In June, Sally Everingham travelled to the Philippines to meet her sponsored children for the first time. In a trip full of joyful, exciting, and confronting experiences, she shares the 10 moments that will stay with her forever.

On 6 June 2015 at 7:30am, my friends, family and I met at Sydney International Airport, smiled, took a photo in front of the departure sign (like everyone does) and boarded a plane to the Philippines. After two full days of travelling, we finally arrived at our destination: a small, somewhat isolated town called Abkasa in Bacolod. We had travelled all this way to meet our precious sponsored children. We had gifts, we were excited, we couldn’t wait to change their lives and see the smiles on their faces. Little did we know it was our lives that would be changed, our hearts that would be broken. I spent seven incredible days in Bacolod and made memories to last a lifetime. But I have just 10 incredible, unforgettable moments that I’d like to share with you. If you get even the smallest glimpse of what my trip was like, how life-changing it was, how incredibly special it was, then I’ve done my job.

1. “His eyes lit up as he realised I was real”

IMG 8443 400p-(1) This is the moment I met my sponsored child, Clark in Bacolod, the Philippines. We had just hopped off the mini bus at the project and there was so much going on: kids everywhere, dancers, music, everyone wanting to shake your hand or give you a hug and amongst all the chaos this little guy set his little eyes on me and ran straight over to me. I felt these arms wrap around me and I looked down to see this little boy’s precious smile looking up at me! I knelt down with tears in my eyes as I hugged my little man. My heart was so full and the smile on his face was contagious. Meeting this guy for the first time is a moment that I will never forget. I saw his eyes light up as he realised I was real, and I had travelled half way around the world just for him. Too see that look in a child’s eyes in priceless and unforgettable. In that moment, Clark found hope.

2. “No one should live like this, but Glori Mae does”

IMG 9082 400p This is Glori Mae. Glori Mae is known as a street kid; her mother left her when she was five months old and her father is busy working to provide enough food for the family. Glori Mae doesn’t go to school, she just roams the streets with her brothers. Whilst Glori Mae has a devastating and heartbreaking story, I’ve never met a little girl with so much joy and happiness. Glori Mae craves cuddles and affection and leaps into your arms as soon as she sees you. On this day she took my hand and wanted to show me her home, so we went for a walk. Glori Mae doesn’t know when she will eat next, or when she will see her father again. She roams the streets every day, looking for food, love and attention. I was blessed to be given the opportunity to show this child love and affection and ensure she had enough food for the next little while. No child should have to live like this, but Glori Mae does.

3. “She held his hand the entire way”

IMG 8768 900p-(1) This is my brother with his sponsored child, Kesha. To get to Kesha’s home we had to trek through sugar cane fields and rice paddies; it was 30-plus degrees, with a storm brewing. Kesha didn’t want my brother to trek that whole way without her. So she walked about an hour to meet us and walked back to her home with us. She held his hand the entire way. Whilst they didn’t talk a whole lot on that walk, every few minutes she would look up at him and just smile. As I hung back and watched them together, it suddenly dawned on me that the road is longer for some than it is for others. But coming alongside them, loving them, supporting them, helping them and showing them compassion is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.

4. “I couldn’t communicate with her at all, but we had a special time together”

Sally 400p-(1) I first saw this little girl, sitting all by herself. She was very shy. It didn’t take long before she climbed up onto my lap and warmed to me. She had a Mountain Dew drink bottle label that she was playing with. We spent the next few hours together and she put the biggest smile on my face. I never imagined a Mountain Dew label could bring a child so much joy. She wrapped it around her wrist, like a bangle, then she wrapped it around mine ... and proceeded to stick it all over my face! She would place the sticker over my eyes and crack up laughing, she would then place it over my mouth and burst into laughter. Seeing this little one continually burst into laughter made my day. Whilst she knew no English and I couldn’t communicate with her at all, we had a special time together.

5. “It hit me how different our worlds are”

IMG 8662 400p We were doing a home visit to one of my friend’s sponsored children. The house was too tiny to fit us all in, so I stayed outside and spent the time playing with these cheeky kids. I was outside with them for about an hour and I watched them have the time of their lives playing with this plastic car and a piece of string. I stood there and watched these kids play, laugh, and smile. My heart was overflowing watching them; a huge smile on my face. A moment like this cannot be totally described, I guess you just had to be there. It really hit me in that moment how different our worlds are. Can you imagine kids playing like this in Australia? I definitely cannot, but it was beautiful and refreshing all the same.

