Merry Grace Bersabe could not want anything more than having the seemingly unattainable opportunity to go to school.
For this twelve-year-old little girl living off the streets of Manila, education is a privilege rather than a basic human right.
At 7 o’clock every weekday morning children her age flock to their classrooms to begin their regular school day.
Grace, however, begins yet another workday in Lawton, Manila.
While school kids fill out their workbooks, Grace buses tables and works behind the counter in a carinderia in on of the busiest provincial bus hubs in Manila.
When she has extra time from her work as an all-around carinderia staff Grace also takes on the a jeepney barker job.
Grace has never wanted anything more than getting an education. But apparently this is something not readily or easily available to everyone.
A month before she starts her 6th grade, Grace decided to runaway from her family’s home in Laguna.
Heavily burdened by her family’s problems, Grace, the eldest of eight children made a dificult decision to flew from home.
She and her 9-year-old brother went to Manila, where their grandparents live, in hopes that she could fund for her own education.
Grace belongs to a poor family. And with a family who is grappling to feed eight mouths, education is something that could be set aside.
“I had to quit school before I could step to grade five because I had to take care of my younger siblings. ” Grace told Livsstil.
Naturally smart and very eager to learn, Grace said she helped out with his brother’s assignments.
And with her resourcefulness she was able to get herself in school to finish her fifth grade.
“I joined my brother during his Christmas party and I took the entrance exam in December. By January I went to school and finished by March.” Grace recounted.
However, Grace and her brother fled Laguna on April hindering her from continuing on to her sixth grade.
Arriving in Manila not knowing what awaits them, Grace found herself far from achieving her dream of going to school.
Instead, she is faced with a brandnew challenge of making ends meet and looking for means to put food on the table.
But life has a way of playing fate.
Grace’s employer referred her to the government’s Rescue Action Center (RAC) which takes in children with cases similar to hers.
This where her life will begin to turn towards the good.
As if by sheer luck, Grace came across Virlanie, a chikd-caring institution that takes in children who are in need of protection.
The non-government institution (NGO) provides shelter and education to abandoned, abused, exploited, neglected, orphaned and poor children.
Almost 10 years later Grace now holds a degree in Business Administration and she is ready to start life anew.
“I graduated in April this year. I am looking for a job now.” Grace said.
She said she will forever be grateful to Virlanie.
“Malaki pasalamat ko sa Virlanie dahil natulungan nila ako.” she said.
Grace said her brother whom she came to Manila with is also a beneficiary of Virlanie.
Although he is not the intellectual type Grace’s brother was also able to start a new life.
“May sarili na po siyang buhay. At maayos na din siya. ” Grace said.
Grace is among the many children Virlanie helped.
Every year the NGO helps more than 1000 children from its residential outreach programs.
For Virlanie, every child has a story. And each story is worth telling.
The NGO believes that even children with sad stories behind them deserves a bright future.
That is why Virlanie provides homes that are divided into three clusters based on age groups to children who are in need.
They also offer educstional programs to ensure that the children has a future ahead of them after they leave the home.
Virlanie homes supports the following programs: Magellan Learning Center (education), SiBuhi (healing center based on arts), Medical Program, Psychological Program, Family Reunification, Independent Living Program.
On July 7 Virlanie launched its fund raising program Give 2 Share aiming to raise PHP2M to fund their program.
Donations can be made through Gava.com and by purchasing Give 2 Share shirts from Fundr.