My flight to Manila from Washington, D.C. arrived in the late evening, so I didn’t have a chance to see much of the city before our volunteer coordinator from the Fortune’s Children Center (or Fortune Center), Joy, picked me up the following morning.

It was a beautiful day in mid-January in the Philippines, and as Joy and I made the 45-minute journey from the Makati district to the Marikina neighborhood of Metro Manila, we excitedly talked about how it was my first time in the country and how I was looking forward to learning more about Children Incorporated’s decades of work with the Fortune Center.

Joy has been our volunteer coordinator for nearly 10 years since our former and long-term volunteer coordinator, Polly, had retired. Polly started the Fortune Center many years ago, and worked tirelessly within the community of Fortune, which she named the center after, to help children and their families living in poverty — much in part thanks to the support the center received from our sponsors and donors.

The Fortune Center supports local families and their children in the Marikina area of Metro Manila.

When we arrived at the Fortune Center, a crowd of children and parents was already there, anticipating our arrival. It was a Saturday – a day in which the children usually wouldn’t be at the center, but essentially a perfect day for my visit since the kids were out of school for the weekend and at least one parent was not working that day so they could also come to the center to meet me.

Nearly all of the 40 children enrolled in our program were in attendance, ranging from 1st grade all the way to high school — and to my surprise, even some graduates from our program had been invited and were there as well! One of the graduates was a young man named Genesis, who was acting as host for the day, standing behind a podium with a microphone on a stage in the main room of the center.

Joy had arranged for some of the children to perform songs and dances in celebration of my arrival — it had been almost five years since a representative of Children Incorporated had been to the Philippines, so there was much reason to celebrate a guest. The Philippines had some of the stricter regulations on travel and tourism during the pandemic, but now the country had opened up, and Filipinos were excited to see visitors again. Genesis introduced the groups of performers one by one, and as they took the stage, I could tell they were all very proud to be able to show their talents to not only me, but to their parents as well.

After the performances, Genesis introduced a few of the mothers, who were given a chance to read thank you letters to their children’s sponsors, expressing their gratitude for the support they receive. Through their letters, I learned that in this area of Marikina, like in other low or middle-income neighborhoods in Manila, families lived very modestly, surviving on low-wages working in construction jobs, service jobs, or factory jobs, often finding making ends meet difficult. The mothers were so appreciative of the opportunity to send their children to the Fortune Center to receive meals before and after school, and to get tutoring support — all in addition to the monthly subsidies of school supplies, clothes and hygiene items our sponsors provide.

Having a chance to travel so far from home to hear Genesis’s story, as well as those of the mothers of children in our program, really was a reason to celebrate.

Next, Genesis, who had been a sponsorship recipient himself since 4th grade, talked about his experience growing up with a sponsor. As a young man, his father was incarcerated, and his mother struggled to raise him and his siblings as a single parent. Thanks to his sponsor, he was able to stay in school and get an education, and the Fortune Center offered him a place to concentrate on his studies. Once he graduated from high school, Genesis pursued a degree in education at a local university and wanted to give back to his community by helping other young children realize their potential.

As he spoke passionately about the importance of educating youth, he made sure to emphasize that he attributed his success in life to having a sponsor who made him believe in himself and provide him the help he desperately needed. Now, Genesis not only works as a teacher, but tutors other students at the Fortune Center, as well as his nieces and nephews — all of which keeps him very busy!

I was so touched by Genesis’s speech. He is a truly inspirational person, and a wonderful representation of the power of sponsorship and what one individual can do to help another to drastically change the course of their lives. Having the chance to travel so far from home to hear Genesis’s story, as well as those of the mothers of children in our program, really felt like a reason to celebrate.


How do I sponsor a child in the Philippines?

You can sponsor a child in the Philippines in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in the Philippines that is available for sponsorship.


written by Shelley Callahan

Shelley is the Director of Development for Children Incorporated. She is also the lead social correspondent, regularly contributing insights through the Stories of Hope blog series. Sign up for Stories of Hope to receive weekly email updates about how your donations are changing the lives of children in need.

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