A deep connection was Jhulian’s greatest wish. He tried to find it through friendship and his family, but says he continued to feel empty.
The 17 year old lived in the Baritan community, in the Malabon area of the Philippines. It’s part of metro Manila, a huge, crowded city where it’s easy to feel lost in the crowd.
“I grew up having playmates in our neighborhood. But those friendships didn’t last for various reasons,” Jhulian says. “Sadly, I didn’t find the kind of friend that sticks for long.”
Instead of warm relationships, he says, his life was full of conflict.
“I saw playmates my age harshly scolded by their strict parents. My own parents had many arguments, and I would get caught in the middle. This kind of environment really influences a child. It didn’t help that I looked to my family for all my needs,” he reflects. As a result, he says, he felt sad and troubled.
Jhulian, 17 year old living in the Baritan community of the Philippines.
From Hopelessness to Connection
Baritan is a community with limited opportunities, Jhulian explains. “Parents have meager incomes. It is often not enough to provide nutritious food for their families, and certainly not enough to save for medical needs or family emergencies. Many children stop attending classes when they are very young so they can work and help buy food for their families,” he adds.
This sense of hopelessness began to change in 2015, Jhulian says, when Food for the Hungry (FH) came to work in Baritan and child sponsorship began. He was among the very first children to sign up for FH programs, and he quickly became involved in several activities, including Youth Advocates Group, Daily Vacation Bible School, and Values Formation sessions.
Soon he took the role of assisting FH staff by registering and greeting other participants. His mother also became active as a community volunteer through FH.
Fostering Spiritual Growth
“Food for the Hungry has been a big help in our lives and in our community. They have provided school supplies and basic needs, lightening the burden on parents. But they did so much more than that,” Jhulian reflects now.
“I see my younger self now in these children and their drive to learn, but especially in their eagerness to know God. I now understand that what I really needed and longed for was to have God in my life. I learned this because FH doesn’t just share lessons; God’s Word is incorporated in everything they do. In addition to knowing God, this taught me to appreciate myself and my family.”
Jhulian and other youth participating in a values formation session.
Hopes and Dreams?
When asked about his vision for the future, Jhulian says, “Dreams are things I leave to God, as I entrust my life and every detail to Him. I learned this from what is now my life verse: Proverbs 3:5–6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
“My hope would be that other children in my community may have this opportunity of knowing that God is the provider for all our needs, that is the deep connection I needed. I pray that my whole family – including my father and siblings – will also connect with God, and that we can experience spiritual growth together.”
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