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Every January & February, the scholars in our “Adopt-a-Scholar” program write Thank You letters to their sponsors. We would like to share with you some of their expressions of hope, joy & sorrow, and most of all, thankfulness for the love & kindness of ordinary people who support Real LIFE Foundation.
I would like to start telling our story before I was found. They were very dark days. I had to stop schooling & during those days, I kept asking God why that needed to happen in our life — in our family in particular — but I also had faith that God was working in our lives. I still remember the night I announced I got a Real LIFE scholarship in our home. I smile whenever I remember that my father wept after hearing my good news. I never expected that my father would do that. My first steps on the premises of De La Salle University Lipa with my uniform on was the highlight of my year. It made my vision & dreams come to life. (Flor, Real LIFE scholar)
We are always so encouraged when we hear the testimonies of our Real LIFE scholars. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, we see how God gives them grace & strength to carry on.
Last year was very challenging for me. It’s so hard to be apart from my family. Every night, I cry as I talk to God, because I miss my family so much. It’s hard for a child like me to be separated from her family. But I know I need to stick it out, I have to persevere. And through each trial and difficulty, God reminded me that these are just tests. God has been so good because He is always there for me. He is my strength when I am weak, my joy when I am sad. (Michelle, Real LIFE scholar)
So, to everyone has ever supported Real LIFE Foundation, we would like to say “Thank You” & “Maraming Maraming Salamat!” We truthfully could not do what we do without you…and in the words of one of our scholars, “A thousand words are not enough” to express our gratitude!
I just want to say Thank You for all the support you have given me. Thank you for believing that I have potential. I canʼt express just how grateful I am for the love you have shown a scholar like me. Before I just wished to be able to eat three meals a day and that would be enough. But you helped me to dream big dreams and believe that it was possible. (Jonathan, Real LIFE scholar)
(To learn more about our “Adopt-a-Scholar” program, pls visit: http://www.igivetolife.com/give/adopt)
by: Lynn Nawata, Executive Director
Last December, we celebrated another special Christmas with the kids from our feeding program. Every Saturday for almost four years now, we have fed close to 100 malnourished children from Barangay Kapasigan, Pasig. More than just feeding, however, we put a special emphasis on playing, story-telling, values education, and showing these children the love of Christ.
This year’s Christmas program included one of the kids’ favorite activities (besides playing & eating!): craft making. With the help of our ever faithful volunteers, the kids created their own mini Christmas trees, which they decorated with sequins, decorative paper, stickers, and lots of glitter (much of which ended up on the kids themselves!)
Christmas is the season of giving, and every year, we also try to bless the families of our feeding program kids with a food basket. This year, thanks to our corporate sponsor Amdocs, each family got an eco-friendly, reusable shopping bag full of food! Another of our generous donors donated a colorful new pair of flip-flops for each of the kids!
The old saying goes that it is more blessed to give than to receive…and at Real LIFE Foundation, we see this in action every Saturday. We are so thankful and so blessed by every person who gives — whether it is our volunteer cooks, our feeding program volunteers, our LitClub volunteers, or the Area Coordinators, LIFE Coaches and donors without whom our scholarship program would not be possible.
Thank you for giving to LIFE!!!
by: Lynn Nawata, Executive Director
One of our favorite events every year is our annual Race for LIFE fun run in the Fort. This year marked the 5th anniversary of the Race for LIFE, and we celebrated it by holding this year’s race on November 30 (Bonifacio Day) and adding a new twist to the fun run…our very first “Buddy Run”…!!!
In addition to 3k, 5k, & 10k solo categories, we added a 3k & 5k Buddy Run. Runners for the Buddy Run had to start and finish the run together…and their buddy could be another human or even a four-legged friend! Since it was our first Buddy Run, we weren’t really sure what the response would be but we were absolutely overwhelmed when the 3k Buddy Run sold out very quickly and we ended up with close to 6,000 registered runners for the Race for LIFE!
Once again, the race lived up to its tagline… “Putting the FUN back in RUN.” We saw grandfathers running with their grandchildren; kids running with their friends; couples running hand in hand; and several intrepid humans running with their dogs! You might have seen our Real LIFE scholars running in the 5k Buddy Run, since they had special white race shirts with “scholar” written across the back. : )
Besides being super fun, the Race for LIFE serves as our biggest fundraising event of each year, and this year was no exception. Thanks to everyone who participated, our awesome corporate sponsors, and an army of volunteers, we were able to raise over PhP 2 million!!! That’s enough to sponsor 40 Real LIFE scholars for one year of university, including tuition & fees, books, uniforms, plus a daily meal & transportation allowance…!
