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‘We were sponsored children, now we work with ChildFund’

Malita is a town on Mindanao Island in the Philippines, where ChildFund has been working for 28 years €“ long enough to see a remarkable change: ChildFund`s local partner in Malita is staffed almost entirely by former sponsored children!

When Maribel was a little girl, the idea of going to university seemed an unattainable dream. Her mother worked as a housekeeper to complement her father`s wages from carpentry, nowhere near enough to pay for higher education.

Maribel`s dream came closer to reality when she became sponsored through ChildFund. It was a relationship Maribel treasured throughout her childhood. “I got to stay in school, and the family hung a photo of me in their home. That made me feel really special,” Maribel, now 37, recalls.

Maribel enjoyed sponsor correspondence so much, she volunteered as a “Letter-Writing Team Leader”, helping ChildFund staff collect and distribute letters for other sponsored children in her community. Her siblings also joined her at leadership workshops. “My whole family became part of ChildFund,” Maribel says.

Though she had originally wanted to be an accountant, being part of ChildFund endeared Maribel to social work, which she pursued at university. When she graduated at the age of 22, the moment was bitter-sweet €“ she recalls feelings of joy, gratitude and hope, tinged with some sadness, as this also meant leaving the ChildFund program and her kind-hearted sponsor.

But this wasn`t to be the end of Maribel`s connection with ChildFund. After gaining several years of experience in community development work, Maribel joined ChildFund`s local partner in Malita, not far from where she grew up. ChildFund has long been working with the Malita Children`s Program (MCP), implementing projects to improve the wellbeing of children and their families, but also building the organisation`s knowledge, skills and experience so it can eventually function without ChildFund`s assistance.

Maribel is not the only former sponsored child working at MCP, she now manages a small team, including Mae and Grace, who were also sponsored children! Mae says: “Without sponsorship, I probably wouldn`t have been able to finish school, nor would I be as confident.” Grace adds that ChildFund owns a warm place in her heart. “I`m indebted to generosity,” she says.

Through sponsorship, Maribel, Mae and Grace were all able to graduate from university, which for these three young women did not seem possible. “Getting by was the goal, a higher education was just a dream,” says Maribel.

Now, these friends and colleagues feel they can repay the generosity they were shown by doing their best for the current generation of children. They see themselves as role models to the children of Malita, examples of who they too can be if they make the most of opportunities offered to them.

And there is more reason to celebrate ahead. In July, MCP will be ‘graduating` from ChildFund`s support, as the organisation is now ready to continue serving its community on its own. “We`re a little sad, graduating from ChildFund,” Maribel says. “But we`re very satisfied with all the good we`ve done, and we`re equally excited over the opportunities ahead of us.”

MCP will be initiating a local sponsorship program this year, and Maribel is thrilled at the idea of finally being able to sponsor a child herself, and her journey with ChildFund coming full circle.

In 2013, ChildFund is celebrating 75 years of working with children around the world. We will be marking this anniversary by sharing personal stories throughout the year from the children and communities we work with, our wonderful supporters and our dedicated staff here in Australia and overseas. Please share them if you find them inspiring!

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