Trusting God is Gildard’s Lifeline

By Babylene Bocayes, Philippines Field Content Specialist   |  Photos by Dianalyn Belarmino, mother of sponsored child Gildard Belarmino

When Gildard Belarmino, a child living in poverty in the Philippines, was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disorder, his family could not afford to pay for his treatment. Read how God is providing for Gildard through the efforts of his family, Child Champions, and his sponsor.

Gildard, 7, lives with his family in a depressed area of Mandaluyong City in the Philippines. The houses here are crowded, made mostly of scrap wood, and lack ventilation. Above the community’s narrow alleys hang chaotic bundles of electrical, phone, and cable wires, which pose a fire hazard. In recent years, several fires were sparked from unattended candles or stove burners. The fires displaced families, but they still chose to stay in the community because of a promise from the local government that they will be given a piece of land. Gildard’s family has been living in a temporary shelter for some time now. Yet this is not the only struggle the family has been dealing with.

When Gildard was 2, his family began to realize something was wrong. “We noticed that he was pale and easily got tired with simple activities,” says Dianalyn Belarmino, Gildard’s mother. “His stomach was unusually big, too.”

At first, his doctors thought he had leukemia. By the time Gildard was 3, he was diagnosed with beta-thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder that reduces the production of hemoglobin in the body. Hemoglobin is the iron-containing protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body. In order to survive, Gildard would need an operation to remove his spleen and then undergo blood transfusions.

“Both of us cried when we heard it because we did not know what to do,” Dianalyn says. Doctors told them the surgery would cost up to $20,000. On top of that, Gildard’s medicines and treatments would cost $1,300 a month. His parents didn’t have that kind of money, as they were already barely able to provide for the basic needs for their family of four children. The future looked bleak for Gildard — but his parents did not lose hope.

In 2018, Gildard was registered in Daluyan ng Pagpapala Hope Center because his family is among the 17.8 million Filipino people living below the poverty line whose income is not sufficient to provide for food and other basic needs, let alone medical needs. With his registration in the Hope Center, Gildard benefits from his caring and loving Child Champions through food assistance, learning activities, Bible lessons, and medical assistance. Child Champions include sponsors, staff and volunteers at the centers, who interact with and provide care for the children. When his Child Champions learned of his condition, they helped the family raise funds to pay for his medical care. They continue to provide prayers and counseling to his family as well.

In 2020, during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Ate Letty Encina, Gildard’s Hope Center director at the time, submitted a proposal through OneChild for Gildard’s medical needs. The proposal was funded after a month by a generous donor and sponsor. It was a spark of hope in the middle of the worsening COVID situation in the Philippines. “I was happy, thankful, and blessed when Ate Letty told us of this news,” Dianalyn says.

The funding has been a huge help for Gildard’s expenses such as medicine, milk, fruits, and for when he is admitted to the hospital for his treatments. To stay alive, Gildard needs monthly blood transfusions and chelation therapy, which increases blood flow and reduces plaque buildup in his arteries. Usually, Gildard and Dianalyn stay in the hospital for up to a week each time.

When Gildard is feeling his best after his blood transfusions, he likes to play with his siblings, loves to color, and participates in his Hope Center activities.

For his parents, each month continues to be a challenge to make sure Gildard survives. Most of the time they have to find blood donors for his care. “We do all we can to provide for his needs,” says Dianalyn. “We go to our families, friends, mayors, senators, and other government officials and institutions just to ask help for his treatment.”

Aside from help from OneChild, Gildard will receive a free splenectomy through a government health benefit for indigent patients. He is now waiting for his operation to be scheduled, which is a great relief for his family.

Gildard still has a long journey ahead of him, but one thing this community of Child Champions has shown him and his family is that there is hope and there is God who always provides. “I am thankful for them for all their help, for showing us their care, and reminding us to trust God more,” Dianalyn says.

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