When I visited Cebu last year for my first time with PokerNews, one of my best friends, Emily, had been on an aid-mission throughout the Philippines with an organisation called Kadasig Aid and Development. I was moved to tears after hearing about the orphanages and hospitals in which she had been working. The very next day, I registered to sponsor a child, Bret, through the same organisation for $250 per year.
This annual sponsorship allows him to go to school, receive family assistance, and participate in development programs to open up the opportunities that he deserves.
This year, when I knew I was returning to Cebu once again on the Asia Pacific Poke Tour, I was eager to set up a meeting with the center so I could visit Bret’s village.
The first day I arrived, another dear friend, Kirsty, came with me on the 45 minute journey to Tisa, Cebu City. The social workers at the Kadasig Aid center proudly told us all about what they do, where the money goes, and the success stories of the sponsored children and their families. After an hour at the center, we hopped in Kadasig’s very own Jeepney, which was donated by a sponsor to help the social workers drive around supplies, food, and to use as a mode of transport for the children.
When we pulled up to Bret’s village of Langub, I was overwhelmed. The entire community had come out for this “event”. There was music playing, and kids dancing as they waited, and they even made a sign to welcome us. I really had no idea what to expect, but whatever I was imagining, this was far from it. I was speechless.
Bret and his mother, Gina, took us to their home – a tiny little shack with a superman sheet hanging in one corner to divide off Bret’s room, and a Strawberry Cupcake sheet to divide off the other corner for his sister, Giniza. We sat in their hut eating bananas and drinking coconuts, while all the mothers and children in the village hovered outside the door to watch.
Bret wrote a letter about all the opportunities he’s had over recent months with Kadasig and stood up and read it out to the group – obviously this was the point that I couldn’t hold back my tears.
We were taken on a tour of the village, and shown Gina’s home that she’s been building for two years. Every tiny piece of left over money she makes selling fish at the market goes to building this home. I asked how much it would cost to finish but they were unsure. They gave me an example cost of finishing the floor… $75 USD.
I had been anxious preparing for this visit. I was in the counter for work, staying at the five-star Shangri-La Mactan Resort, and was petrified that I would return to the resort sick with guilt about staying in such luxury after seeing how Bret lived.
Instead, I had quite the opposite experience. An awakening.
Returning back to the luxury was depressing in a different way. Seeing all the closed doors, the isolation, standing side by side with another human being in the confined cell of a elevator with not a single acknowledgement from the stranger sharing the space with me.
Western society may be financially wealthy, but in general, we are deprived of of many other riches that money could never buy.
The Filipino kids run around together with freedom. The mothers are outside all day going about their daily housekeeping tasks together, supporting each other. Despite these families living in such poor conditions, seeing how happy the children were and the loving sense of community, was eye-opening. It was foreign to me.
We could all take a leaf out of each other’s books to find that peaceful balance. While I went there to support Bret, he helped me immensely in return.
It is amazing how much of a difference just $250 can make for a family, and the entire community. If you would like to sponsor a child, or even purchase a hamper for a needy family at Christmas time, then please visit Kadasig’s website for more information.