In my more than 20 years as an educator, I have found that when we help students cultivate their passion and purpose, they not only transform individually, but they have an impact on others. A key to developing skillful, resilient leaders is to engage them in relationships with those who are different from them. This may be an elderly, lonely neighbor they befriend or a community in need thousands of miles away. Recognizing this, Pacific Bay Christian School is engaged in a multi-year relationship with World Vision to support two rural communities in the Philippines. As a school, we are sponsoring 26 children. Our students interact with these kids through letters, emails, gift packets, and financial donations.
While it would be easy for them to ask their parents for the money, we encourage our students to find ways to earn or raise the money themselves. This makes the commitment and investment personal and powerful. Our youngest are washing dishes, taking out trash, and even selling their artwork to earn the money they then give to the children in the Philippines. High schoolers are holding bake sales, Read-a-thons, and giving up a morning’s coffee to add money to the collections. PacBay students are living transformed lives through commitments such as these. Our school is educating students for lives of significance and creating leaders who have the potential for global impact.
I often spend time with our students asking about their aspirations. I am learning much as they tell me about their goals of addressing the issues of human trafficking, insadequate healthcare, and personal isolation. The most successful, sustainable development originates in partnership: learning about the needs in a community and empowering community members to address the needs. This mindset requires humility, prayer, and a commitment to take a step back and learn from those most deeply affected. It is not our responsibility to rescue; it is our opportunity to learn and grow in relationship.
Malnutrition is a significant concern in the municipality of Bugallon, which consists of 24 villages and where most of our sponsored children reside. In fact, Bugallon ranked #1 for most malnourished children in the Philippines. Through World Vision’s partnership with community leaders, that ranking has dropped to #15 in just two years. The organization has stepped in side-by-side with local leaders to address this concern and is empowering them to find solutions.
Recently my colleague, faculty member William Duncan, and I visited the Philippines where we met PacBay’s sponsored children and learned more about the area. Like the residents of Bugallon, we pumped water from the communal well, walked the muddy roads and sat in the open air huts some of the residents call home. It was just a glimpse into daily life in this rural area. Perhaps the most poignant moment came when William and I distributed gift bags PacBay students had put together. Each bag contained a photograph of our students. More than the school supplies, toys, and candy the children received, these pictures had the strongest impact. Prior to our visit, this community did not believe their sponsors really existed. Now as the children stared at the faces of our students a new phase of the relationship was forged.
When we returned to campus and showed our students photos we took with their sponsored children, the reaction was profound. We consider this only the beginning of global engagement at PacBay. In seeking to educate students for lives of significance and graduate strong, compassionate leaders, we focus on scholarship, discipleship, an expanded worldview, and action.