Our newest CALI award winner is Kirk Sherwin Mariano. Born in the slums of Manila, Sherwin took it upon himself to bring up his seven siblings after his alcoholic father abandoned the family, and a year later his mother also left.
One of the very first children sponsored by an Australian family through International Needs in the Philippines, Sherwin attributes their support as being instrumental in transforming his life.
With a degree in Science and Education, and CEO of Vineyard of His Grace Ministries, Sherwin has chosen to remain amongst his people to uplift the poor and provide hope for the many children in desperate need of life’s everyday basic rights, including food and education.
Q: Tell us about the work that you do with International Needs.
Sherwin: I am the CEO of the Filipino based Christian aid and development agency, Vineyard of His Grace Ministries Inc. (Vineyard). We work in partnership with International Needs Australia, to help change the lives of Filipino children and their families. We provide assistance and support for children to be able to attend school because we have a strong belief that they are the nation’s future and hope.
The funding for Vineyard projects is provided by child sponsorship through International Needs Australia. Hundreds of Australian supporters are reaching out, to bring about major changes in the lives of Filipino children and their families.
We at Vineyard believe strongly that by assisting and encouraging children to acquire greater skills through education, we are working towards our goal of bringing an end to poverty.
Q: What are you aiming to achieve?
Sherwin: Vineyard aims to help produce young citizens who are educated, excel in their chosen field and that the nation can depend upon. They grow up to play an important role in the development, and therefore the future, of the Philippines.
As each day ends I think of children, no matter who they are and where they come from, who are confident in their future. They have a sponsor in another part of the world who loves them, and cares for their needs and their future.
Q: How did you end up becoming a sponsored child?
Sherwin: I grew up in a slum area of Manila. By the age of nine I could only dream of attending school and then it happened. I was chosen to be sponsored by an Australian family who reached out with their heart to me, and supported my education until I finished university and graduated as a teacher.
Many different people have come into my life, who contributed so much. It is because of the amazing opportunities that child sponsorship has brought to me, that I now work full time to help bring this to the current generation of children in the Philippines.
It is my burning desire that as many children as possible are educated and given the chance to reach their potential for the good of their nation.
Q: What is it like as a recipient to be accepted into a program like this?
Sherwin: It is a dream that comes true. Most children who are born into the slums believe that is where they will spend all their lives. However, there is always this impossible dream that one day something will happen that will enable them to transform their lives, and that is what happened to me.
As a sponsorship recipient I experienced lots of opportunities to improve my life. I was able to attend school, finish studying, establish relationships with many others outside the slums and meet people who have the heart to care for others – particularly the underprivileged. It is because of this that I am able to do the work in which I am now involved.
Q: What do you say to people who are unsure about the effectiveness of charity?
Sherwin: I personally view “charity” as an act that creates an impact initiated by God, that is channelled through man for others. You can make it happen if you change you mind-set. It is the same as when you try to find something that is bad or negative, you’ll end up seeing things this way. Conversely, if you are searching for good, you’ll end up seeing good.
Not all of charity works, mainly because of human frailty. However, the vast majority does and it completely changes the lives of people, their families and communities.
We have this phrase in our vision statement “working together”, and I like to emphasize the word “together”. It is where Vineyard is right now with the parents of our sponsored children, our donors and partner agencies. Everyone is playing their role “together” to bring about a major change in the lives of children, their families and the community.
Q: What drives you?
Sherwin: The Love of God. It is because of the love I know that he has for me, and I know I have for God, that I want to serve him in whatever way he calls me. What he has placed in my heart, is my need to assist others to help them to receive an education, to better themselves and the Philippines.
Q: If you had your way, everyone in the world would spend 5 minutes a day…
Sherwin: I would like everyone to spend their five minutes a day being thankful for everything that has been provided for them.