People may wonder whether it’s discouraging to see the amount of hunger and poverty we often see in our work. With chronic malnutrition touching 1 in 4 children around the world, isn’t it easy to lose hope?
Definitely not. In fact, the people we serve are our heroes.
Consider Jennilyn and her family. Jennilyn lives in a cramped concrete house in an urban slum in the Philippines with her five siblings, her mother and father. To get to their house, visitors must travel down a network of dark, crowded alleys where people sit, sleep, cook, wash clothes, feed their animals, and do domestic chores right in the open.
Jennilyn’s father is the main source of income—he drives a trisikad (bicycle with sidecar) and does odd jobs for their daily sustenance. He tries to make at least 300 pesos a day so there’s food on the table, and so the five school-aged children can attend school. Jennilyn’s parents know education is absolutely essential so their kids can have a better standard of living. “I try my best to provide for my family,” he says. “I want all my children to finish school. So, I do all kinds of work, including cleaning the canals just to earn money for them.”
The whole family finds ways to make life work. In fact, their resourcefulness is amazing. With five daughters—the son is 19 and married, though still living at home—there’s a lot of swapping of clothes and sharing of school supplies. The house is chaotic with so many young ones around, but their parents keep a close eye on them—their neighborhood isn’t the safest. When the children were younger, the parents would rent out the room on the second floor. Now that they’re older, the girls sleep in that room.
Jennilyn’s mother will sometimes make sweets that Jennilyn sells to classmates for a peso each. If she sells 100 pesos’ worth, she gets to keep 20 pesos for herself. She doesn’t always make the 100-peso mark. But over time, she’s learning the value of money and able to save for herself. She loves computers, and while the family can’t afford one, she uses some of her earnings to rent time on a computer in the neighborhood—5 minutes per peso.
Jennilyn has had a Feed the Children sponsor for about six years. Since that time, she’s been provided with school supplies, school uniforms, shoes, and bags. In the Philippines, we call our sponsored children “scholars,” for that’s what they are—young people who are determined to succeed and make a better life. Thanks to the support of her sponsor, “I feel motivated to go to school,”Jennilyn says.
At a Children’s Month Celebration not long ago, scholars like Jennilyn received special training from employees of the Central Bank in the Philippines, who lectured on “Understanding Money.”We’ve also introduced a community savings program whereby families can pool their resources and learn the value of saving money and investing in their communities.
Jennilyn likes participating in the program, particularly Children’s Month. “Not only did we have fun, we also learned many things. I also like the savings program because it teaches us to make savings so we have something to look forward to. The shoes, school uniform and school supplies also help me a lot.”
For his part, Jennilyn’s father gets a lot out of giving back to his community through Feed the Children, such as repacking relief supplies for distribution following Typhoon Yolanda. “Participating in Feed the Children activities awakens the spirit of volunteerism in me. I like to help in whatever way I can. My wife and I have become community leaders because of the activities that we participate in. Our dream is for all our children to finish school so they will have a better future.”
That’s Jennilyn’s ultimate goal too—she dreams of finishing college and having a career. We have no doubt she can do it—she has a supportive family, a sponsor who’s determined to stand by her, and the motivation and drive to work hard and make it happen.
We’re proud that some 11,500 children are sponsored through Feed the Children. You can join their number today.