By: Jordan Wong
Last year, I launched a project called “Aid for Antipolo,” a fundraising initiative to support Kanlungan ng Kabataan Village (KKV) or “shelter for children” in Tagalog. KKV is located in Antipolo City, which is 16 miles east of Manila and is a conglomerate of three separate shelters for approximately 50 children – one for abandoned and abused boys, one for abandoned and abused girls, and one for juvenile delinquents in rehabilitation. KKV is deeply underfunded and needed help. I saw this cause to be perfectly in line with Joshua’s Heart Foundation’s (JHF) mission – not only is it eliminating hunger but doing so with kids: the very people who run our organization and who we need to empower. I was able to raise approximately $5,000, which was enough to provide for supplemental meals for the shelter for seven months. The project was also a huge success for me personally as it gave me an opportunity to connect to my identity and give back to my roots.
I really wanted to go to the Philippines last year to personally give them the money I raised and to meet the children. However, it wasn’t possible at the time. So as a high school graduation gift, I asked my parents if we can go to the Philippines and visit KKV. (The gift also included a trip to Japan which I also wanted since I got sick during our last visit there in 2014). My parents agreed and as a gift to KKV this year, I donated a portion of my graduation gifts. My parents matched my contribution and some JHF families also made a donation. In total, we were able to raise almost $2,000 – not as big as last year but every bit helps.
My mom set up the visit to the shelter with her good friend and Congresswoman of Antipolo, Chiqui Roa – Puno whom I refer to as Tita Chiqui (“Tita” means aunt in Tagalog). Tita Chiqui was instrumental in this project because when I told her about my desire to expand our outreach to the Philippines, she suggested KKV as a beneficiary. On the day of our visit, we met up at Tita Chiqui’s house and she and her family took us to KKV. As soon as I got to the shelter, I realized how much of a difference it was to see who you were helping in person rather than behind a computer screen. When the van pulled into the shelter, the first thing that greeted me where the cracked concrete buildings and rusted sign that said “Kanlungan ng Kabataan Village”.
Although I had seen pictures of the facility, it was surreal to see it in real life – that the run down buildings I saw in the pictures actually had people living in them. I was getting out of the van while thinking this when, immediately, people who worked at the shelter came up to me and started thanking me. I was caught off guard as a crowd of people were shaking my hand, blessing me, and thanking me at the same time. But, that’s where my embarrassment only started. They then led me to an outdoor area that had all of the things they bought with the money I raised this year. They bought not only rice, but other items that improved the quality of life for the kids such as mattresses (the old ones had to be thrown out because they were bug infested) and a clothes washing machine and dryer. They even had enough money left over to buy the kids art supplies and an entertainment center that had a TV and DVD player.
They had a planned special program for us where several adults spoke (volunteers from the shelter, representative from the mayor’s office, etc.) including Tita Chiqui and they thanked me, our family and JHF for our support. The best part was the kids’ performances. Seeing these kids dancing, singing, and reciting poems with smiles on their faces was infectious to me, for I found that I had a huge grin on my face as I was watching their performances. Then, after the performances, some kids gave a testimony of their experiences and how KKV is changing their lives for the better. They asked me to speak at the end. I talked about how thankful I am to finally be here, how the whole project came to be and how proud I am of its success. The whole ceremony – the showing of the items, the performances, and the testimonies – made me see the value that my contribution had to the shelter, and the positive effect that it had on the people living and working there. This payoff of seeing my contribution actively making others happy isn’t something that one gets to see every day and so I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity to give back, especially to my roots.
My experience at KKV was the highlight of my trip and something I will never forget. As I head off to college at Penn, this experience as well as my overall time at JHF have motivated me to continue to find service opportunities that will make a difference in the lives of others.