The physics of life according to a rice cake vendor

By Kimberly Gutierrez
World Vision Communications Intern

Former sponsored child Rea Domogho cannot wait to go to school this year but as she walked through the wide hallways, the sound of her heels clacking against the tiled floor made her uneasy. She enters the well-lit class room and let the stares of the students welcome her. These must be the “rich kids” of this famous school here in Zamboanga. Growing up from a poor family, maybe she doesn’t belong here. She takes a deep breath, stood in front of everyone, and smiled. This time, she is not here to study — she’s here to teach.

“I remember the hardships I went through during my school days, when I had to sell food and work to earn money to support my studies. These students, they have everything,” the twenty-two years old Physics and Mathematics teacher recalled whenever she sees her student’s expensive stuff.

Rea was at the age of 4 when she became a sponsored child. “I was always excited every time school started, because World Vision gave me lots of new things. I had new notebooks, new pens, new bags, a new uniform, and new shoes.” Her father, a sawmill operator who earned less than $3 a day, was happy to see his daughter in her new uniform. During those months without regular work, he and Rea’s mother Rita would do menial jobs to support the education of their three children. Rita washed laundry for well-to-do neighbours and sold homemade rice cakes.

Soon, school was not all about these new things anymore. Rea had to raise extra cash for school projects and her bus fare by selling her mother’s rice cakes to classmates, which wasn’t enough. “I did not earn every day because some of my classmates would promise to pay me the next day, but they did not. I was also shy to ask them to pay,” Rea admits.

Upon graduating high school, Rea also tried to work at a fast-food restaurant to pay for her college tuition. She had a hard attending school and doing her part-time job at the same time, she was just so exhausted each night. “I got so thin that time, like a skeleton,” she says.

Her only encouragement was the regular letters from her sponsor, an Australian named Sandra, who urged Rea to study hard and believe in her dreams. It was a message Rea took to heart, she really wanted to be a teacher.

Fortunately, she passed a scholarship exam giving her a full-tuition grant. With the assistance of World Vision, Rea was able to stop working and focus exclusively on her studies. Every semester, Rea would pursue a minimum grade of 85% in all her subjects and was required to major in Physics—one of her weaker subjects. “It was not really my favourite subject, but since it was offered, I grabbed the opportunity. Later, I began to like it,” she says.

Now, as a teacher for two years already, Rea has learned to love Physics even more. The thrill of teaching has not worn off, and the hardships she faced while growing up have given her a deep sense of gratitude to those who supported her along the way. “Looking back, I feel so blessed. God has provided me with many opportunities. ”

Truly, the young girl who sold her mother’s rice cakes has come a long way. Inside these well-lit, air-conditioned private classrooms, they now call her ‘Teacher Rea.’