Braving the mountains to reach school

Going to and from 13-year old Kimberly’s house is no easy feat. It sits atop of the mountains of Siayan in Zamboanga del Norte.

You have to hike, she said.

She does it every day. On good days, it will only take and her siblings an hour to reach their school. During rainy season, however, when the rolling terrain can be as unfriendly as it can be for children and adults alike, two hours is a minimum. There are motorcycles that can transport them but the fare would cost P50 (USD1) each. They do not have the money for it. We only have P5 or maximum of P10 for allowance each day, Kimberly explained.

Why did you not lose heart, I asked.

To learn. To be one step closer to my dream of becoming a teacher, she answered.

Her school which caters to more than 200 children, mostly from the Subanen tribe, is her refuge. She loves Mathematics the most. Although she tends to be shy, she does well in all her subjects and has been consistently at the top of her class.

But there’s more motivation to that.

The mountains know – her dreams, the cries of her heart. When she starts walking at 5:30 in the morning, when she goes back to her home at 4 in the afternoon, the mountains must know her thoughts. They were silent witnesses when her parents broke up, forcing her mother to leave her and her two younger siblings under the care of their grandmother so she could earn for them in Zamboanga City.

“It happened when I was 8 or 9. Since then, we would only see Mama during special occasions,” Kimberly said, eyes sad, voice low.

She misses her every day but while this situation saddens her, this also keeps her going. One day, her mom will no longer need to be away from them.

“I will build a house for her and tell her to not worry about sending my siblings to school. I will be there to help her,” she says.

Kimberly is also comforted by the thought that other people are rooting for her. On the other side of the mountains, she has Kuya Tony, her sponsor.

He writes me letter, she shares. He talks about his pregnant wife and he tells me to always take care and do well.

Her Kuya Tony is one of the 16,000 World Vision sponsors in the Philippines who make it possible for the organisation to work in the most vulnerable areas like Kimberly’s. Sponsorship funds are pooled together to create projects that benefit not just sponsored children but also their communities. Kimberly’s school, for example, was supported in the construction of school gate, stage and other projects that would make the place a conducive learning space for children.

“I am grateful for the support I am receiving. I promise to never stop studying no matter what the circumstance is,” she said.


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