Her name is Elizabeth, aged 7 and in Grade 2. She was the photogenic girl whose image I used in the cards printed for this year’s fund raising program. She comes from a large family with many siblings. Mother is working in Manila, father struggles to feed all of the family. She is also a part of this year’s feeding program in Cebu. In a way, I was happy to see her again and thrilled she was still part of this year’s program. But I was also distraught when told that times are just so tough that perhaps more than a few times, the kids in the program may only get our meal that particular day, skipping nonexistent meals at home. We chatted for a few minutes, well, actually, I chatted and she was simply mortified that she had to answer a few questions from this strange tall dude… My heart was aching.
And a few minutes after the main feeding program was completed, this boy, Carlo, aged 11 and in grade 3 (yes, his age and grade level are accurate), noticed me standing by myself in one corner of the school yard, observing the kids, and he purposefully walked over, completely on his own initiative, and shyly looked up at me to say in the most earnest of tones… “Sir, daghang salamat sa pagkaon.” (Sir, thank you so much for the food). I cannot replicate in written form his body language, tone, and eyes. But, I can assure you, it broke my heart. I am not a sentimental type, but this was a tear-jerking moment. Imagine that and say it to yourself many times if you have participated in the marketmanila.com feeding program. I know if they could, the kids would say “thank you” to every single one of you.
We may have already provided 20,000 meals since last Christmas, and will likely provide another 15-20,000 meals over the next year, but it just isn’t enough. These kids deserve better, and a part of me feels worse for seeing this so up close, because anything we do is just a tiny drop in the bucket. I will never again take ANY meal, fancy or not, for granted. On behalf of all of the beneficiaries, let me say again, THANK YOU!!!