A Life-Changing Gift

Story and photos by Babylene Bocayes, Philippines Field Communications Specialist

A simple act of kindness from a boy’s sponsor dramatically changes the lives of a family in the far-flung mountainous area of Palawan, Philippines.

Milson, in yellow shirt, and his family in front of their home in the Philippines.

Milson, 10, is a shy kid and answers questions with a simple nod or a head shake. He smiles, too, when he seems interested in a subject.

But when he was asked about his sponsor’s gift, he breaks the silence and says, “Thirteen thousand (pesos).”

That is roughly the equivalent of a little more than $200 USD.

Milson will never forget the day he learned that his sponsor had sent his family a gift in that amount. It would change his life and those of his family members living in poverty in the Philippines.

“That day, teacher Grace asked me to go to school. She said we have a blessing,” says Milson’s father Noldin.

He didn’t know what to expect. But in his mind and heart, he was thankful that somebody from far away has a good heart and thought of them.

Noldin, 37, is a day laborer. He earns a living doing carpentry work and cutting trees.

“I earn $5 USD a day,” he says, “Life is hard here. Sometimes, we risk our lives to make ends meet.” Cutting trees can be dangerous with no safety measures in place, but Noldin often has no choice.

Milson’s mother Merlina, 32, stays at home to take care of the kids. In addition to Milson, they have four more children: Nomer, 12, Febrelyn, 8, Denmer, 3, and Denson, 4 months old.

With the family gift they received, Noldin and Merlina thought of starting an income-generating project.

A family of mother, father holding baby, and two sons stand behind a makeshift counter in a small structure of wood and woven matting. On the counter are a variety of food packages.

Milson and his family inside their small convenience store they set up in a corner of their house.

Noldin also immediately bought Milson a ball and a bicycle which Milson had been wanting since he was 8.

Without this gift, the family could never afford those things for any of their kids.

“I was delighted because God used somebody to help not only Milson but also our whole family,” Noldin says.

Teachers Help Family Plan Best Way to Use Gift  

Milson and two of his siblings attend Visions of Hope Christian School, a partner of OneChild in providing children with education, health checkups, medical assistance, sports activities, nutritious food like fruits and vegetables from their own gardens, and lessons in Christian values.

Teachers at the school also provide guidance and basic education lessons to parents and caregivers who struggle to read and write.

Milson’s parents didn’t finish elementary school and were thankful to the teachers for the guidance they received in planning how to use the family gift wisely.

Milson reads a letter from his generous sponsor.

“We told them that we want to put up a sari-sari (variety) store, so they helped us buy the grocery items down (the mountain),” Noldin says.

sari-sari is a small neighborhood convenience stand that sells household necessities like instant food and cooking items, hygiene supplies, and other goods that can be bought in tiny packages, which are all people in the community can afford to buy on a daily basis.

Mostly, people in poor communities like Milson’s rely on income earned as daily laborers. Thus, they can’t afford to buy grocery items in bigger packages or in bulk. So, these small stores offer a “buy now, pay later” system so people can eat.

On the day they received the family gift, some of the teachers and Child Champions from the school accompanied Noldin to a grocery store downtown. They bought boxes of goods that contained instant noodles, canned goods, sugar, corn chips, soft drinks, loaves of bread, packets of shampoo, laundry powder, fabric conditioner, vinegar, and soy sauce.

Milson stands surrounded by goods that his family’s store sells.

Noldin set up ledges in one corner of their house to display their goods and installed nylon ropes to hang other items.

The upper half of the wall on this corner was fitted with bamboo slats with small gaps in between so people outside can peek inside to see what’s on display.

He also made a small opening that serves as a checkout window. Noldin, with the help of Milson’s teachers, had put careful thought into setting up their small store, making sure it will work for them and people will start buying goods from them.

Store Helps Family and Community

With the store up and running for several months now, the family now earns a regular income of $3 to $6 USD a day, and they have learned to save some of the profits to replenish their stocks.

“In less than a week, our stocks ran out,” says Merlina. Now, Noldin travels to the grocery store nearly every week to buy more stock.

Not only it has helped the family, but their small store has also been a big help for other families in their community.

Milson and other kids cross a river after attending a learning session at their Hope Center.

“Life here is hard. People get hungry because they do not have enough money to buy food. So they run here to ask for food, and they promise to pay back later,” Merlina says.

Most days, families in this community survive by eating cassava or bananas.

A Little Less to Worry About

Milson’s family still struggles with life in the mountains, but it is a little easier now that they no longer have to worry about their daily food because their small store has augmented their income. The sponsor’s gift empowered them to run their very own small business.

“My hope is for my kids to finish their schooling, unlike us who did not even finish elementary (level),” Merlina says. “We are thankful that there is a school here and they no longer have to walk far, that there are teachers who are teaching them, and there are sponsors who are helping my children.”

With a better support system, the future of Noldin and Merlina’s children is looking brighter. Milson dreams of becoming a pilot someday. His brother, Nomer, wants to become an engineer.

They are still young and have more years ahead to finish their education, but they have Child Champions like their parents and teachers who are encouraging them to dream, and they have sponsors who are changing their lives one gift at a time.

You have the chance to change a child’s life. Sponsor a child today!




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