10 Questions With Edwin Estioko

Recently, we gave you the chance to ask Edwin Estioko, our Field Communication Specialist in the Philippines all your burning questions about himself, the Philippines and Compassion in the Philippines. Here are his answers …

1. Can you tell about the time when you first decided to work for Compassion? (Catherine)

Before Compassion I was production manager for OMF Literature (the biggest Christian publisher in the Philippines) and a writer of children’s books. I grew up at church serving and teaching little children; playing with them and just enjoying their company. When I saw the ad for a Communications Specialist for Compassion International in the Philippines, I was literally drawn in. Feeling a strong sense of peace and confidence that the Lord was calling me to this beautiful ministry for children, I applied for the post and on the same week filed for resignation from OMF despite not knowing for sure whether Compassion would hire me or not. Thank God they did.

2. What goals do you hope to accomplish in your area? (Jason)

I hope that through the photographs I take and stories I write about Filipino children I could reach as many readers as I can around the world so that more and more people would stand up for children and advocate for them, so that more and more could see that thousands of children and families here in the Philippines truly lack opportunities for a better life (or simply for a livable minimum) despite the fact that they are hard working and full of faith.

What drives me is Proverbs 31:8, “to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

3. What have been the toughest times of your life, and what have you learned from these trials? (Juli Jarvis)

Being in love with children, I questioned our heavenly Father for so many years why He continued to refuse my wife and me a child of our own. We are childless for 13 years now. Before our 10th anniversary we knelt before His presence, enjoyed His Peace and said, “OK, Lord, now that we know we have a different calling in life — that we won’t be biological parents — bless and strengthen us so we can be parents to others.” Today my wife works with me in Compassion, we send some of her nephews to school, support non-sponsored children, and now are sponsoring a Compassion child of our own. This doesn’t mean we’ve got it made financially; it only means we now have a clearer focus of our purpose in life.
smiling man woman and child

A few Filipino Christians are now sponsoring Filipino children through Compassion USA. (In fact some were sponsored as children themselves.) My wife and I recently met our sponsored child. Meeting her we were the happiest couple alive.

4. What kinds of things can I say in my letters to best encourage my child? (Kalaya G)

These children live in the most uncomfortable circumstances where adults around them are drunk, angry or distressed. A simple “I love you” or “You are special” means a lot to them. Don’t get tired of saying nice words as “God loves you,” “You are loved,” or “You are special,” because you may be the only person who tells that to your sponsored child.

I met one child who, growing up, regularly got, “You are ugly,” “You look like your father” (who was a drug addict) from her relatives. And then from her sponsor she would always get “You are special,” “We love you.” Today, she confesses that it was those words from her sponsor that greatly encouraged her to pursue studies in mass communications. She was recently given the chance to tell her story to several churches around the USA, including Willow Creek, and right now she is in the UK for more rounds of talk for Compassion. Her name is Michelle Tolentino.

5. What is the general opinion of Compassion’s work among people in the Philippines? Is it an organization that is well respected? (Kalaya G)

Around the communities where we have church partners, we encourage the churches to promote their name and not Compassion’s so that people will understand that the children go to church and not to an organization, which is why not many non-Compassion-related individuals know the organization. But to the church personnel, the families, the relatives and children, a mere mention of Compassion could send some to tears (literally, I have seen it) because they know how much this organization helps the children, providing them hope.

6. How about child registration into the programs? Are there income guidelines? Or do you look at other areas of need in their lives? Also, what percentage of the children in the Philippines that go through Compassion’s programs are truly released from poverty? (Kalaya G)

As a country office we make sure we reach the poorest families from the poorest provinces in the country. We regularly update our country map index, which monitors poverty incidence, home development index, and child welfare index. From these we determine the poorest and most needy provinces and so focus our expansion in those areas. So far the only poorest provinces we have not reached are those threatened by insurgents and rebels. Recently we are exhausting efforts to reach indigenous tribes, many of which have not heard the Gospel until today.

The second question is a tough one because we address four kinds of poverty: spiritual, economic, social and physical. While there may be a way to measure the percentage of impact we have done economically and physically through extensive research, measuring spiritual success is much more difficult. So instead of responding in percentage, allow me to quote an interview I have had with an LDP graduate. I asked Jacky Metran whether she truly believes she has been released from poverty and she answered, “I was released from sin and wrong outlook and perspective in life. Even if I’m still surrounded by poverty today, because of what I learned through Compassion, I can go against the flow of society. I do my responsibility to make a difference to this world by the life I live. I am in the same situation and standing in life, but now I have a different perspective.”

After graduating from Compassion’s program, Jacky took and finished a master’s degree from the Asian Theological Seminary and is now working/doing ministry in Indonesia.