Thanks again to everyone who joined…and see you at Race for LIFE 2013!!! Mark your calendars, because we’ve already decided to hold the race on November 30, 2013 (Bonifacio Day again!)
We held our second National Real LIFE Scholars Conference last Oct 25-27, with the theme of “Empowering Dreams.” More than 170 high school and university scholars and alumni from Luzon, Visayas & Mindanao gathered together for 3 days of equipping, bonding, fun, food and fellowship!
“Empowering dreams”, those two words really inspire me a lot! I am just so really grateful to be one of the Real LIFE scholars, having my Real LIFE family encourages me to dream greater things for nothing is impossible with God, and gives me hope for my future. (Marize, Real LIFE scholar from the Fort, Luzon)
The conference included speakers: Lynn Nawata (Leadership), Jon Naron (Integrity), Juray Mora (Faith) and Joey Bonifacio (Excellence) as well as Real LIFE alumnus, Raquel Bag-o who spoke about empowering dreams and Derek Ross and the team from True Love Waits Philippines. The highlight activity of the conference was our “REAL Amazing Race” – in which eight teams of scholars raced from the Fort to Robinson’s Pioneer while completing four challenges along the way. All the teams did an amazing job – creating team flags and a team cheer – and the scholars had a great time, laughing, bonding and making friends with scholars from across the country.
The 2nd Real Life Conference was a great experience of joy and encouragement. The conference was so full of fun, having a team composed of different scholars from different places, we were able to build a bond of friendship with each other, helping one another and supporting every challenge in the amazing race.
(Ariel, Real LIFE scholar from General Santos, Mindanao)
One of the goals of our national conference is to encourage and inspire all of our scholars to do their very best, to persevere to the end, and to pursue the dreams that God has given them for their lives.
Sobrang thankful ako kay Lord na ibinigay niya sa buhay ko ang RealLife kaya noong pagkatapos ng amazing race parang ayo ko nang matapos pa ang convention na yun kasi alam kong mamimiss ko silang lahat. At nung umuwi na ako umiyak po talaga ako kasi grabe yung ginawa ni Lord sa buhay ko di parin ako makakapaniwala… grabe, grabe si Lord, Thank you talaga kay Lord dahil binigay niya sa akin ang Real Life, at thank you din sa Real Life Foundation at sa mga bumubuo nito. (Leah, Real LIFE scholar from Roxas City, Visayas)
The three days flew by and, before we knew it, it was time to say good bye. Thank you to everyone who spoke, sang, hosted, volunteered, prayed and gave! We couldn’t do what we do without you. Thank you for helping us empower the dreams of our scholars!
The conference was great, life changing, inspiring, motivating and encouraging! Thank you so much Real Life Foundation that God used you as an instrument to touch hearts and give hope to our lives. We love you and we are very much thankful… (Jemarvey, Real LIFE scholar from Quezon City, Luzon)
by: Lynn Nawata (Executive Director)
Ever since I was young, my heart’s desire was to finish my education and pursue a better future. It wasn’t easy, because I came from a poor family, and was practically raised in a single-parent household. My father left my mother when I was six; I never saw him again.
My mother worked as a laundrywoman, and her meager salary was our only source of income. To make ends meet, I worked as a busboy in a fastfood restaurant, but my salary could not compensate for my family’s expenses. Balancing time between work and pursuing my college degree wasn’t easy. I prayed hard to receive a scholarship, but I did not know how to get one.
Around that time, I became part of a Victory group at Victory Fort Bonifacio. I didn’t tell anyone about my needs, but instead fully trusted God to do His will. One day, my mentor, Miko, encouraged me to try out for a scholarship from Real LIFE Foundation.
I will never forget that God answered my prayers in a powerful way, and gave me the opportunity to do greater things for his glory. The Real LIFE Foundation gave me a scholarship, and I received support for my education, including tuition and allowance.
Attitude of Gratitude
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Real LIFE is to have an attitude of gratitude. For one, I am very grateful about the education I received. I learned not to take my studies for granted by doing less than my best. I realized that studying and working hard honors God. I’m also thankful for everyone who partners with Real LIFE to give people like me a chance at a better future.
