It was nearly 30 years ago that 5-year-old Layla stood in a courtyard and smiled nervously at the camera. That photo would be printed and put in a packet that would end up in the hands of a woman in Scotland – Layla’s sponsor.
“I remember her name was Linda Robertson,” says Layla. “I remember her well, even all these years later. She lived in Scotland, and she didn’t have a family then. She wrote and sent gifts to me regularly. I used to write her almost every month. I remember how the stationary looked, which parts of it I colored using my crayons and the blank space where I used to draw pictures for Linda.”
What makes Layla’s memories unique is the relatively short time she spent at the Compassion center. Registered there for just seven years, Layla left the program soon after her family started a small business.
“Things were still hard for my family, but my mother felt there were other children who needed the support more than we did.”
But a lot of things happened in those seven short years. A lot of seeds were planted – ones that would blossom as Layla grew into a young woman.
The first was the day that little Layla accepted Jesus in her Sunday school class at the church. From there, Layla began to understand the kindness the staff showed her and the other children. And as an adult, she could look back and see the sacrifices the volunteers, tutors and even kitchen staff made.
Layla and her parents stayed in the same community as the Compassion center, and as a college student Layla began volunteering as a tutor with the 5- and 6-year-old class. “I’m happy that I began volunteering there,” says Layla, “because it was in that class that I realized I wanted to teach children. I love to be with children.”
Layla volunteered at the Compassion center for seven years – just as long as she had been registered there! She soon landed a job as an elementary teacher at Victory Christian Fellowship, one of the largest churches in the Philippines.
Today, Layla oversees two staff members and more than 300 volunteers. Her team designs curriculum, supports parents and manages outreach programs. And Layla says it all started with her time at Compassion.
“Compassion’s impact was life-changing,” says Layla. “If it wasn’t for Compassion I would not have known Jesus Christ and neither would my parents. I am forever grateful.”