Birthday surprise

How a birthday wish became two people’s birthday gifts

When she turned 26, Charissa Jariel decided that she will finally sponsor a child. It’s the fulfillment of a personal promise she made while in college. “I said back then, once I’m working and financially okay, I’ll do something to pay it forward,” Charissa began. “Gusto kong tumulong sa mga batang tulad ko (I want to help children who are like me), kids who want to study.”

Since this is the first time she’s doing this, Charissa started searching online for organizations that support education. She then came across World Vision. “Sa P750 per month, makakatulong ka na sa bata tsaka sa community niya, sa family niya. (At P750 per month, you can help a child and his community, his family.)” Charissa explains. “Hindi lang para sa bata yun ginagawa nila, hindi lang education. Meron din livelihood. (It’s not just for the child, it’s not just about education. There are also livelihood programs.)”

Before she even started, Charissa prayed about her sponsorship journey. She prayed that God will sustain her commitment until her sponsored child finishes school. She also prayed that God sends the right child her way. “Sabi ko hindi ako pipili, kung sino man yun lumabas, yan ang pinili ni Lord para sa akin. (I said I won’t choose, whoever comes up is the child God has chosen for me.)” It came as a delightful surprise, then, when Charissa saw on her sponsored child’s profile that they share the same birthday. Only God could have orchestrated such a match and Charissa knew it was an answered prayer. The decision to become a sponsor became a birthday gift not just for herself, but for her sponsored child John Rainier as well. Thus began the friendship between the two.

Charissa first met John Rainier in his community in 2019, a year after she began sponsoring. She was struck by the child’s sincerity. “Gusto nya makatulong sa pamilya (he wants to help his family),” she shared. “Lagi kasama yun pamilya sa pangarap niya. Gusto niya makapagtapos para matulungan niya yun family niya. (His family is always a part of his dreams. He wants to finish schooling so he can help his family.)” Charissa formed an immediate connection with John Ranier because she sees herself in him. “At a very young age, alam ko pangangailangan ng family ko, gusto ko makatulong. (I know the needs of my family, I wanted to help.)”

The two exchange letters regularly and Charissa finds comfort and inspiration from John Ranier’s notes. “Bawat sulat nya sa akin may improvement siya, kung anong grade na siya, yun friends niya. Kapag stressed ako, hinahanap ko letters ni John Rainier. (Every letter to me includes updates like his grade level, his friends. When I’m stressed, I look for John Rainier’s letters.)”

There were days when Charissa was tempted to pause her sponsorship, especially during the global pandemic. Her job as a nurse in Saudi Arabia was really challenging and she even contracted COVID in February 2021. “Struggle din siya financially (It’s also a struggle financially),” she shared. “Pero sabi ko, ‘Commitment ko to, pinag-isipan ko ito. Dapat lifetime ito.’ (But I said, ‘This is my commitment, I thought about this. This should be for a lifetime.)”

What sustained Charissa is the thought that through everything that’s happening, she knows she is doing one good thing. “Maraming struggles, minsan maisip mong mag give up (There are so many struggles, sometimes you’ll think of giving up),” she confided. “But in the midst of all the chaos, there’s one good thing na nagagawa mo dahil sa sponsorship (there’s one good thing that you get to do because of sponsorship.)”

“Sponsorship inspired me to do better,” Charissa admitted. “In the eyes of a sponsored child, you’re living your life in a good way. You have a good reputation. I’m challenged to be a role model for my sponsored child because he is looking up to me. Na-inspire ako sa kanya. Kelangan galingan ko ang pagtatrabaho. (I am inspired by him. I need to excel at work.)” Charissa prays that the Lord will bless her work so she can support John Rainier until he fulfils his dream of becoming a policeman. She also wants to sponsor even more children in the coming years.

The road may be challenging but for Charissa, sponsorship is ultimately rewarding. “Makikita mo paano ma-transform yun buhay ng bata at paano mag-transform rin buhay mo. (You get to see how a child’s life is transformed, and how your life is transformed, too.)” Charissa shared. “Usually you think you’re giving, but the benefit is two-way. When you give, unknowingly, may natatanggap ka rin (you’ll receive something as well). Morally, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, you will feel appreciated. Your morale is lifted knowing that you helped someone. Walang papantay sa feeling na yun (nothing compares to that feeling).”

While John Rainier is the first child shes sponsored, Charissa hopes he will not be the last. “Hopefully, one day, makaka-sponsor pa ako ng ibang bata (I can sponsor other children, too),” she says.