Real LIFE isn’t just about financial support. Being part of the program taught me a lot about character. Yes, God provides for our needs, but He is also concerned about our character. Real LIFE values what our church values: leadership, discipleship, and growing in our faith.
Being part of the program helped build my faith and encourage others to live by faith as well. God is a faithful God, and we can trust Him to provide for all our needs. He is also faithful to answer our prayers. Because of this, I want to live my life as His messenger. I want more young people to know about who God is and what He can do in their lives.
Tonie graduated from STI with a degree in B.S. Information Technology in 2007 and is now a LifeBox campus missionary. He is soon to be married to another Real LIFE alumnus, Joanne.
by: Karess Rubrico, writer & friend of Real LIFE
I was very fortunate to join the Real LIFE feeding program one Saturday morning in their Pasig centre. It truly was an experience I will never forget. A lot of the time we say “Yea, I know there are poor people. I donate to charities.” But how often do we actually go INTO the areas where poverty is the way of life? How often do we surround ourselves with people who want nothing more than your time of day? These are simple people who smile because they are happy and content, not because they have a huge house and a great fat pay cheque. It was such a humbling experience to go to the centre and do something as simple as feed kids between the ages of 3-9. These kids who walk to the centre on their own to eat probably the only complete meal of the week.
The second the gates of the centre were opened, kids burst through the corridor and into the bathrooms, knowing the drill that before play and food, they must wash their hands thoroughly. Emerging from the toilets, they climb on the nearest volunteers they see. Hanging off them as though they were furniture, these kids come packed with the energy of wild horses. They are running, jumping, laughing, loving. The volunteers, many of whom were roped in through ‘team building exercises’ from different corporate companies and have no contact with kids apart from probably their nieces and nephews, are caught completely off guard as to the demands of these energizer bunnies. Once the initial shock wears off, the volunteers quickly find themselves carrying, cradling, and cuddling these kids who want nothing more than their attention. I, myself, was carrying 2 little girls at one point who would not, for the life of me, let go of my hands. But that in itself was so incredibly beautiful. These were kids I had NEVER met and yet they trusted me enough to hold them. To provide some kind of love to them. Yes, this was very overwhelming.
After about 30 minutes of play, the kids pick a seat at one of the many tables set up. Each little table sits 3-4 kids and 2 chairs for the adult volunteers. They now begin their arts and craft session. From simple materials like color pens, crayons, stickers and paper plates, the kids create beautiful little pieces of art with messages in the middle dictating the values the centre tries to instill in the kids.
From the messages on the paper plates creatively designed by the kids to be a present for their parents when they go home, the same rules are put up on the walls. This centre does not just try to feed the kids, they try to teach them respect, value and manners. Quotes like “Always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and “No lying, cheating and stealing” are written under ‘RULES’. These kids don’t just come in and play around for 2 hours, they are enriched. The kids recite the rules and say grace together before beginning their nutritious meal.
After exhausting themselves physically and creatively, they settle back into their seats for a wholesome meal. Rice, veggies and chicken are quickly gobbled by the kids who rarely get these treats. The 2 volunteers at each table watch in awe as the kids shovel food down their throats. Some of the kids run to the kitchen to get second helpings. Others, however, needed to be coaxed to eat. Having so much food is something foreign to many of them. After much persuasion and motivating, the shy kids slowly eat most of their food and then continue with a bit more play time.
After having spent just 2 hours with these kids, you realize how quickly they get attached to you. One of the girls who was sticking to me the whole morning clung on to me. It was time to say goodbye. I held her and rocked her back and forth. She cuddled me and buried her face in my neck. I could feel her angst. She didn’t want to leave. She loved having people around who were playing with her and making her feel special. After a few minutes of cuddling after most of the kids had exited the centre, she looks at me and squeezes my face with her two hands. This girl no older than 6 then whispers “halik halik” (kiss kiss) and proceeds to plant a number of little fat kisses on my cheek. I squeeze her for the last time and promise I’d be back to visit her again. Before my emotions seeped out completely, I lowered her to the ground and she walked down the corridor to the exit. With a turn of the corner, she was gone.
