Towards independence: A story of a Virlanie child

The humility on his face is noticeable, striking but not overbearing. Dressed with positivity, he walks the room generously giving a smile to everyone who passes by. Paul (not his real name) is one of our young adults who lives in Ella Yallah, our home for boys ranging from 13 – 18 and is one of our beneficiaries under the Independent Living Program (ILP).

Meet Paul

Paul’s smile and eyes would be the first thing you would notice on him. What he lacks in words, he compensates through his gestures. He’s a kid, young adult to be exact, whose usual response to questions probing about his thoughts and feelings is “it’s okay.”

As a kid, he grew up in a small municipality located in the southern part of Rizal whose main industry is fishing. He was raised independently by his grandmother along with two other siblings and a cousin, who are also presently under our care. Her mother died after child birth and his father left when they were very young.

With no one else to take care of them, Evelyn, their grandmother, took it upon herself to raise these three young boys serving as their mother and father. They lived in a small, improvised shanty house made from scrap wood and dilapidated materials that would often tear down during the monsoon season. She made a living out of the root crops that she planted on the lot they were squatting. Earning PHP 20 (twenty pesos a day), they knew it was never enough to completely provide for their family which drove the boys to beg for either money or food just to fend for themselves every single day.

Evelyn’s devotion was phenomenal but short-lived. Evelyn was dying. Due to complications of Tuberculosis, each day that passed by was harder and harder for her. She wanted to give her grandsons a better life and she knew that her declining health and unfortunate circumstance will not be able to do that. With the help of a concerned neighbor, she reached out to DSWD with hopes of giving her grandsons a better life.


Six years of transformation

Paul arrived at Virlanie when he was 12 years old. At his first week, he was already making friends with the other kids and the staff of Virlanie. He was shy and avoids eye contact but when given a task, he follows through. He is a person who knows what accountability and responsibility meant at a very young age. He was very different in his new environment—different from what the street brought out in him.

Now 18 years old, Paul has already received a vocational skill training from Technical Educational and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) – DOLE. He started working in a massage clinic on October 2015 and right now he just started his new job as a cashier for a convenience store. He is saving his hard-earned money in order to prepare himself for independent living.

When asked what was the best thing that happened to him under our care, he paused for two minutes and silence enveloped the room, then he said it was when he was able to access education and change his bad behaviors. He acknowledges that at some point, he has to go and live independently as it is for his own good, he said.

He says that his greatest memory here in Virlanie was when he was able to have parents with the guidance of Tatay Peter and Nanay Jocelyn. They were able to teach him life skills and guide him throughout his stay at Virlanie.

Paul understands that he wouldn’t be in his position right now if it weren’t for the help of his sponsors who helped him especially during the school season to provide for his school fees, allowance, school supplies, and even school essentials such as uniforms. It is with their help that he was able to understand the value of compassion and generosity in creating a ripple effect unto others and changing lives for the better.