Visiting team pulls out all the stops to sponsor eight extra kids

Mercy in Action can afford to send an extra eight kids to school, thanks to the actions and influence of a special group of supporters from the UK.

Some of the team with mums from Po'ok

The team of nine – nicknamed the ‘Fab Feb Team’ – were so moved by what they experienced with us in Cebu, that they made the decision to sponsor the children during their short stay, with visitor Brian Vince saying: “I am not surprised we sponsored a child after 6 days of being there, only surprised it took so long.”

The group, who ranged in age from 53 to 68 years old, arrived at Cebu International Airport at night after an exhausting long-haul flight in the middle of February. They were taken to Spring Village – our boys residential home – where they were to stay for the two-week duration of the trip, striking up a strong relationship with the youngsters who live there. “It was of course wonderful to meet all the children in the homes and drop-in,” said Maureen Vince, wife of Brian. “What amazing kids they are! We will never forget you and your big smiles. You could teach our kids some things!”

UK Mercy in Action director Hilary Law with some of the children she sponsors

Visits to slum areas and the neighbourhoods of children on our scholarship programme were some of the most poignant parts of the trip, it was unanimously agreed. Among the slum areas they went to was the sandy seaside neighbourhood of Po’ok and the steep and hilly area of Lawa’an. Robin Henderson, who has sponsored children across a range of charities with his wife, Sue, for the past 43 years, said this section proved most difficult for him. “It was challenging to see first-hand the level of poverty and the squalid living conditions in the slums. In the UK, we take so much for granted, yet so many people have nothing in comparison! Shanty dwellings literally on top of each other, without sanitation, water from a pump, litter everywhere, air pollution, and a family of six living in a room smaller than our living room!

“The sheer scale of the problem was overwhelming, It is beyond my capability to lift one family out of poverty, let alone a whole community.”

Sue Henderson in her element!

Team leader Hilary Law, who also happens to be one of UK-based directors of Mercy in Action, said one of her most memorable moments was “going into my scholar’s home and seeing the three shoeboxes I had sent on the container for Christmas from the UK over the last 3 years. I knew these boxes were a treat, but hadn’t fully realised how much they mean to people.”

Guest Claire Woollet added: “Meeting the mother of my sponsored child and of course the child was very moving for me, especially when I heard that he was so excited by some new shoes I was able to bless him with. His mother told me he wouldn’t take them off at night, and in fact, he insisted on sleeping in them!”

Games and activities were planned by members of the group in advance, and then unleashed on the kids at our drop-in centre and home-school. Sue and Robin put their experience entertaining youngsters to fantastic use, by running a variety of games featuring buckets, beanbags and stilts. At the home-school, the activities had an additional educational factor, and utilised the times-table, adding and subtracting.

Part of the team in Po'ok

The team had been encouraged to gather supplies to donate before the trip, and it came as a great surprise to many of the kids we work with when they were presented with colourful hand-sewn teddy bears. Nurse Chinwin was also ecstatic to receive a giant briefcase packed full of medicine for use at our drop-in centre, where children often arrive with cuts and burns from their nights on the streets. Through the money they raised they were also able to pay for our counselling room to be renovated, new bedding for the children and much more. Visitor Mandy Moon was also happy to see Chinwin using the computer her husband donated to the charity and was sent over to Cebu on the last container, saying: “It made me realise that it is worth checking with Mercy in Action to see what sort of things they need. These things could make a difference to people’s lives.”

The trip culminated in a MiA staple – the despedida. A large roast pig was wheeled out for the occasion of the leaving party, and the boys and girls performed a number of presentations, featuring dancing and music, for the departing guests.

The visitors went to the mountain neighbourhood of Tapul

Sue Henderson reflected on her time with us. “Our trip to Cebu has had a huge impact on me,” she said. “And I have returned to the UK with so many faces imprinted in my mind, and in my heart.

“We know that our relationship with Mercy in Action is going to be an ongoing one, and one we look forward to.”

Sponsoring a child with Mercy in Action costs just £18-per-month. For this small price, a child can buy school uniform, text books, and afford the transport to school.

From everyone here at Mercy in Action, thank you to Hilary Jane, Mandy Moon, Claire Woollett, Brian Vince, Maureen Vince, Vanessa Perry, Robin Henderson, Sue Henderson and Pati Graham.

Part of the team with a community cell group

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