More than movie stars or celebrities, the sponsored children of World Vision dream about meeting their sponsors, those total strangers who took time and resources to support their education. They simply want to have the chance to say “thank you.” For some of these children, this dream has already come true. Last April 28, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan reverberated with overwhelming “thank yous” as World Vision children and their sponsors come face to face in rare moment. Called Lakbay Pag-asa, the event was part of World Vision’s Child Sponsorship program to give sponsors and children a chance to meet and know more about one another better. This may be a dream for the children but this is something the sponsors also look forward to. Elena Manabat has been sponsoring a child for 10 years. She has not been only a mere instrument in this child’s education but is already a part of the life of her sponsored child, Algie Boy Askero. “I couldn’t help but be emotional,” the teary-eyed government employee says during the occasion. “I still remember him as a little boy wearing shorts and slippers in the photos he sent me. Now, he’s all grown up and now in high school.” Manabat is just one of the 16 sponsors during this year’s Lakbay Pag-asa who met their sponsored children in Puerto Princesa for the first time. It was a day that they would never forget. BETTER FUTURE THROUGH EDUCATION For sponsor Marie Ann Dela Cruz, education is the best thing she could give to a child. In fact, she doesn’t only support one or two but 11 children! “I was looking for some organization that can course through the blessings I get. I chose World Vision because I’m closer to kids, and I know through education they will have a better future ahead,” Dela Cruz says. She started to sponsor a child in 2002 after seeing a World Vision booth in a mall. A year later, she added 10 more kids to her sponsorship, the bulk of whom are living in Puerto Princesa. “This is the first them I met them. I have one here whom I started sponsoring when he was just five years old. Now he is in fourth year high school,” the 43-year-old businesswoman shares after meeting nine of the 11 children she sponsors. “It’s so amazing to see their development through the years. One of my sponsored children is the same age as my second child, they practically grew up at the same time. For me, the little amount I give really goes a long way for these people. It’s really nice to see them especially you only see them in pictures and read them through letters.” During the event, the sponsors and children were treated with bonding activities. They also had a chance to write each other letters. One of Dela Cruz’s sponsored children, Paula Ubay, is delighted to see her sponsor in person for the first time. The 13-year-old incoming third year high school student from Barangay Sta. Lourdes in Puerto Princesa is extremely grateful. “Thank you po sa lahat, lahat.Sana hindi ka magsawa mag sponsor sa akin hanggang sa makatapos ng pag-aaral. Masaya po ako ba nakita ko na kayo,” Paula exclaims. Dela Cruz started sponsoring Paula since day care, when the latter’s parents had very little and couldn’t send her to school. The eldest among five siblings, Paula dreams of becoming a veterinarian someday, a dream that she can almost reach, thanks to her sponsor.A SMALL AMOUNT GOES A LONG WAY World Vision’s Child Sponsorship would only cost R600 a month to a sponsor or R7,200 per year. But the program doesn’t only focus on a child’s education alone but also involves healthcare, values formation, as well as benefitting a child’s family. That little amount certainly goes a long way. Bernadetta Tejada, World Vision area coordinator of Puerto Princesa City, says the organization is currently supporting more than 3,000 kids in Puerto Princesa alone. Most of these kids come from rural barangays like Siksikan, Irawan, Mangingisda, Sta. Lourdes, and Tagburos. Tejada says that the main challenge is still putting out-of-school-youths in these areas back to school again. “The cause is still mainly due to economic reasons. The dysfunctionality of family is still related economically. The parents don’t have proper jobs, which forces their children to labor also,” she explains. During Lakbay Pag-asa, the sponsors were also exposed to the communities World Vision work in, showing that their money goes a long way. During the second day of the trip, the group of sponsors went to Barangay Mangingisda, a small rural seaside community, to hear from the families of the children themselves. Instead of giving them jobs, Golden Valley, one of the area groups that carry out projects for World Vision, helps the families build their own lives through sustainable livelihood such as vegetable gardening and bag/basket weaving. One of the families that they help is the Castillo family. Three of the six children of nanay Ceres and tatay Crisanto are sponsored children. Last year, Golden Valley helped them start a small vegetable garden that helps them through their everyday living. They sell the organic produce to their neighbors. According to Crisanto, a former fisherman who now works occasionally as a plumber, the garden is a big help to their family. “Malaking tulong kasi nakakabili din kami ng bigas at nakakatulong din sa mga projects sa school, mga baon nila. Nakakabenta talaga kami ng gulay namin, meron kaming sitaw, talong, okra, upo, at kalabasa. Nagpapasalamat talaga kami kasi ang laking tulong talaga nila sa amin. Pinapanalangin naming na sana tuloy tuloy ang suporta nila.,” Ceres shares. On the other hand for Sally Nugas, who was trained by Golden Valley in basket/bag weaving, the small income she gets from making native woven pandan bags is a big help to their financial needs especially because her husband, a contractual government employee, receives a measly R4,000 a month. “Sa isang linggo, lima ang natatapos ko. May kumukuha talaga dito para ibenta sa city. Tumutulong din naman mga anak ko. Pero malaking tulong na yun sa gastusin dito sa bahay,” Sally shares. “Sa sponsor, sobrang thank you dahil tinulungan niyo ko makapag aral dahil sa hirap ng ng buhay. Naging inspirasyon ko sa pag-aaral ko ang pagtulong niyo sa akin. Isa kayo sa mga taong gusto kong ialay ang mga awards ko kasi isa kayo sa taong nakatulong sa akin,” says April Rose Nugas, Sally’s daughter and a World Vision scholar. Beauty queen and World Vision ambassador Miriam Quiambao was present during the sponsors’ community visit. She herself sponsors 10 kids and her very first sponsored child was also from Palawan. “It broke my heart to see their situation during the first time I went here. And I realized that there are a lot of kids that need help in terms of education and their family needs help in terms of livelihood. I’m just grateful to be part of this,” she says. Although World Vision has worked with many communities in the country and has helped send thousands of kids back to school, there are still children that need help. “Para sa akin isang malaking prebilehiyo ang makatulong sa kapwa ko na isang malaking blessing sa akin na nabibigyan ako ng resources para makatulong sa ibang tao as little as I can. I’m just so grateful that I’m a part of this great project, this vision. I know that I am making a difference in the lives of the kids that I sponsor,” Quiambao says. She says she was just one of those people who responded to the need of the child. “I think anyone who has had education knows the value of education. I’m telling them stories of kids who have dreams but cannot go to school. Hopefully I am able to inspire people to reach out and help,” she ends.