by Mark Smith from Tauranga, New Zealand on 2009-08-07 03:12:06.
An initiative to place squatter youths into university level education opportunities.
Introducing The Cappuccino Club
Hi, my name’s Mark Smith and along with my wife Valerie, we spent 12 years resident in the Philippines from 1990 until 2002. The last 5 years of our stay was spent living in a squatter community in the provincial town of Baliuag, approximately 1 hour north of Metro Manila. Those years were some of the best times and some of the most disturbing times of our lives.
Living amongst some of the poorest people in Asia allowed us the opportunity to express the love of Christ in some very tangible ways, something that to this day we consider to be a rare privilege. During our stay there we established a High School sponsorship program that provided High school education for more than twenty deserving children. We had envisioned that such a program would go some way to alleviating poverty by providing better employment opportunities for the graduates.
In April 2008 we made our first return visit to this community in Baliuag. We were saddened to see these bright kids, having graduated from High School, still working in the open markets selling fish or worse still, working as bar girls in night clubs. It soon became apparent to us that High School education alone, although extremely beneficial, does little to alleviate multi-generational poverty in the home.
Our desire had always been to make a lasting difference into the lives of these gracious and needy people. It distressed us greatly to see brilliant children living under the curse of poverty usually through no fault of their own. We determined that day to do something tangible to help these children have the same opportunities that we would want our own children to have. Upon investigation we discovered that for the cost of just one cup of coffee a day we could place a student into university.
From that resolve has birthed a new initiative called The Cappuccino Club . The Cappuccino Club aims not only to place squatter children into university, but also to provide a mentoring program through the context of the local church. Our desire is to develop young men and women of influence from within some of the most impoverished environments imaginable. Our dream is to see these young leaders grow up to become agents of change in their communities and beyond.
In June 2008 we established two students into university, both Lorenzo and Joanna Marie have excelled academically through the course of the year. They have also developed in character and are willingly serving their fellow squatters in a way that is transforming the greater community. In June 2009 a further nine students have been added to the program from three different communities in and around Metro-Manila.
I am convinced that this is a righteous cause that has the potential to transform entire communities, one family at a time. The full impact of this investment in the student’s life may not be fully realized for many years to come. Nevertheless we are greatly encouraged at this early stage, that a small dream from very modest beginnings is already reaping a bountiful and lasting harvest.
We invite you to dream with us what can be achieved in the lives of the impoverished youth of the Philippines if they be given the opportunity to reach their full potential. One of the most riveting stories surrounding the life of Christ is when he took a young boys packed lunch and multiplied it to meet the needs of 1000’s of individuals. That is the picture that comes to my mind when I dream of the impact The Cappuccino Club can have. God can take something that at face value seems quite meager, and over time impact entire communities for their good and God’s ultimate glory.