Ruel and I met in Davao City. I quickly learned he was an active community leader and pastor with a heart for the poor. As we got to know each other, I told him about the story of a young girl who had committed suicide a few years earlier. He remembered it well – as did many people. Ruel said I could meet her family if I wanted to. He would help me find them.

During my next visit to Davao a few months later, he said that I was invited to the girl’s sister’s house. We made our visit on a quiet afternoon. I was nervous and thought, “What on earth do I say about something so tragic?”

As I approached this beautiful family, I introduced myself and said, “I am not here representing anyone or anything. I’m just a dad, an imperfect guy, and I have come because your daughter/sister touched my life.”

Speaking to the mom, sister and brother who were present, I asked, “Could you please just tell me about her? Do you have any memories you’d be willing to share with me?”

They had many good memories! Her younger brother said, “My older sister was always worried about me and wanted me to stay in school and do my homework. She would always help me.”

The older sister said, “She loved the other little children in the village, and she always made sure they were okay. She would take them to the water well and clean them off when they fell in the mud.

Her mother shared, “And she was always worried about me that I was working too hard, so she would tell me to rest and rub my shoulders.

She was, indeed, a remarkable little girl. She was a remarkable little girl who got trapped in a world of struggle and poverty – her reality was not her fault.

As we left our visit I had much to ponder. We decided to help the family with some basic relief goods, and after consulting with our friends, the family, and local school officials, we decided to launch the Marianette Scholar’s program – named after her – which provides school supplies, a school uniform, a backpack, some shoes, and basic funds to help with bus fares, projects, and bi-monthly mentoring meetings.

We also decided to adopt the school by helping them with their values education program, some book donations, infrastructure investment projects, teacher seminars, and an annual Christmas party focused on bringing hope to the neediest within the school. We even have plans to build the school a playground called Hope Park.

These are small gestures, but perhaps it can add hope to the challenging world that so many children are born into.

This is a joint effort with our National friends who carry the bulk of the load. We have a common goal to bring hope and empowerment to some of the neediest children in the area.

We were too late to help precious Marianette, but perhaps we can help others who find themselves on the “edge”. We want her life to matter – she does matter, and so does every child.