I find myself sometimes unhappy with many things. Personal, career. Lots of different things. Attending something as simple as a feeding program where, quite literally, all I did was act like a kid for 2 hours to hang out with a bunch of little people who were so much fun, really put things into perspective. It reminds us why we are fortunate. So that we can give back to those that are not. It is to give us the education to know what is right and what’s wrong. To not just sit and say “I’ll do it tomorrow” or “I’ll donate later.” No. You get up and you make a difference in someone’s life, NOW. I can guarantee that won’t be the first and last time I’ll be at that centre.
There are many kids that need something as simple as a friend. Sounds like something you can handle?
by: Carla Dunareanu (DJ, Actress & Real LIFE volunteer)
The subtitle of Dr. Wess Stafford’s memoir, Too Small to Ignore, is “Why the least of these matters most.” The “least of these” are the poor children of the world and, after reading this book, they will indeed matter to you too.
Wess Stafford is the president and CEO of Compassion International, one of the most well-respected christian NGOs in the world. What makes this book so special, however, are his childhood experiences of growing up in a small tribal village in Ivory Coast, West Africa. The wisdom he learns from tribal elders, the relationships he develops, as well as the hardships he endures after being sent away to boarding school are what form the basis for an adult life which would be dedicated to serving “the least of these.”
The spirit of a little child is a lot like wet cement. When a child is young, it takes little effort to make an impression that can last a lifetime.
The son of American missionaries, Wess has an idyllic childhood growing up in the remote West African village of Nielle. Here, even very small boys are given the very weighty responsibility of guarding the village cornfields from monkeys…using slingshots. In this tiny village, children are never viewed as helpless or in the way, but as the future fathers and leaders of the tribe who need to learn about and participate in village life at every stage in their lives.
I don’t want to include any spoilers (since I want you to read this book!), but let’s just say that Wess goes through a life-changing experience before moving back to the U.S. to complete his education. It is these experiences of having his heart broken and seeing the dreams of his childhood friends in Africa dashed by the cruelties of poverty that fuel his passion to help the poor.
I learned in my childhood in Africa that a child may be born into poverty, but poverty is never born in a child. The worst aspects of poverty are not the deplorable outward conditions but rather the erosion and eventual destruction of hope and therefore dreams. When a child gives up hope, dreams are forever shattered. With lost dreams goes the potential and ultimate impact that a child might have had.
The above quotation from Wess perfectly sums up why we at Real LIFE Foundation are fueled by the vision of “transforming lives through HOPE and education,” and why our ultimate goal is “empowering dreams.”
I am absolutely convinced that each and every child is lovingly knit in the mother’s womb with the gifts, talents, and potential to accomplish great things — if only given a change. Every child matters to God. Once that child, through our intervention, comes to understand and believe the awesome truth, the cold fingers of poverty are pried loose once and for all.
This is truly one of the most inspiring books I have read and will surely shape your views on what it means to have “compassion.”
I was flying back from Edmonton to Manila last Tuesday night. By the time I got to Tokyo, my twitter & facebook feeds were “flooded” with increasingly dire reports of the astronomical rainfall totals in Manila.
From Aug 6-8, more than 1,000mm of rain fell on Metro Manila. According to the weather experts, this was a “once in 50 year flood.” Except that it’s now happened “twice in 3 years.” Typhoon Ondoy deposited more than 400mm of rain in 24 hours in 2009. For comparison, my hometown in Canada, Edmonton, receives less than 400mm of rain per YEAR. Even the notoriously rainy Seattle receives less than 1,000mm of rainfall in an average year.
I wasn’t sure what I would be arriving home to. I was actually wondering if it would be flooded around the NAIA Airport like in 2009, when countless people got stranded at the airport and on surrounding roads. Fortunately, although it was raining steadily, the roads were clear and I made it home before midnight.
Wednesday morning, I woke up to a sense of deja-vu-all-over-again. When I turned on ANC, the scenes were eerily reminiscent of Ondoy – people stranded on rooftops, walking tightrope-style across high-strung cables to get to safety, and wading in chest-deep water holding valuables above their heads. I wondered if this was going to be Ondoy Part II.
I stopped at a local supermarket to buy infant formula and instant noodles and then headed over to our Real LIFE community center in Pasig. I was welcomed by Pastor Anthony, Vince, several of our Real LIFE scholars, and water slowly creeping into our center. Vince, Pastor Anthony and volunteers from Victory ventured out into chest-deep floodwaters to deliver relief goods, while the scholars and I spent the day trying to coax the floodwater out of our center.
