On†the recent mission awareness trip to the Philippines, CFCA President Bob Hentzen and Paul Pearce, CFCA international programs director, divided the sponsors into two groups to travel to different parts of the country.† In this post, Paul tells about his group’s experiences. Read about Bob’s trip.
Mission awareness trip
Philippines, Feb. 2-8, 2009
By bus and by boat
Legazpi staff and sponsored members with their families meet us at the tiny Pili Airport in Naga City. Our group traveled by bus and boat to the hotel. Under the watchful eye of the volcano Isarog, the setting is definitely South Pacific.
The theme Legazpi has chosen for this yearís trip is ìCFCA: Bridging People Amidst Diversity.î Maria Luz, at the closing of her testimonial and upon meeting her sponsors, said she is ìthe happiest girl in the world.î In tears, sponsor Mariano was moved by the hospitality the sponsors received.†We enjoy a rousing, sand-blown rendition of ìThis Little Light of Mine.î
Later, the Legazpi scholarship youth and staff energize a running-out-of-gas sponsor group. Sponsor April and her sponsored friend, Aprilyn, lift the roof with a duet of ìYou Are My Hero.î Sponsors head for the pillow after a long and beautiful day.
Riding two big buses, we headed down the coastal road toward Legazpi to participate in a tree-planting activity at the municipal park in the town of Tiwi. After visiting the Tiwi geothermal plant, we pass miles of pristine rice fields, stopping at the ruins of Cagsawa, a colonial church destroyed by one of the many eruptions of the Mayon volcano, and the volcanic rock and mud flow area from the 2006 eruption that killed numerous persons and affected CFCA families substantially.
Sponsors commented how much they liked the ìangelî concept of the Legazpi project. Sponsors were each assigned a staff member, called an angel, to accompany them from arrival to departure, guide them, answer questions and†wake them in the morning, if needed. Sponsors have felt very well-cared-for in Legazpi.
Today, our group was divided into smaller groups for a day of sponsored family and community visits. I traveled with sponsors Jerry Menard and†Richard Rauch, our trip angels and central office staff to a town outside of Legazpi City.
One of Jerryís sponsored children, Melrose, had retired from the program last year. She had a falling out with her mother and left Manila. Jerry was really worried about her. He sponsored Melroseís little sister, BabyLyn, to keep supporting the family and hopefully stay in touch with Melroseís situation. BabyLyn and mother were at the airport in Naga, and have been traveling with us since. Itís been moving to see 9-year-old BabyLyn caring for Jerry. We received great news on our arrival that Melrose had recently returned.
Bataan community visit
We visit the well-organized and inviting Manila project cluster office in Batangas. The cluster coordinator, Dimple, shows us around, shows sponsors each of their childrenís case folders with benefit log documentation, dental checkup record, photo history, family record, etc.
The sponsors have gotten a chance to experience their friendís personality by being with them on several occasions. One feels a strong CFCA identity, a close bond among the sponsored members and with staff. Parents have planned everything and have provided home-cooked Philippine dishes. CFCA scholars and sponsored youth serve as emcee and entertainment.
We take a relaxed tour of the neighborhood and of several sponsored members’ homes with time to sit down and chat at each one. The families strike us as industrious, well-organized and united.
Sponsored youth Rodrigo, one of seven siblings, tells us in his simple home that as the only sponsored child in his family, he assures both his older siblings who did not get to complete their studies, and his younger ones, that he will do his best to help provide for their needs if he gets a job after his studies are complete.
As I headed back to the U.S., I reflected how grateful I am for the committed staff and courageous familes working to improve their lives.