Meet Caroline, Cheerleader for Children

When you first meet Carol, you wouldn’t have guessed she works as an advocate for children’s rights. After all, the tall and fresh-faced Cagayan de Oro native was a candidate for Miss Universe Philippines back in 2020. “Minsan naiisip ng mga tao na maarte ako (Sometimes people think I’m high-maintenance) because of the way I speak,” she admits. But behind that radiant smile and five-foot-seven frame is a heart for children and local communities.

Carol’s passion for children’s rights was stoked in her first year of taking up development communications in Ateneo de Cagayan. “We watched a documentary on child labor by Kara David. It opened my eyes to the realities that other children experience during their childhood,” explains Carol. “This really paved the way for me to be in a child-focused NGO.”

Social media was what landed her in World Vision. “I saw a post that said ‘Are you interested in writing and sharing stories that inspire people?’ Naisip ko (I thought), ‘I love writing!’ and I applied immediately,” Carol recounted. When she heard that the role was for immediate hiring, Carol dropped everything she was doing and showed up at the World Vision office the following week.

Then a fresh graduate, Carol was really excited to get into her role. “I loved the idea of being on the ground and getting to interact with the local communities of World Vision,” she begins. “But when I actually went there, visited their homes, and heard their experiences firsthand, it really hit me differently.”

“I hear children share their dreams of building a house for their families. O kaya makatrabaho lang para masuportahan ang pamilya nila. (Or just have a job so they can support their families),” she shares. “That’s when I thought, ‘I can do more than just packaging these stories to share with the rest of the world.’ So from being a Donor Education Specialist, I transitioned to being an Advocacy and Campaigns Specialist in World Vision.”

One story that really stuck with her is that of Malen in Misamis Occidental. “She’s a very good student, an achiever. But before World Vision, medyo nahirapan sila (they were struggling),” Carol recalls. Malen’s mom had a disability and their father left the family years ago. Because of financial concerns, Malen was afraid of not being able to continue going to school. “When I interviewed her, naiyak talaga si Malen (Malen was led to tears). She’s really grateful to World Vision.”

What made a difference to Malen’s family weren’t the organization’s big programs or interventions, but the day-to-day provision. Simple things like back-to-school kits and Noche Buena packs lightened the family’s financial burden. “Because they don’t need to worry about these things, their money goes to more important things,” Carol explains. “Si Malen, na-ispire lalo to pursue yun education niya. Balak niyang maging accountant (Malen has become even more inspired to pursue her education. She plans to be an accountant) to be able to financially help her family. I can say that World Vision has really empowered this child.”

Stories like Malen’s are what motivate Carol to press on despite the challenges. “Doing advocacy work not only at the national level but also in the World Vision-supported community is physically tiring,” she explains. “But when you get to the community and you see how enthusiastic they are, how they want to help their community to address issues – seeing that makes it all worth it.”

Having a team working together also helps keep the momentum going. “Walang sukuan (No giving up),” Carol adds. “Hindi naman ako nag-iisa. May team. May community. May volunteers, may mga bata. (I’m not alone in this. I have a team. There is the community. There are volunteers, there are the children.)”

What makes Carol believe in the work she’s doing is how communities are able to stand after World Vision exits. “It’s really about capacitating the children and the community to take ownership over their milestones and have the ability to address their needs themselves,” she shares. “World Vision doesn’t just provide support but trains parents kung paano protektahan yun anak (how to protect their children). We conduct workshops to improve livelihood, how to save, how to manage finances para may ability (so they have the ability) to provide for their child.”

Another key ingredient to success is World Vision’s grassroots approach. “Nagbibigay kami ng tulong according to the needs na sabi ng parents, community, children (We give assistance based on the needs articulated by the parents, community, and children),” Carol explains. And the best part is graduating a community out of poverty. “Once World Vision leaves a community, we’re confident that they’re empowered to continue the work we have started,” she adds.

Seven years in, the former beauty queen can’t imagine doing anything else except child-focused development work. “When I first joined World Vision, akala ko two or three years, aalis na ako (I thought after two or three years, I’d leave),” she jokingly shares. Now Carol thinks this will be her first and only job. “Dito na ako mag-retire (This is where I will retire). We’ll see where the Lord leads,” she says with her radiant smile.

You too can join Carol and other empowered women and be part of the movement in empowering Children, especially girls by October 11, International Day of the Girl.

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