The water in some parts of Barangay Pinagbuhatan was too high Wednesday evening, so on Thursday we decided to try again. I stopped by the Fort to pick up relief goods donated by Victory Fort, then headed back to the Real LIFE community center. We organized four teams to fan out into Pinagbuhatan where the families of many of our Pasig scholars live. We commandeered a jeepney for the first leg of our trip. Then, when we reached the start of the badly flooded part of Pinagbuhatan, we were fortunate to hitch a ride (for free!) on a ginormous truck. Again I was struck by how eerily similar everything was to 2009. I saw the same flooded gas station, the same flooded streets, the same flooded factories. When we got close to our scholar’s home, we jumped down into thigh-deep water and waded the rest of the way. Our team was able to deliver relief goods and pray for three families in Pinagbuhatan.
When all four teams were finished their missions, we re-grouped at our community center. After we dried off and warmed up with some hot lugaw a kind volunteer had donated, I had a chance to reflect on the Great Flood of 2012. Here are my conclusions:
All I can say is… Helping others truly is more fun in the Philippines!
by: Lynn Nawata (Exec Director)
Real Life Foundation held a LIFE Coach Training for the LIFE Coaches of our Metro Manila scholars on Saturday, July 7. The event was well-attended by more than 50 LIFE Coaches from Metro Manila, Batangas, and Cavite. LIFE Coaches are a vital part of Real LIFE’s scholarship program – these volunteers meet with our scholars on a weekly basis and mentor them in “LIFE”: Leadership, Integrity, Faith & Excellence.
Speakers were Real LIFE Executive Director, Lynn Nawata, and Director of Scholarships, Vince Bitana. Lynn gave an overview of Real LIFE and an introduction to CrossRoads — an intensive 8-session training for the scholars designed to empower them to make good decisions and build healthy relationships that will ultimately help them to fulfil God’s purpose for their lives. As she said, “We always have a choice. There is always an opportunity to change and grow.”
Vince Bitana conducted a workshop on Coaching Skills and delved into the essence of being a coach. “It is an investment in the life of another person. We need to draw the answers from them [scholars] and let them process because they already know the answer. Let them think, guide them, walk alongside them.”
It was an afternoon well-spent in the company of passionate and dedicated individuals committed to investing into the lives of the needy. “It is important to empower the scholars so that they will learn to solve their problems instead of focusing on the problems alone,” shared Randy Gepiga, a LIFE coach from Lipa.
Being a LIFE Coach means to listen and to guide and these precious skills leave a lasting impact in other peoples’ lives.
by: Tracy Cruz, Volunteer LIFE Coach
This year will be our largest batch of students ever, with more than 200 high school and university scholars in 22 cities across the Philippines: Laoag, Urdaneta, Cabanatuan, Imus, Quezon City, Novaliches, Metro East, Caloocan, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Makati, Taguig, Malate, Muntinlupa, Dasmarinas, Lipa, Batangas, Cebu, Roxas City, Bacolod, Zamboanga, and General Santos.
On June 1, we held our Real LIFE Scholar Orientation for more than 100 Metro Manila area scholars. We were impressed by the diligence of our new Cabantuan scholars who travelled three hours by bus each way so they could be a part of our orientation…! We started with some games and icebreakers so the scholars could meet students from other areas — starting with Samson, Delilah & the Lion (a variation on the classic “Rock, Paper, Scissors” game). Welcome messages were delivered by our Scholarship Director, Vince Bitana, and the Executive Director of Real LIFE Foundation, Lynn Nawata. The scholars were encouraged to be examples of leadership, integrity, faith and excellence in their schools.
A special surprise for the scholars was a video greeting from the founder of Real LIFE Foundation, Doc Joey Castro, who sent them greetings and encouragement all the way from Brunei where he is now working and planting a church. We were also blessed to have one of our Real LIFE alumni, Francis Santos, who encouraged all the scholars to persevere and excel in their studies and in life. Francis graduated two years ago with a degree in Computer Science and is now working for an IT firm.
After a yummy lunch of rice & fried chicken, the scholars did a very meaningful activity in which they identified their “Personal Core Values.” Here are some of the reasons we encouraged our scholars to know and hold to their personal core values:
Your core values are like your GPS – when you wander off the path or lose direction, they bring you back on track. When you are fully clear on these values, you attract to you people of like mind who share the same desire to lead a purposeful, authentic life.
We are excited for all of our Real LIFE scholars and believe that God has “hope and a future” for each one of them!