[Written a few weeks ago while visiting Bohol Island in the Philippines]
Unable to sleep any longer in my still-dark Hotel room in the Philippines, I quickly dressed and crossed the bridge to the Badjao on a tuk-tuk. I wanted to find Therese, the little girl that I sponsor before she left for school. The puzzled driver seemed confused at my request to be let out just above the cliffs one must scale to descend into the world of the Badjao Tribe. Amidst the crowing roosters and the chatter of the Badjao starting their day, I carefully selected my footsteps down the jagged coral reef to the huts suspended above the water on stilts. There is a certain energy here, a happiness that one cannot quite put their finger on, but there is also great need.
Thanks to Pastor Johnny and his little church that is nestled among the huts, and through the church’s partnership with Dan Johansen and Badajao Bridge, many of the Badjao have come to know Christ, but they still need education, medicine and food. They also need an advocate like Dan who works hard to bridge the gap that exists between the Badjao and the opportunities afforded by other Filipinos. As if the Badjao’s life was not already hard enough, they face sharp discrimination from others. Dan has made many trips to the local school and stood up for the Badjao to insure their ability to obtain an education.
Negotiating my way across the wooden planks while carrying my photography gear on my back I see little Therese making her way towards me in her crisp white school uniform with pink trim.
Knowing that what she is wearing and the school she is heading to this morning is the direct result of my daughter Christina’s influence in my lifemakes this morning’s experience very rich with meaning.
Therese’s shyness from last December has since given way to excitement over my visits. She still takes my hand with a firmness that is uncharacteristic of such a small girl and steadies my walk across the bouncy and unstable planks above the water.
Twelve years ago, when my daughter Christina listened to her heart and responded by sponsoring a little boy halfway around the world in India, she had no way of knowing that her decision would have such a ripple affect.
As I clasped Therese’s hand, we made our way up together from the sea, followed by a crowd of curious children. I followed her into the back of a jeepney that took us both to her school; her smile said it all as we rode together. The feeling that I experienced was much like what I felt when taking my own children to school when they were younger. As we got out of the jeepney and I walked her to the classroom, I slipped the gifts that I brought into her backpack as she walked. My gifts were small but much appreciated, crayons, paper and when I told her about the two carrot muffins that were in the sack, her smiled widened.
To learn more about how you can make a difference in the lives of children like Therese go to http://www.badjaobridge.org