As another school year ends


Jerry has just finished Grade 4, receiving his very first recognition medal and awards. It was an exciting experience for both of us, especially when you consider that just 4 years ago Jerry was wandering around the local pier (not in school) and begging to survive.

For the first time I really felt like his mum.

We had made the break from Jerry’s home village and moved to the city during the school holidays last year — just after he finished Grade 3. It was quite stressful, we didn’t really know anyone and I chose Jerry’s new school based on the fact that it had a covered gymnasium and seemed to have enough chairs for parents to sit on during parent/kid events.

Look at Jerry and his friend Migs, both received the ‘most punctual’ award and both arrived long before their classmates.

Jerry lamented not having a single friend, and I lamented every time the rental house flooded (which was a lot) that so much writing (and money-earning) time was lost to repairs, cleaning up, and getting Jerry to school in the wet. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse they did. Jerry’s worsening allergies, asthma, and cough were diagnosed at active tuberculosis and anemia.

For a while there it seemed like we were at the Mission Hospital Iloilo City every few days. Maybe we were.

But slowly things started to change. We found an apartment on the other side of town (complete with flushing toilets and real showers), a friend from Estancia agreed to come and work for me — taking Jerry to school, tutorial, and ballet classes so I could concentrate on writing and earning a decent living. Things were easier. Jerry finished his TB meds and was cleared.

I wrote more and cried less. Jerry participated more and complained less. We both committed to our adopted family life and promised each other we would help and love more (me going to his school events, him getting ready for school — BOTH without excuses or complaints).

For the first time in four years he was thrilled about his graduation and spoke about it for days. He prayed earnestly to Jesus asking if he could please have a medal, then earnestly asking me at the end of the prayer if I would be there to put it on him. Here’s a little summary of his previous end of year awards.

  • Grade 1: NOTHING. His teacher telling me ‘there is absolutely nothing I could award him with ma’am‘. And she was right.
  • Grade 2: he got a punctual award (mainly based on my dropping him at school before all the other kids)
  • Grade 3: he got a punctual and helpful award (see Grade 2, plus because I’m a neat freak he was eager to keep the classroom tidy and wash out the garbage bins).
  • Grade 4: bronze medal for consistently learning and reciting memory verses throughout the year, most polite in his class. most punctual in his class (See Grades 2 and 3).
jerry's award from grade 4
Jerry and I accepting his awards alongisde his Grade 4 classmates.

Jerry and I met almost four years ago on a little stretch of road between Jerry’s home barangay and the beach. Jerry was just 7 and had been without a mother since age 4, his father was semi-paralysed from a stroke and they lived in rough little hut that World Vision had provided after their home washed away during Typhoon Yolanda .

Me, I was in the Philippines volunteering with the Typhoon cleanup and on a sabbatical – always intending to return to Australia. But somehow this little boy captured a place in my heart, and I in his. When his father died about a year after we first met I felt determined to stay and take care of him permanently. Adopt him legally and become his second mum.

It was so difficult when my savings ran out. When everything I had owned had been sold, and that ran out. But I somehow managed to start a freelance writing business from a foreign country without any working capital and no clients. It might sound brave but for at least the first 2 years I resented everyone, was angry all the time, was perpetually tired, and surrounded my body in 18 kilos of extra weight — a safety screen between me and the world and everyone in it.

And now having finished another school year I’m so proud of what we have both accomplished this year. Jerry making huge improvements at school, ballet, and tutorial. Me working on myself everyday through meditation, prayer, exercise and writing. Now with a full-time freelance writing income. We’ve done it together side-by-side. Our little family. Jerry’s new awards a significant yet tiny part of the story.

Jerry and Mel – April 2018-March 2019

Blogging-U: This blog was prompted by the WordPress online course Writing: Shaping Your Story1.1 What makes you you?.