During the October 2013 school-based medical missions in the HBI and I-CARE project areas in La Union, two former sponsored children who have went on to become registered nurses volunteered their medical services to more than 300 children and parents. Vanessa Joy Sagayo and Beda Ann Baoas shared their stories in between medical mission breaks to the HBI Technical Team who oversaw the implementation of the medical mission.
Vanessa Joy, 23 years old, said that “when I was being oriented by the HBI Community Worker about the Medical Mission activity, I told her that I already know the procedure because I was an HBI sponsored child – I used to fall in line with my classmates in Seng-ngat Elementary School so that we can get our medical and dental check-ups. It’s funny how time flies and how destiny works – now here I am implementing the actual check-ups.” Vanessa is the daughter of local farmers and her mom, Jackie, is one of the most active HBI and I-CARE Australia Area Leaders in the Seng-ngat, Sudipen, La Union community. “I became a sponsored child when I was in Grade 2 in the year 1999. Like the current sponsored children, I also enjoyed writing letters and Christmas cards to my sponsor. Of course, I also received school supplies, uniforms, medicines, and gifts every year. My sponsor even wrote me a simple letter twice which I received with such excitement.”
Vanessa was withdrawn from the Child Sponsorship Program when she was in first year high school. “According to my HBI social worker back then, my sponsor stopped donating and that’s why I was withdrawn from the sponsorship. Still, me and my family continue to be thankful for my sponsor’s support because these support made my elementary schooling very fun and enjoyable. My experience as a sponsored child inculcated in me that I should love school, value my education, and try to give back and share my blessings to others.”
Her mother said that Vanessa is a smart and studious girl even when she was in grade school. “Me and her father worried that we wouldn’t be able to send Vanessa to college when she graduated from high school. Thankfully, my sister who has a stable job said that she will help us in sending her to school,” Mother Jackie narrates. Vanessa then enrolled for a Nursing degree in the LORMA College in San Fernando, La Union. She persevered and endured an almost three-hour commute from school to home, little financial resources, and a backbreaking class schedule which involved class lectures and actual hospital work. Finally, she graduated on March 2010 and passed the Nursing Licensure Exam on December 2010. She is the first in her family to finish college.
Beda Ann Baoas, also 23 years old, has a different child sponsorship story. “I was identified to be a sponsored child when I was a Grade 3 student of Seng-ngat Elementary School in the year 2000.” She recalls receiving educational supplies, health kits, and Christmas groceries. Like Vanessa, Beda Ann enjoyed her time as a sponsored child. “We have Christmas parties and sports festivals annually – those were some of the highligths of my childhood. It was fun interacting with other sponsored children and with the HBI employees.”
Unlike Vanessa who was withdrawn from the program because her sponsor became inactive, Beda Ann was withdrawn from the program upon her graduation from elementary school because her family’s financial life has improved. “One of my siblings was able to find work overseas and he helped my parents in supporting our family. Because of this, my older siblings were able to finish their schooling and obtained good jobs. They worked hand-in-hand so that I could finish my college studies.”
Beda Ann who wanted to be a nurse ever since she was a little girl then enrolled in Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) in Quezon City, Metro Manila – ten hours away from her Seng-ngat, Sudipen, La Union hometown. When asked about her experience as a student from a small rural town in a big city university, Beda said “it was difficult at first – I had to adjust. I had to fit in with my classmates and I had to re-learn school lessons I thought I’ve already mastered. My first 6 months in the city was hard, but thankfully, I was living with my sister and she helped me adjust and get used to the fast-paced city life.” Like Vanessa, Beda Ann graduated on March 2010 and successfully passed the Nursing Licensure Exam on December 2010.
Both former sponsored children are now working in the Sudipen Municipal Health Center and the Tagudin Municipal Health Center as rural nurses. Vanessa and Beda waxed emotional when they said that “we are working in these health centers not only because we want to get medical experience but also because we want to pay it forward. We want to help poor children and families the best way we know how – through medicine. We owe it to our community and to our sponsors who kindly and generously shared what they have with poor children like us.”
Both intend to stay on as rural nurses for a considerable amount of time. “While I still can,” Beda said, “I want to help treat poor families living on the mountains who have never seen a doctor before.” Vanessa added that “hospital work or overseas work may have more monetary rewards than being a rural nurse, but being able to alleviate the pain of poor children with a wound or a toothache – seeing their smiles when the pain is gone – that is priceless.”