Despedida for long-term house parents Brice and Michelle

Brice and Michelle check out their portraits drawn by our clients

North America introduced much to the Philippines: basketball, the showbiz industry, its education system. One export we were grateful to receive here at Mercy in Action was Brice and Michelle Quibodeaux, who have decided to return to Louisiana after committing three years of their lives to helping our vulnerable clients at Chelo’s House.

So, what better way to celebrate their three-year journey than to throw a massive party?

Children and staff rocked up to the venue early last Monday morning and worked their socks off to convert a bare-bones room into a tropical paradise, in-keeping with the party’s Hawaiian theme. Palm fronds fixed to the wall, colourful table cloths, BBQ and flowery shirts aplenty helped complete the island vibe at the outdoor swimming complex in Talisay City where the despedida (Spanish for ‘leaving party’) was located.

Brice and Michelle, who were recruited in May 2014 as missionaries fulfilling the role of house parents at Chelo’s House, were greeted by rapturous applause. Children, whose lives have been touched by the couple – including those from Chelo’s House, the girls home and the boys home – performed presentations for them, featuring dancing, guitar music and even solo-singing. Brice and Michelle then received a number of gifts from the kids, including a pair of beautiful hand-drawn portraits, and a large sheet of coloured paper with personal messages.

“It’s hard to say goodbye,” said Michelle after the party. “But we will be coming back to visit. Hanging out with everyone was great – especially as it was for a whole day. I talked to several of the boys one-on-one and told them how much they have grown over the years. The presentations were fantastic to watch – particularly as we’ve seen them improve their skills over time.

“To know where they have come from and then to see the culmination of their hard work – it really did my heart good.”

After the presentations, the guests indulged in a delicious feast prepared by Mercy in Action’s cook. Once the pork, chicken, fish, noodles and rice had been greedily gobbled up, the children sprinted outside to take advantage of the swimming pools, while staff sung their hearts out at the karaoke machine.

Asked what his favourite experience had been during his time with the charity, Brice said it had been his relationship with the boys. “These boys have had horrific abuse situations. There was a lot of learning and watching to do at the start, when the boys weren’t sure if they could trust us, but slowly they brought those protective barriers down. Watching them work on their lives and seeing the transformations has been amazing.”

Regarding the despedida, Brice said: “Being around [the children] is always enjoyable but it’s bittersweet leaving. We are trying not to make it a big emotional event for the kids and we have purposefully been transitioning our role to others over the last couple of months. But reading the letters from the kids yesterday was very emotional for us.”

During their time with the charity, Brice and Michelle worked with boys from Chelo’s House, who have been rescued from environments of alleged sexual abuse. They helped with the setup of the home and have worked as houseparents, with duties including cooking, daily devotionals, getting the kids ready for school, making sure they get ready for bed, helping them with homework, family visits and much more. They will be greatly missed by the whole Chelo’s House team, as well as Mercy in Action directors in the Philippines, Emily and Tim Rosal.

Brice added: “The home’s in a really good place right now emotionally, and the new house parents fit in well because they know the language and they are from this culture.”

Brice and Michelle will return to Louisiana, where Brice will take up IT work again, and Michelle will turn her skills to working for other charities. The couple have already committed to visiting Mercy in Action again in November. We are looking forward to seeing them again soon!

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