Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Unforgettable Experience – Part 2

A sponsor of seven children, Steve Krumholz recently traveled to the Philippines as a volunteer on a surgical mission trip sponsored by the Society of Philippine Surgeons in America. While in the Philippines, he had the opportunity to visit not only his sponsored children, but also the children and their families that he has helped support with generous contributions since becoming a friend to Children International in 2006.

Part 2

After completing the surgical mission, I returned to Manila where I was to meet my sponsored child Eduardo Garcia, an 11 year old boy, and the Beltran sisters Lovely Sophia, age 7 and Richelle Joy, age 9. I first came to learn about the Garcia family when they were featured in the sponsorship magazine, Journeys. I was stricken with concern about how these families could live among the dead in Bagbag Cemetery. At the time, I sponsored two children in Colombia and Ecuador and was looking to add two more. However, time passed and the Garcia family slipped my mind until the March 15th blog post. There were Remy Garcia’s hollow eyes staring at me once again. I knew I couldn’t wait for others to do something. I contacted Children International to sponsor one of the Garcia children and to also explore finding a new home for the family, somewhere out of the cemetery.

"Real help, real hope for the New Year. Mr. Steve Krumholz, a sponsor of Children International – Manila, visited recently his sponsored child Eduardo Garcia. Together with Mr. Ron Neal, he literally dug out Eduardo and his family from the grave and from poverty of living in Bagbag Cemetery and given them a new house and a new life."
When a house was found, the cost was a bit beyond my reach. However, Vickie Wiedenmann at CI headquarters in Kansas City, continued to search for other sponsors who might help with funding. She found sponsor Ron Neal. Together, we were able to purchase a home for the Garcias, and Children International CEO Jim Cook had the enviable job of delivering the good news to the family upon his visit to June 2007. To Ron Neal, whom I’ve never met, I want to extend my sincere thanks for helping make a dream come true for the Garcia family.

I was able to meet Eduardo Garcia and his family in the house he refers to as a “palace.” Eduardo’s “palace” is small, but offers two bedrooms, a bathroom and a combined kitchen and living room. An adjacent apartment consisting of two rooms is rented out and helps bring the family much needed income. Compared to the small tarpaulin covered shanty the family called home for almost 20 years, the Garcias’ new home is a treasure.

Lovely Sophia and Richelle Joy Beltran were two girls I became acquainted with in the “Easter Shoes” blog post. These two young girls were still coping with the death of their mother four years earlier, as their father, Rio, struggled to provide for his family.

Although I am not their sponsor, I wanted to help them because it saddened me that at the ages of 7 and 8 they were receiving their first pair of new shoes. These two little girls treasure this one pair of new shoes provided by their generous sponsor. I wanted to do something more to help the family out. Over the course of a few months, I was able to help their father, Rio, make improvements to their home, including adding two new walls, a new bed to replace the rickety one where the girls used to sleep, and installing electricity. Rio was also able to start a small business selling frozen meats to neighbors.

I was greeted by a large banner welcoming me to their community when I entered the Beltran home. Amid many tears, Rio hugged me and I felt as though he was a long lost brother. I was encouraged that I had made the right decision to help this family by the happy smiles of Lovely Sophia and Richelle Joy.

We collected both the Garcia and the Beltran families and went to one of the largest shopping malls in the Philippines. The mall has partnered with Children International to provide an extra 10% to each sponsored child’s visit. Eduardo Garcia and the Beltran girls were presented with stuffed pillows in the shape of animals by mall representatives. Eduardo’s wish was for a bicycle. With a helmet, knee and elbow pads and a lock, he is now ready to ride to school. The Beltran girls settled for clothes, but the look in Lovely Sophia’s eyes as she tried on a new dress spoke volumes about her happiness. Richelle Joy is more reserved, but still, when she picked out an Elmo T-shirt, she was a very happy girl.

After shopping, we returned to the Community Center, where a holiday party was in progress. I was stunned by the warm reception provided by Agency Director Cynthia Tiotuyco and her staff. Their greetings made me feel like a celebrity! The sponsored teens at the Manila field office made me feel special as well when I praised their efforts to notify and educate their friends about dengue fever and parasitic diseases. There were so many intelligent and sincere teens that I met there. Just looking into their eyes made me see that their future holds great promise.

Check the blog again tomorrow to read how Steve was inspired to sponsor yet another child.

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