just a list of names on a paper, or a picture we post on our website, these are real people who are hurting and struggling for their daily existence. I am so fortunate to be a part in bringing whatever help we can to as many as we can. The needs are great and many. There are about 100 students in the program that still do not have sponsors. I would ask you to please consider joining us!
Thanks for reading. I will update you soon.