Vanessa Vailoces is a senior at Bartow IB. She spends most of her free time watching the middle seasons of Friends, Parks and Rec, and The Office because series finales make her too emotional.
In the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to work with the C.U.R.E. Foundation. C.U.R.E. has a series of projects to help the local Filipino community and my sisters, Valory and Victoria, and I decided to volunteer at one project called “Rancho ni Cristo” in Cebu, Philippines.
Rancho helps young girls who are victims of sexual abuse. The project includes providing housing, medication, education, mentoring, and counseling for girls that have been rescued from sexually abusive households. My cousin Kuya Bart, who is one of the head coordinators, explained to us that Cebu has one of the highest rates of child cyber pornography and prostitution. At the time, they had girls as young as two and three living at the facility. When I began the three-hour journey to Rancho, I thought I would be helping these girls, but they were the ones who enlightened me.
Throughout the drive, Kuya Bart told me horrible stories about how parents advertised their young daughters as “exotic” and set up video calls with men all across the globe. The girls were often asked to “dance” for these strangers, among other things, and in exchange, the family received a few extra pesos. Unfortunately, many of the girls experienced the sexual abuse within their own households as well.
The stories became even more painful when I actually met the girls. When we entered the residential building, the girls ran up eagerly to greet Kuya Bart and the new Ates (meaning “older sisters”). My sisters and I knew little to no Bisaya, but the girls did not even notice the language barrier. Any shyness was quickly overcome after we had our potato sack race and various water-jug inspired competitions. I briefly thought about the kids I knew in America who could only be entertained by $800 iPads and cried every time they were taken away. I also realized I was not too different from those same spoiled kids. I thought of how I always wanted new clothes, or a new phone. All these girls needed for a good time were old potato sacks and water jugs, but I could not shake the feeling that they deserved more.
Every minute of our experience at Rancho was filled with laughter and when we had to leave, I found myself wishing I could stay. These girls were the greatest examples of joy I have ever seen and I still cannot comprehend how anyone could ever mistreat them. I wouldn’t see them for two more years, but I knew I could not wait two more years to repay them for the joy they gave me.
In the summer of 2017, I began sewing and selling headbands to raise money for Rancho ni Cristo and my goal is to raise $1000 by the time I return in June 2018. When I go back to Rancho, I will also be teaching the girls how to make the headbands themselves. I cannot repay these girls for teaching me about graciousness, but I hope I can start by teaching them how to sew. After I visit in June, the project will become theirs and they will sew and sell their own headbands in the Philippines.
Each of my headbands cost only $10, with a $3 shipping fee for mail orders, and 100% of the profits go towards improving the facilities at Rancho. Rancho hopes to have a complete campus with 10 cottages, a school, a gym, a chapel, and housing for clinical and residential staff. When I first visited two years ago, they only had one cottage, but they are currently completing their fifth cottage and building a fence. Every donation will help C.U.R.E. provide another girl with a home that provides food, shelter, clothing, but above all, love.
If you are interested in making an order or seeing my full collection of available headbands, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out https://www.curefoundationphilippines.org/rancho-ni-cristo/ for more information about C.U.R.E.’s projects.