“It blew my mind to see homeless children on the street,” music artist David Archuleta says, still struck a year later. “Kids sleeping in cardboard on the side of the road…”
Though he knew about the difficulties children and families face in urban Manila, Philippines, it shocked him to see this level of poverty first-hand.
A three-year Holt music artist partner, David shares about sponsorship and finds sponsors for children at his concerts around the country. Like all of Holt’s artist partners, he is passionate about helping children. A 2008 American Idol alum, David has quite a large fan base in the Philippines — where he held sold-out concerts on his tour in Manila last October.
But while in the Philippines, he had something else he wanted to do. Between concerts, he made time to visit the children and families in Holt’s sponsorship program — children who he advocates for as a Holt artist partner.
“We went to some of the ‘the stacks’ — homes stacked on top of one another,” he says, recalling the small homes where large families live all together in a single room. “A lot of people in the Philippines live on a minimum.”
But as he walked through crowded neighborhoods, sat in one-room homes and heard stories about the deep issues families and children face here, he also saw the impact sponsors make.
Through Holt’s local partner, Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF), sponsors truly change the lives of children living in these impoverished neighborhoods. Sponsors give shelter, food and care to children living without families in orphanages. And sponsors provide education, nutrition and family stability for children living in the city’s barangays — the crowded slum communities where so many families live in need and uncertainty.
“One girl was 10 years old when she was found living under a bridge,” David says of one girl he met during his visit, who is now in her late teens. KBF took her in and gave her the safe shelter, nutrition and care she needed as she grew up. While Holt and KBF’s goal is to find a permanent, loving family for every child, this girl was never adopted. But today, she still has a bright future — a future she never imagined for herself.
Today, she is part of KBF’s Independent Living and Educational Assistance (ILEA) program.
In the ILEA program, young adults and teens who grew up in orphanages or in poverty live together as a makeshift family unit. Most of the ILEA scholars are high school or college students who have recently aged out of the Philippines’ social welfare system and need a place to transition from life in an institution to independent life. The scholars encourage one another in their studies, and often share meals or spend time together doing social activities. Most importantly, through the support of sponsors, they receive vocational and life skills training as well as educational assistance — helping them graduate high school, go to college and build the best possible future for themselves.
David met ILEA scholars studying to be architects, doctors and social workers. The young woman who used to live under a bridge is now in college. Without a sponsor to provide for her as she grew up, and support her education today, her life would be drastically different.
“Despite not having a family, they were able to be in college,” David says of scholars he met. “It showed me that even if kids never get adopted, the environment they’re in because of sponsors allows them to get out of [the institution] and make a life and career for themselves.”
During his trip, David also saw how sponsors are helping children grow up in the love of a family. While in Manila, he visited a single mothers’ home — a safe, supportive place where women facing unplanned pregnancy can stay while they decide whether to parent or to make an adoption plan for their child.
“Oh my goodness, that was really special,” David says, as he describes performing a song for the women in the program. Afterward, one of the women gave him a Christmas ornament that she made for him.
“For people who think there’s no one thinking of them,” he says, “to offer a song was nice.”
Everywhere he went, he sang songs, including at a preschool where sponsors support over 100 children — giving them a safe place to learn and play while their parents work during the day. David sat at tiny tables with them, learned their names and gave each child a giftbag full of new school supplies.
But in between each of these destinations, he looked out of the car window and saw other kids — kids alone on the street.
“A lot of kids are selling things on the street and not going to school,” he says. Concerned, he turned to a KBF staff member and asked, “What about all these kids?” She told him that — like so many Holt programs around the world — the Philippines program is at capacity. But they continually strive to help all of these children.
“It made me realize,” David says, “Wow, how would their lives change if there were more people who would say yes to sponsor a child and donate?”
What he saw in the Philippines — the better, safer life that sponsored kids have — is what happens when people raise their hands and say yes to sponsoring a child at his concerts. It’s what happens when someone generously sacrifices their money to care for a child across the world.
But he hopes that sponsors experience not just the sacrifice, but the fulfillment and joy that comes through giving.
David has a mantra for his life. He believes “small and simple things can become great things” — that sacrifice can bring the greatest joy. And that is so true, he says, when it comes to sponsorship.
“When you’re more conscious of giving to other people, you don’t need as much,” he says. “When you give it to someone else, you’re already filled.”
Megan Herriott • Staff Writer
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