The tinkling of glasses subsided as the lights dimmed and all eyes turned to the stage. The speaker walked up to the rostrum and began his casual conversation, laughing often about his several failed attempts at getting hired in his dream job. It was a long-held ambition, kept burning by deep personal experience. Now, that dream is real. Dennis Grajo is the auditor of World Vision Philippines, but before all that, he was one of many children who could not go to school.
Planting the Giving Seed
I learned about World Vision’s child sponsorship program serendipitously in 2001 as my daughter was starting 1st Grade. The message in the mailer was true and actionable. Every child deserves an education; this is one way to help. Sometimes, people really wish to help but wonder if the financial assistance will reach the intended recipient. World Vision removes any uncertainty with regular updates and letters from your sponsored child. These include photos and amusing itemized lists of grocery and toys obtained with your special Christmas donation.
INSPIRE, as this event is themed, is regularly held to thank child sponsors, who are encouraged to invite friends who could be potential donors. In 2006, I was in one such event and I invited my friend, Pinky Piedad. Here, my story fades away and Pinky’s begins.
Spreading the Shady Branches
With professional experience in hotels and in the corporate and tech world, this smart and creatively persuasive woman also has a big heart. Pinky sponsored two children herself, a truly generous act. Beyond that, she concocted an innovative marketing program that was a win-win for all and paved the way for several others to sponsor scores of children through the corporate social responsibility efforts of her company, Nexus Technologies, Inc.
Her initiative and the support of directors, officers, and clients of Nexus Technologies have made education possible for some 50 children … and counting.
It was no surprise then that Pinky was the main speaker at this INSPIRE event. I was happy to be her chauffeur.
Plucking the Ripening Fruit
Pinky’s attention – like everyone else’s in the entire banquet hall – was now riveted to the rostrum where the story of Dennis Grajo, former sponsored child, unfolded. He made light of his speech with humorous anecdotes, but his pain was evident from having known poverty, from having tried radical ways to combat poverty, and from seeing many Filipino children deprived of the most basic education. He concluded his speech with a stirring poem that spoke of his journey. (With his permission, that poem, which is written in Tagalog, is reproduced below. He gave his consent for me to do a loose translation into English, but the fervor of the original is not easily captured.)
As World Vision Auditor, Dennis makes doubly sure that monthly donations are accounted for and received by the sponsored children.
In his spare time, he writes poetry in Tagalog and in English which he signs with his pen name, “Igorot.”
Dropping New Giving Seeds
Dennis now sponsors two children himself. From being a World Vision sponsored child, he has become a child sponsor and is now paying-it-forward, thus continuing the cycle of giving. His story is one among other stories of triumph over struggle. Each of their stories began when somebody made the life-changing decision to sponsor a child. You too can now make that decision and begin a new story.
At first, we were mere strangers, one to the other,
Gradually, affinity grew with each letter.
The flicker of a dream, you offered full light to,
My heart’s wish it was, one day to meet up with you.
I had called you aunt, uncle, brother or sister,
To dreams of doubtful future, you were nurturer.
SIX HUNDRED PESOS, a pittance to the wealthy,
This monthly share shaped visions of my destiny.
Society’s not equal, the poor are many.
With your help, we can balance the scales of plenty
so our country’s children, deprived of resources,
may learn the skills and means never to be helpless.
My deep-felt gratitude to you, let God pay back
with showers of blessings for kind acts from the heart.
In our land, let multitudes of such kind souls grow
and free the destitute from poverty and woe.
When we meet once again, perhaps some TWELVE years on,
I will be facing the world, a bold new person.
With confidence, I shall salute, mingle, converse, engage,
You paved the road that led me here, speaking to you on stage.
(loose translation by Luwee, World Vision child sponsor since 2001)