Philippines: Poverty no longer keeps eager boy out of school

It’s the time of the year when many children in the United States lament the end of summer and the return of classes and homework. But for 12-year-old Ronie in the Philippines, education is a gift he’ll never take for granted — and World Vision has helped make it possible again.

Story and photos by Crislyn Felisilda, World Vision Philippines.
Published August 9, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

Ronie, 12, lives in a remote village in the Philippines. His father, Marcelino, 54, is a tenant farmer, and his mother, Melagrose, 49, is a full-time housewife, also looking after her two grandchildren.

Every month, Marcelino earns the equivalent of $33, but it isn’t sufficient to support the family, since he also supplies milk for his two grandchildren.

Out of their seven kids, three are already married, while the rest still live under their care. “One of my major frustrations in life is [being unable] to send all my kids to school,” Melagrose says.

Sometimes, when there’s no money for food, they borrow rice from their neighbors and pay it back on Marcelino’s pay day. “Every day, I ask God to give us means to have food on our table,” Marcelino says.

The children don’t complain anymore, however, since they’ve become so accustomed to their circumstances.

Their house is made of bamboo, wood, and coconut shingles. They have no beds. Instead, they use banig — a mat made of palm fronds — because it’s more affordable and doesn’t take much space.

And a water supply, electricity, or appliances? The family has none of these, either.

Beating frustrations

Ronie (right) and his family have long struggled to survive under the weight of poverty.Ronie finished elementary school in March. However, he then had to quit school and help his father on the farm, because his parents could no longer afford his education, and he had to make a way for his younger sister, Riza, 8, to continue her schooling.

Unfortunately, he was the only student from his group who missed the deadline for enrollment for the new school year. “I felt so envious seeing [the other students] walking from home to school with their bags and uniforms,” Ronie remembers.

He tried to distract himself with chores at home. “I had almost given up my studies to do these things but I wasn’t completely happy,” Ronie says.

But things began to change when World Vision arrived in Ronie’s community to start child sponsorship and other development programs. His situation caught the attention of the World Vision staff and volunteers.

“Of all the families we’ve visited, Ronie’s was very unusual. The poverty context is very complex,” says Judith, a World Vision staff member.

“Apart from school supplies, I was oriented about children’s rights. I learned about my right to go to school,” Ronie says.

And even though the enrollment period was already closed, World Vision made a special arrangement with the school for Ronie to start late.

“It’s better to be late than never,” Ronie adds.

Fulfilling dreams

Every day, Ronie is excited by what he learns. “These school tasks have been preparing me intellectually,” he shares. “Science and Filipino have been my favorite subjects.”

Now, he’s devoted enough to his studies that he goes to bed earlier and wakes up earlier in the morning. “It’s cool to be in school,” Ronie says.

He draws inspiration from his family and credits World Vision for helping him return to class. And he has even more reason to be grateful: Now, Ronie is officially a sponsored child.

“I knew many students quit school because of poverty,” says Ronie. “It’s my hope to finish my studies and be a soldier someday. I want to become a hero to my country soon.”

Thanks to his sponsorship, he’s now in a much better position to achieve those goals.

Learn more

Watch a video on the World Vision Blog about how sponsorship helps make education possible for children affected by poverty.

Three ways you can help

Thank God that Ronie was able to return to school despite his family’s difficulties. Pray that his studies would help foster a bright, productive future, and pray that other children in his community would find similar benefit from education.

Sponsor a child in the Philippines today. Your love and ongoing support for a child in need like Ronie will help provide life-giving basics, like nutritious food, clean water, medical care, and the chance to go to school and pursue dreams for a future of hope.

Make a one-time donation to World Vision’s Sponsorship Ministry Fund. This fund helps provide for the needs of children still waiting for sponsors around the world; it also helps World Vision respond to emergencies that occur in our sponsorship communities.