Majority of ICARE-Australia Metro Manila sponsored children reside in a small fishing port called Adelfa. Located in the City of Navotas, the Adelfa Community is filled with the different connotations of poverty – shanty houses, naked children running on the streets, the distinct smell of highly questionable sanitation, garbage, and petty crimes, just to name a few. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a child growing up in this kind of environment. But Mary Grace Vicente, an ICARE-Australia sponsored child, has developed a coping mechanism for this – drawing and sketching. As soon as she begins to draw, the pictures of poverty are replaced with cheerful images of people and objects that connote hope.
The daughter of a welder, who only earns 300 pesos a day, and a plain housewife, it is not surprising that 16-year-old Mary Grace aspires to be an artist or a painter when she grows up. “I know that most teenagers my age want to be either nurses or policemen because it’s the practical choice – nurses get to go overseas, and policemen are assured of job security,” she said. “For me though, I want to be an artist because I want children to know that drawing is fun and good for the imagination. Maybe in the future, I can teach Art Classes to children. Who knows?”
Apart from being an aspiring artist, Mary Grace is also one of the most improved ICARE-Australia sponsored children when it comes to overall school performance. According to her, “not having to worry about how my parents can buy my school uniforms, bags, and other school needs helps so much in my schooling. I have all my school needs, all I really have to do is study my lessons, go to class, and participate in class discussions more.” As a result of Mary Grace’s hard work, she was able to get a very good average of 87.22% – a three-point increase from the average she got the year before.
Mary Grace’s teachers also noted that not only did she improve her grades she has also developed her self-confidence. When asked about this, the child said, “my parents, four siblings, and teachers encourage me to join as many school contests as possible. And so I did – I joined the school’s Essay Writing Contest and the Poster-Making Contest. I recently realized that what I like about these contests is not the recognition I can get, what I like is the experience of being able to share my talent to others.”
Perhaps the ultimate testament to Mary Grace’s transformation from a shy and timid girl to a dynamic and good student with leadership potential is the fact that she was elected as the Student President of the Tanza National High School’s Student Council for School Year 2013-2014. Garnering more than 2,000 votes from her fellow students, Mary Grace said in her victory speech that she promise to do her best especially now that she is in her last year of high school.
Now a 4th year high school student, Mary Grace continues to try to be a better student so that she can be in the running for various college scholarships. “I want to make my parents and my sponsor proud. I know if I work hard enough, I can get a scholarship and get a college education. I will not give this dream up.”