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When we empower young girls to live up to their full potential, we make the world a better place. Just ask Katalina Yambao.
At a recent visit to our Kansas City headquarters, Katalina (28) spoke about her two sponsored children. There’s Kamil who lives in India, and there’s Danielle who lives in Mexico.
But here’s what makes her story so unique: Katalina was once a sponsored child herself.
So how does a young woman who grew up in poverty in the Philippines find herself teaching in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and sponsoring two children?
Katalina 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.
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.
“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.
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.
In 2009, Katalina earned a bachelor’s degree (with honors) in elementary education. She’s now a special education teacher in Dubai, U.A.E.
And, because she experienced the transformative power of sponsorship firsthand, Katalina now sponsors two children — Kamil and Danielle. She met Kamil for the first time in 2015 in Delhi, India.
“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 it’s becoming a ripple effect. Now Katalina is changing two young lives.
As she shared her story in our Kansas City office, Katalina couldn’t help but smile at the thought of coming full circle. “You might think it’s a small amount, but it’s creating a huge impact,” Katalina says. “They could be the next Katalina in 5-10 years!”
Photos by Shane and Katalina.