Marnie Calibujo cradles her infant son, Japhet, in front of their home in Cabacungan. As a mother with special needs, Marnie is grateful for the Cabacungan Child Survival Program.
CABACUNGAN, PHILIPPINES - Marnie pretends not to notice, but it always hurts - the passing whispers, muffled laughs and stares. She can't help her slow speech, the way her mouth stays partly open, or the way her eyes are drooped and unfocused. In the past, words like "stupid" and "retarded" defined for Marnie who she was and destroyed her sense of self-worth.
When she was two, Marnie's father disappeared and her mother gave Marnie to her grandparents to raise. She went to school only through the fourth grade, then learned how to wash clothes to help earn a little money.
"I am ready to be a good mother."
Marnie had her first child when she was 19, but gave the girl up for adoption. She now has two sons, including her newborn, Japhet, whom she raises alone. The father of Marnie's children rarely comes around and takes no responsibility for his family. Marnie depends on friends for help and makes a little money washing clothes, but it's never enough.
"I gave birth on a Saturday," Marnie explained, after the birth of Japhet. "On Monday I started washing clothes. I need to wash clothes to earn money. I don't really ask for pay. It depends on how much they want to give me. I'm ashamed to ask. I just get what they give me."
Church Now a Part of Life
As a child, Marnie enjoyed going to church, but drifted away as she grew older and more self-conscious because of her handicaps. But now, through the Cabacungan Child Survival Program (PH-CS3), Marnie is receiving spiritual counseling and encouragement. "I go to church," Marnie says proudly, and it's becoming a regular part of her life again.
For Marnie, acceptance into the Child Survival Program was a lifesaver. "I wasn't expecting to be accepted," Marnie explains with childlike excitement. "I am very happy. It is for my baby. I am ready to be a good mother."
Future Looks Brighter
Marnie's three-year-old son, Johifer, also benefits from what his mother is learning about health care, hygiene and nutrition through the Child Survival Program. Many children who receive assistance through the Child Survival Program transition into the Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program when they turn age 4. Marnie is hopeful that Japhet will follow that path. "The CSP will help me take care of my child," Marnie says with a sense of hope she never had before. "And I want to see him go to school, have a better future, and to get out of poverty."
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