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Last December (2014) , while sheltering in an evacuation house during Typhoon Ruby, I met a family of nine.
At the time I put out a call to family and friends seeking ongoing sponsorship for their youngest daughter Roseanne, then aged 4. That call was answered by my friend Jac Gallagher and her family.
Over the last nine months I have really come to know this family and I experience such a joy any time I climb the muddy embankment to their makeshift bamboo home. One of the girls Rosemary, is fourteen years old. Rosemary was a bright and bubbly little girl, but she contracted meningitis aged around five or six. She has lived since this time with a severe intellectual impairment, communicating only by a series of different noises. Requiring constant care, she cannot be left unattended.
The Philippines is a place where disabled and mentally impaired family members are often chained and placed in cages. I mean literally metal chains and padlocks circling their bodies to tether them to a bed or coconut tree. It is a credit to this family, despite their poverty, they love and care for their daughter with dignity and compassion.
And Rosemary is a handful. She is big and loud, she demands constant attention. One of the delights of my visits now is the special shriek she has if she sees me walking below on the roadside. It has taken almost a year, but now she will pat my arm and lean on my shoulder when I visit.
Using the money sent to me by my friend Jac, every month I deliver a modest cash donation to Neda (mother) and her family as well as ongoing gifts of school supplies, raincoats, clothes, food and social outings for the kids. Sometimes I check on Roseanne and her brother Rolando at school and chat with their teachers.
It’s more than a monthly visit though. The kids come to the house where I stay for snacks, to paint or draw or play games, watch DVDs and even the odd sleepover. Taking two of the kids to the city of Iloilo for the first time was also a joy.
This is a family who live in an almost constant state of love and I am inspired by their cheerful smiles and generosity every time I see them.