This January will mark the 20th anniversary of my first visit to the Philippines. I traveled there as part of the entourage traveling with Mylon & Broken Heart, a Grammy Award winning band from the U.S. who did a series of free concerts in Manila and Olongapo City. It was quite a thrill as we saw thousands attend these great shows. On one afternoon we had the option to visit the work being done with the community of people living on the garbage dump know as Smokey Mountain. That visit changed the course of my life.
As we entered the area of shanty homes I was stopped by this little girl with wild hair and a loud voice asking me “what is your name?” as many children there do. When I told her my name was Paul everyone in the house became excited and they asked me to come in and wait. I was confused and apprehensive, but obliged. A few minutes later they came in dragging a young boy of 14, who looked just as confused as me. The excitement was because this boy’s name was Paul. Well, we laughed and took some pictures and I moved on. I was so moved seeing how these wonderful people could endure such extreme poverty and conditions. When we went to the office after our tour and the staff told us about the student sponsorship program. At that point I think we all wanted to take all of the children home with us, so sponsorship was the least we could do. They told us to look through the cards and pick out the child we wanted to sponsor. When I went in, the first card I picked up was Paul Ariaga, the boy I had just met…..true story.
I began sponsoring Paul and later that little girl who stopped me, Dolores, Paul’s younger sister.
Today, Paul is married to Chona and they have 4 beautiful children, MaryRose, Rachelle Anne, Gideon and Joshua. Paul and Chona are the ones who now work with the college students in the sponsorship program. So, I have seen the result of what a small financial investment can do to change the course of many lives. I call it the ripple effect of change. If you can change one life, they will change others who will change others and on and on.
As I write this today, the sponsorship program has suffered financial set backs due to sponsors backing out of their commitments. Right now there are over 100 students in need of sponsorship. The cost is so reasonable; Elementary $95, High School $125 and College $525 per year……yes, per year. As we approach the holiday seasons, please consider helping. You can visit www.h4cinternational.org and contribute.
I will be heading back the first week in January to celebrate my “anniversary”.