Portraits of perseverance

Our field reporters hit the streets in the communities where we work to capture inspiring stories of courage and determination from our sponsored kids, staff and volunteers.

“Before, I was not into reading books. I did not take it seriously. But since third grade, I’ve started learning to love to read, because I wanted to improve my grades in school. Now, my grade of 80 in English has increased to 90. My mother is so happy! She was the one who first taught me how to read.

“Some of the books I like to read now are stories and fairy tales and Filipino books. I believe that reading skills will help me get far. It will help me get a job in the future. My dream is to teach English someday, so that I can give back to my parents who support me and take pride in me.”

Angel Faith (9), CI literary leader
Quezon City, Philippines

“I really wanted to study but I was not allowed in school. I cannot walk and needed a wheelchair to attend. I became a sponsored child by Children International, and I got a wheelchair and now I can go to school. This has been a total change in my life, and I have a sponsor, Sarah, whom I love very much. I want to be a lawyer. And I think if I keep studying enthusiastically, I am going to make it.”

Esteban (14), CI lawyer-to-be
Guatemala City, Guatemala

“My meaningless life took a turn, thanks to a sponsored friend. He was encouraging me to join a youth program at Children International. I was hesitant at first. I thought I had nothing to give to this world. When my friend asked me to join, I was afraid I would not feel accepted, that I was not good enough. But I gave it a try. When I started learning about the Youth Health Corps, I was excited! It was just the feeling that I was waiting for, with goose bumps and all that.

“That was when I started learning just how much I can do. I learned what I wanted to achieve in life, what my passion is, what my limitations are. My experience there blew me away because it was totally new to me.

“Experience is what Children International really gave me — an experience of life. Since I changed, I no longer feel afraid to accept challenges. I have replaced ‘problem’ with ‘challenge.’ Life will always be full of challenges. I no longer worry about outcomes, as long as I know I gave my best. I no longer want to go back to my dark past now that my life finally has color.”

Sherlene Marie (17), CI fearless challenger
Quezon City, Philippines

“People always say, ‘The youth are a lost cause. They’re lazy. They do nothing!’ So I wanted to show them that not all young people are the same and that I am changing and growing as a person. I went to the CI youth programs, activities and the talks that were about personal self-growth. Even though all of us kids have different ways of thinking, we all have the desire to get ahead and succeed.”

Daniel Acosta (20), CI program grad & positivity motivator
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

“I used to be contented just being at home, doing things for my family. I was shy back then. When my son got sponsored, I noticed how good I felt every time I accompanied him to the community center. I started volunteering.

“Because of that choice I made many years back, I am enjoying my life more than ever. I am honored to have this responsibility and opportunity to help. I have found my happiness here.”

Digna, CI super volunteer and mother of Jeroll
Quezon City, Philippines

“I’ve always loved sports, but because of my low weight and blood-pressure problems, I couldn’t practice sports or do any physical activity as a kid. This restriction affected my self-esteem.

“But two years ago, I started running half marathons after seeing an athletic competition. At the beginning it was very hard. Kilometers seemed endless, and each step was a struggle for a better lifestyle.

“In my first races, I was so nervous that I hardly slept the night before. But arriving to the finishing line is always the most satisfactory feeling in my life, because the only person I’m beating is myself and all my fears.”

Joffre Pincay, CI teen coordinator & speedy role model
Guayaquil, Ecuador

“I was a teenager about 15 years of age. On my way home from school, an older man caught my hand and tried to take me to the end of the lane. I realized this was the same man who had been standing there for many days, and as I passed by, he would whistle and sing. I never had the courage to tell my mother. She would have taken me out of school, and I wanted to study like my older brothers.

“It was at that moment I realized that if I did not protest, something evil may take place. I realized that I had only my hands and legs and my loud voice to protect myself. I realized that if I did not speak up at that point, I would perhaps never be able to ever speak in my life. I feel that was the turning point of life. I suddenly transformed from the quiet person I was to someone who spoke up and protested against something wrong.”

Aruna Chowdhury, CI volunteer & unofficial courage coordinator
Kolkata, India

“Most of my fellow youth in our community could not go to college. But I decided I would get a degree no matter what. It wasn’t an easy decision, though, as I had to move away from my family and live with my relatives. But that’s how I learn and grow — adapting to changes. A year from now, I will earn a degree. It’s my way out of a difficult life. And the first step I took was accepting changes.”

Christy Bongay (18), CI high-achiever
Bicol region, Philippines

“I used to be a very judgmental person. Before I react or judge, I now ask myself what may have caused that behavior in someone. Did they intend it to be like that or was it as a result of circumstances? After changing my perception of other people, I am much happier now. I have created room for everybody. I now have friends from different backgrounds and have made more friends. My family is now closer to me, the children I work with are now my friends and I get a positive response, which has made my work a lot easier.”

Natasha Mwelwa, CI health field officer & open-minded advocate
Lusaka, Zambia

“At first, I thought becoming a volunteer would take so much of my time that I would not have enough for my family, especially for my little daughter, Shaira. But I was also very interested in helping the people in our community. When doing field work, I take Shaira with me, because nobody would look after her if I left her in the house. It turns out my daughter loves to do community work as much as I do. She always looks forward to our field work days. My dream for my daughter is that she grows into a woman with a big heart for other people. I think she is becoming that woman, and I cannot ask for more.”

Lorena Betito, CI volunteer & positive community activist
Bicol region, Philippines

By CI Field Reporters Shane Alliew, Carmelinda Carpio, Audrey Hamayanda, Patricia Huerta, Erenia Mesa, Eduardo Uy Jr. and Verónica Arévalo

Craving more amazing photos? Check out another part of this portrait series!


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