By Chiqui Sanchez
Fil/Am Community Ministry, Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church
Through our community outreach program, one goal that the Fil/Am Catholic ministry of Our Lady of Good Counsel had been aiming for since its inception was to provide a Filipino student a college scholarship. Always known to us was the fact that college costs for many of those living in poverty in the Philippines has always been extremely out of reach. For just a few hundred US dollars a year, we knew we could provide the opportunity for some of our impoverished youth in the Philippines to access a college education.
In our continuous search on how this can be achieved, we finally got the opportunity. In March 2016, YSLEP (Youth Servant Leadership and Education Program) through Caritas Manila, was introduced to us by Rev Father Patrick Posey, Pastor at St. James Parish in Falls Church, Virginia who travels to different parts of the world on behalf of the Pontifical Mission Society, Mr. Mike Mele, a Catholic faithful who travels with Fr. Posey, and Ms. Corinne Monogue, Director of the Offices of Multicultural Ministries in the Diocese of Arlington. The three of them traveled to the Philippines in February 2016 and saw for themselves, firsthand, what Caritas Manila and YSLEP were all about. The Fil/Am Community Ministry based at Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) parish invited them to make a presentation to us about YSLEP and Caritas Manila, and as we were informed, they made the presentation to us much in the same way as Caritas Manila presented the program to them when they were in the Philippines.
The program was presented to us far beyond our expectations and we from the Fil/Am Community Ministry were convinced that the scholarship of an impoverished student through YSLEP / Caritas Manila was an initiative that we could take on as one of our advocacies. In faith, we further believed that the Holy Spirit led us to these three individuals for guidance in reinforcing and firming up our intent to take on a scholarship program that has long been in our plans. Our meeting with them concretized our long-time goal to be able to support students in the Philippines.
At this time, we turned to Caritas Manila to break the ground for us and get us to a running start to achieve our goal. Caritas, in turn, obliged us with the logistics on how we could initiate the sponsorship, one student at a time: Caritas gave us what we needed to know, what we needed to do, what information we needed to provide them, and what the entire program entailed that we should know about.
Through our contact with Caritas Manila, our OLGC-based Fil/Am Community Ministry launched our scholarship program in June 2016. Leobert Francisco from Basilan, Isabela in the southern part of the Philippines became our first YSLEP scholar. Leobert belongs to a family whose only source of income is from his father who works as a laborer and an Aunt living with them who is a local market vendor. Leobert has a younger sister who is not yet of school age. Leobert was in his 2nd year of studies in Education at the Claret College when we started supporting him, and we will see him through until he gets his degree in 2019. He hopes to get a job as a secondary school teacher upon his graduation from college.
In 2017, we got a second scholar. Claudine Diaton from the Ifugao region in the northern part of the Philippines belongs to a family comprised of her father who is a rice farmer, her mother, a housekeeper, an older brother who works as a security guard and a sister struggling through her first year in college. Claudine was a rising junior in the Ifugao State University majoring in Agriculture, when we started supporting her. She is expected to finish her Bachelor’s Degree in June 2018, and hopefully, she will find a job after graduation, to help support her family. The Fil/Am Community Ministry will be in a position this coming June to get another scholar through Caritas Manila. We have been in contact with Caritas Manila to give us a list of at least 3 students pursuing a career in Education to choose from. We very much look forward to meet our 3rd scholar.
With our fundraising initiatives that we continue to pursue, with the unfailing moral and spiritual support from our Pastor and staff at OLGC, and the untiring effort from the members of our ministry, God willing, we will be able to sponsor more students who are in need through Caritas Manila. We feel blessed that we have been given this golden opportunity to serve and we are deeply grateful that we are able to make a difference in the lives of some of our own.