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This Filipino Family Pays It Forward

Home > Learn More > Stories & News > This Filipino Family Pays It Forward
By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
Posted on 5/26/2016
boy, white shirt green sash

Emil, a sponsored child, volunteers with his family at Families and Children for Education and Development in Manila.

Despite having little in life, Rachel is grateful for everything she does have.

Rachel supports her six children with earnings of about $12 a week as a laundrywoman, washing clothes by hand. After her husband passed away from a heart attack several years ago, she and her children lived in a shack in a shantytown community underneath a highway bridge in Manila, capital of the Philippines.

But that hasn’t stopped her family from giving back to their community. Rachel’s three oldest daughters, Michel, Chemil and Mereille, and her son, Emil, volunteer at Families and Children for Education and Development (FCED), helping people who even less than they had. 

One day came a moment of truth for Rachel and her family. Police officers and local government staff cleared out all of the settlers under the bridge for their safety. Many people were relocated far away, and Rachel’s family was headed for the same fate because they couldn’t afford to stay in Manila.

Moving would uproot them from their schools, their volunteer work and everything they knew. Fortunately, they could rely on a community of friends at ChildFund and our local partner, FCED.

The leader of the local government said they could stay in a tent next to the village hall, so the children could remain in school. Michel and Chemil, both attending a state college under scholarship, paid for their bus fare with stipends they received for volunteering at FCED.  

Emil, who is sponsored, and Mereille also continued to attend school. Mereille’s charisma and candor has made her a memorable part of the organization, and she’s spoken at national events about children’s rights and hosted local celebrations. 

woman, girl and boy standing indoors with white shirts

Mae Bautista (left) with Mereille and a friend at FCED. Mae nominated Mereille’s family for an award for their volunteer work.

“We double-up with FCED staff when they host child development sessions, particularly early childhood development activities,” Merielle says. “I find it my responsibility to share with them what their rights and responsibilities are.”

The tent was just a temporary solution for the family’s situation, and they needed a stable residence.

One of their friends at FCED, staff member Mae Bautista, saw a flyer on the street one day. She picked it up and saw that a Filipino corporate foundation was seeking nominations for its “Family Values Award,” given to families who work together to help others. Winners would receive 100,000 Philippine pesos, the equivalent of $2,900 in U.S. dollars.

She filled out a nomination, and soon the foundation called her, excited to hear more about Rachel’s amazing family. “I thought I’d give it a shot,” Mae says. “Rachel and her family deserve recognition for the work they do, despite the difficult hand they’ve been dealt. They help because other people need it. She and her kids illustrate how poverty isn’t a hindrance from paying it forward.”

That’s how Rachel and her children stood on a stage in Manila in 2014, receiving a standing ovation and an oversize check. They were the only recipients that year who faced such difficulties in their lives.

They’ve put the money toward a new home where they live now, and the family still volunteers with FCED, touching the lives of many children and youth. 

“We never expected any reward for helping other people like ourselves,” Rachel says. “We volunteer because it’s fulfilling. Poverty doesn’t mean you have nothing to give.”