13 December 2017

Compassion

Compassion Ireland, established as an Irish charity since 2011, exists as an advocate for children living in extreme poverty across the world. We are committed to the holistic development of a child, meeting their physical, spiritual, emotional and social needs through our sponsorship programme. Here’s a story from one of our Compassion children in the Phillipines.

Golden Girl

They say that sport is a real leveler. On the pitch, track or court no one cares where you come from; they only care what you can do. This couldn’t be truer than for 16-year-old Emilda Soriano from the Philippines.

Emilda proudly clutches a score of medals, which she has won for sprinting. Behind her in the doorway of their wooden hut, Emilda’s parents beam with pride. The medals represent triumph over a lifetime of challenges. When she was just two years old, Emilda suffered severe convulsions. For six days she lay unconscious on the verge of death. She never fully recovered from the trauma sustained to her brain and has the developmental age of a child much younger.

The odds of Emilda ever living a normal life are stacked against her, as she lives in a squatter community by the side of a public cemetery in Iloilo City in the Philippines. Her father, Reynaldo, earns just £4.50 a week as a tombstone maker while her mother, Vilma, supplements that income by washing clothes. “She is a teenager now, and living in this neighbourhood is dangerous for a 16-year-old lady,” explains Vilma, “especially for someone who is mentally challenged.”

Whilst the family was searching for additional support for their daughter, who cannot be left on her own, they discovered the Salem Student Centre at their local church. The centre, in partnership with the child development charity, Compassion, sponsors students from exceptionally poor backgrounds. Emilda’s plight was immediately apparent and after registering her as a sponsored child the centre provided funds for her to attend the Integrated School for Exceptional Children of Iloilo City, which has facilities to support students with learning difficulties.

The burden on Vilma and Reynaldo was immediately eased and they soon learnt that their daughter had a particular talent for running. Project workers from the student centre encouraged Emilda to train regularly with a coach and for the first time in her life she was able to integrate with children her own age. “We treat her like one of our regular young people at the centre,” says Joseph Alba, the project director. “We are very proud of her achievements.”

When Vilma learnt that her daughter had been selected to compete in the Philippines Special Olympics in Pangasinan, quite a way from where the family lives, she was both delighted and apprehensive. “I’m very happy for her,” says Vilma, but it was the first time her daughter would be away from home. The Salem Student Centre took care of all the costs and ensured there was someone to accompany Emilda throughout the trip, and the investment paid off. Emilda won a gold medal, two silver medals and a bronze on the track. Her national triumph qualified her for the International Special Olympics in Greece in 2011, and with additional assistance from Compassion both Emilda and her mother were able to attend.

However, win or lose, the joy this 16-yearold receives from her sport is enough.

Twice a day Emilda and her mother go to practice. But the delight it brings to Emilda, and in turn the whole family, is immeasurable. “I would give everything for my daughter,” says Vilma. “Now that she is enjoying life as an athlete, I try not to worry about her future.”

WORDS

Edwin Estioko (Compassion Philippines) with Kate Sharma (Compassion UK)

To find out more about Compassion Ireland’s work and how you can sponsor a child visit www.compassion.ie or call Olly Van Der Flier on 087 2783613

Compassion is an international Christian child development and child advocacy ministry. Partnering with local churches, we are committed to the spiritual, economic, social and physical development of children living in extreme poverty in 26 countries, enabling them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.