Paying it forward


How does a young woman who grew up in poverty in the Philippines find herself teaching in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and sponsoring a child in India?

The story begins in one of Manila’s slums …

Katalina Yambao (26) recalls that her childhood community was rife with alcoholism, drug addiction and crime. “My five siblings and I had to fight for survival each day,” she says.

Katalina’s father (also born into poverty) was a barber. He constantly fought to earn enough money to support his family. And a refurbished pig pen, with walls and a roof, was better than no shelter at all.

Getting her power on

Throughout her childhood, Katalina struggled to stay in school. But all the assistance and encouragement she received from her sponsor and from CI’s programs and staff gave her the courage to keep striving for a better life.

Katalina’s 2003 CI photo

Back in 2003, as a 13-year-old, Katalina was learning how to be a leader in CI’s youth programs.

“Being a sponsored child,” she says, “sparked hope in my heart for the future.”

Katalina entered the CI program at age 6. Soon thereafter, the message of empowerment she started receiving from her sponsor helped her excel. “I began to believe that I was loved, by my sponsor and by God,” Katalina adds.

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A total transformation

With high school on the horizon, Katalina truly began to blossom. Initial involvement with various CI youth programs helped her develop self-confidence. She became more outgoing and eventually took on leadership roles, mentoring peers and younger kids.

“Through these programs,” Katalina says, “I met different kinds of people and learned from their experiences. I found a genuine desire to make my life better and learned how to act on that desire.”

As graduation from high school approached, Katalina desperately wanted to attend college. But her family’s limited resources made that dream seem as likely as going to the moon. Thanks to her exceptional grades and CI’s support, though, she earned a HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty through Education) scholarship. This assistance was bolstered when Katalina managed to make the varsity table tennis team at the University of the Philippines.


Going global

In 2009, Katalina earned a bachelor’s degree (with honors) in elementary education. She’s now a teacher in Dubai, U.A.E. She also tutors kids from all over the world, including a child, coincidentally, from Kansas City, Missouri, where CI’s global headquarters is located!

And, because she experienced the transformative power of sponsorship firsthand, Katalina has herself become a sponsor. She met 6-year-old Kamil for the first time on a recent visit to Delhi, India.

Katalina takes a selfie during her visit to India

“It felt so surreal,” Katalina says. “I couldn’t believe it was finally happening — meeting this wonderful child!”

“Sponsorship taught me to be grateful for what I have,” Katalina says, “and to show thanks to the people who gave to me. Even when I had nothing else, I had hope that everything would turn out well and that, one day, I could even change someone else’s life.”

It did turn out well. And now Katalina is changing someone else’s life. That lucky someone is Kamil.

During her trip, Katalina met Kamil's family and friends. "I'm so grateful to have been given the opportunity to travel," she says. "My heart is full."

Photos by Shane and Katalina.

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May 16, 2016

Great story!

Jul 11, 2016

Thank you very much Children International :)

Jul 11, 2016

Absolutely, Love this!! Kudo's to your success and now sponsoring too.

Oct 16, 2018

What an inspirational story!! And what a truly special soul is Katalina. I am even more gratified to have found Children a International and to feel fortunate to sponsor the two dear children I am. God bless all of you for the wonderful work you do.

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