Evans poses in pictures with her students, each holding an award for their accomplishments in her class. One at a time, she hands them their award, smiles, and gives them a quick hug or makes a funny face while the camera snaps a picture. Evans loves her students.
She believes wholeheartedly that each of the kids in her class is special — and that education can help them reach their dreams.
She knows this is true because education also changed her life.
When Evans was 7, the abuse started. In the Philippines, poverty is rampant, jobs are scarce and many families migrate to find work. That was true when Evans was a child, and it’s still true today. When her mom got the chance to work as a dressmaker in another part of the country, she left Evans with family friends.
Evans didn’t see her mom again until she was 9, and when she returned, she didn’t stay long. When she left again, Evans had no way of knowing where her mom went.
For the next four years, Evans endured physical and emotional abuse, neglect and the pain of her mom’s abandonment. She grew rebellious, and her sadness grew into anger. At 13, her mom’s friends left Evans at a government orphanage.
That could have been the end of Evans’ story. But because of Holt sponsors, Evans received a second chance at life.
When she was 16, Holt’s partner in the Philippines invited Evans to join the Independent Living and Educational Assistance Program (ILEA) for orphaned or abandoned kids aging out of institutional care. Because of sponsors and donors, the young adults in the ILEA program have a safe place to live, and positive adults who teach them life skills like cooking, self-care and financial literacy. ILEA students receive scholarships to continue in vocational or extended education. The goal is to help these kids overcome their tough childhoods, and go on to live successful, independent lives.
When she joined the ILEA house, Evans hadn’t been interested in school for many years. She hadn’t dared to dream about her future. But suddenly, because of the support of people she’d never met who lived half a world away, she found herself living among teens just like her — teens who had also endured abuse or neglect or abandonment, teens who were now succeeding in college or excited about a newly learned job skill. They were learning to find joy and hope. And, they welcomed Evans with loving arms.
Evans decided to become a teacher, and donors paid for her tuition. Staff from Holt’s partner office, Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF), met with Evans regularly and encouraged her to study hard. Slowly, her rebelliousness was replaced by compassion for kids and teens like herself.
“I cannot imagine my life without the help of ILEA,” Evans says. “This service made me a strong person with humility in my heart. It sounds funny, but ILEA taught me to love and take care of people who are not blood-related and without expecting in return.”
Without having to worry about food and shelter for the first time in many years, Evans grew happy and healthy in the loving, supportive environment at ILEA. She graduated from college and received her first teaching job at a private high school in Paranaque City.
Now, she continues to give back to her community every day — spreading encouragement to her students. She’s living independently and studying for her master’s degree in education.
Evans is deeply grateful to the donors who supported her.
“They say ILEA is a training ground for us to face the real world with resiliency and confidence, but for me, ILEA showed me what money cannot buy; it is the unconditional love of God for us,” Evans says. “I would like to send my warmest gratitude to the sponsors at Holt who always support ILEA. You give hope and a bright and sure future for the children in need.”
You can help a child in the Philippines go to school! Learn more here.