6. “He spotted the carousel and made a bee-line for it”

IMG 8956 400p-(1) This day was by far one of my favourites. It was towards the end of the trip and we took the kids to a fun park. It had rides, swimming pools, cartoon characters, animals, and much more. Clark held my hand for all of about 30 seconds as we entered the fun park. After that, he kept running to look at all of the different activities and kept looking back at me and waving me to come over. He spotted this carousel, looked at me, pointed at the carousel and made a bee-line for it. This carousel ride cost me a whole 85 cents and trust me, seeing the look on Clark’s face, seeing his eyes light up—it was worth every single cent and more. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of joy.

7. “To see her face light up is not something I will forget anytime soon”

IMG 8958 400p-(2)This is Nicole. I have sponsored this precious little one for two years. I was lucky enough to celebrate her 11th birthday with her while I was in the Philippines. Nicole’s family currently have next to no source of income. Her parents sleep on a muddy dirt floor and their house is practically falling down. Visiting Nicole in her home was by far the most confronting experience of the trip. Despite this, I’ve never met a family so thankful, appreciative and gracious. This photo was taken at the fun park as Nicole was sliding down the slide for the hundredth time. Nicole and I spent the whole day together, swinging on the swings, riding on carousels, and learning to swim. I know it was a day Nicole will never forget; it was worth every cent and more. To see that child’s face light up and the smile just get bigger and bigger as the day went on—it’s not something I will forget anytime soon.

8. “She lent in and gave me a kiss on the cheek”

IMG 00131 400p-(1) Now, how can you not fall in love with this little darling! I was walking along the streets of Bacolod and this little one was standing on the side of the street staring at me. I asked her mother if I could pick her up and this little one happily gave me the biggest cuddle. As I put her down she lent in and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I never saw her again and whilst she may be too young to ever remember that small moment in her life, it’s a moment I’ll never forget.

9. “They’ve taught me far more than what I’ve given them”

IMG 0114 900p We walked over an hour, in 40-plus degree heat, to visit this beautiful lady and her family. I was literally dripping in sweat when we arrived but seeing her standing at the door, smiling ear to ear and waving, suddenly made it all worth it. My parents sponsor her seven-year-old son, James. James is very shy and didn’t like having his photo taken. We went into their home; they didn’t have much—a bamboo chair that doubled as a bed and that was about it. My parents asked her what they could do to help. She shook her head and said ‘Nothing’. In that moment my mind was blown. I looked around and this woman literally had nothing. But she was content, she was thankful, she considered herself blessed. If that’s not a slap in the face then I don’t know what is. In that moment I realised that these people have taught me a heck of a lot more than what I have given them.

10. “What I got in return was priceless”

IMG 0010 400p-(1) This photo was taken moments before I left. It wasn’t until I got back home weeks later and was going through photos with my mum that I saw this photo on her camera. When I saw this photo this exact moment came rushing back. This is Glori Mae and her older brother. I don’t think they understood that I was leaving that day, I don’t think they understood that they may never see me again, I don’t think they understood the mark they left on my heart, but that didn’t stop their giggles, their smiles or their huge hugs!

I miss these littles ones every day. I may have shown them love, I may have given them some much needed attention, I may have given them a glimpse of hope— but what I got in return is priceless. I can never fully describe what I learnt from these kids, but I admire them. I admire their positive attitude, their huge hearts, their faith, their thankfulness, their generosity.

Never underestimate the difference you can make to a child’s life. If this trip has taught me anything, it’s that I am crazy, ridiculously blessed beyond belief and sacrificing a cup of coffee every day to impact a child’s life is so easy and to be honest, we should all be doing it, at the very least! The smiles on their faces, the impact it has to their education, their future, their health, their family, and their entire world is monumental. I used to think that my sponsorship fixed all their problems, but when I was on the ground and I got to see how these kids and families live and how real their daily struggle for survival is I realised that there is so much more that we can be doing. Sponsorship is just the beginning.

I’m just an ordinary girl, from a town that isn’t all that big. I’m not rich by any means, I’m not well known, and I’m no different to the next person. But I decided to be a part of something that was bigger than myself. Alone I cannot change the world, but I can change a life. If we all step up and agree to just change one life, imagine what we could achieve together. Being a part of something bigger than yourself—I can guarantee you—you’ll never regret it.

To impact a child’s life, please consider becoming a sponsor today.

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