7. There is a misconception among some who believe that Compassion force-feeds children a Christian doctrine. While I know that this is false, I do know that not all children accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. My question is, how is the child who has not come into the faith typically treated? (Compassion Dave)

The ministry in the Philippines enjoys an advantage that the Bible is freely opened and taught in this country. Teaching salvation and the Gospel is very much in our projects’ curriculum so that what you believe that Compassion does not force-feed a Christian doctrine is true. The Bible is a part of the kids’ regular activities in the projects.

A child who has not come into faith is not treated any differently since kids are enjoined into many other fun activities as singing, playing, camps, trips and so on.

Let me tell you briefly about a young man I met in one of our projects. He was registered into the program when he was only 6 years old. His mother died when he was very young. At the project, he grew up enjoying the activities, friends, and, as he puts it, “of course the food. I would keep some in my pocket to take home as snack for later.”

But although he was in all the project activities through the years, although he enjoyed equal treatment with the other children, he never surrendered to receive Christ in his heart. Today he confesses that he stayed in the program simply for the material benefits of sponsorship. He hid a secret anger towards God when his mother died, and it was not until he became a teenager that he truly met the Lord and established a relationship with Him. So, because he was not treated any differently, he felt comfortable staying in the program as God quietly worked in his heart through the years. He is now a missionary, by the way. His name is Bjorn Rodriguez.

8. Can you share what the prices of some common items are? I send family gifts in small amounts, and if I knew what some items cost I could send more. I realize prices vary, but I would like to have a general idea. (Mary)

What is the average price for:

  • A sack of rice, (50 kilos): PhP 2000-2500 (roughly US$ 44.95-56.15); (a kilo): PhP 40-50 (roughly US$ 0.89-1.12)
  • Sandals: PhP 200-300 (roughly US$ 4.50-6.74)
  • Dress for a 12-year-old girl: P700-1000 (roughly US$ 15.70-22.45)
  • Milk (2-kilo can): PhP 800 (roughly US$ 17.95)
  • Spaghetti, one snack serving: P50 (roughly US$ 1.12)
  • Fruit, such as mangoes: P55/kilo (roughly US$ 1.23/kilo)
  • Banana: PhP25/kilo (roughly US$ 0.56)

(Exchange rate is now PhP 44.51 to a dollar)

9. How does Compassion deal with the jealousy of children who receive no extra money/letters/visits toward the more fortunate ones that frequently receive gifts from their sponsors? (Kayla)

This has always been a concern. I know you are asking about “no extra money/letter/visits,” but there are even children who don’t get regular letters. I met one child who asked the project staff, “Is there anything wrong with me? Why don’t I get letters?” In such cases, project staff step in and explain the possible realities that sponsors go through. They explain that not all sponsors may be as wealthy or as flexible. Filipino children may have an impression that all westerners are rich and do nothing all day but enjoy the comforts of a fully-furnished home in front of the fireplace while immaculately white snow is falling outside. (Yes, many think it is always snowing in the USA, and in all of the states.) It is the project staff’s task to explain that sponsors are real people who have real problems that may be hindering them from writing a letter or sending gifts.

At the other end, I believe Compassion’s Global Ministry Center in Colorado has taken steps to encourage sponsors to write and that when unable to, a sponsor shall assign or allow someone to write for him or her.

10. Being that you frequently interact with sponsored children, I would like to know if the children are truly discouraged when their sponsor discontinues supporting them? What would you suggest to a sponsor who is struggling financially and is wondering if he should cancel the sponsorship or continue the sponsorship despite financial difficulties? (Norman)

Yes, children are discouraged when their sponsor discontinues supporting them, and it is not an issue of economics. Filipinos are resilient people, and even the little ones can forget about poverty, hunger and lack of opportunity as long as there is love in the home. What could really bring them down is the thought that they are not loved or that their sponsor has stopped loving them. Again that question from a child comes to mind, “Is there something wrong with me?”

I would suggest to a sponsor who is struggling financially to try to hold on just a little more. Or if he has truly decided to cancel, do write the child and explain the real situation rather than just being quiet about it. If the child doesn’t get an answer, he or she may entertain many unpleasant conclusions including the thought that he or she is undesirable or unloved.

16 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Dwight January 22, 2009

    This is a great story, please do more….:)

  2. sheryl balsomo October 23, 2008

    hi..im soo happy id found this site..
    i’m an LDP scholar (batch 3) from the Phillipines..I’m teary eyed and very touched by Kuya (bir brother) Edwin’s interview..especially ehen I read that he & his wife sponsored a filipino child..it was very touching…
    I’d met kuya edwin in our last worshop held at zambales,2003. I shared Bible story in pedia ward in Gordon hospital, Subic olangapo, without knowing that I’m using the story book whom kuya Edwin wrote..wow..I’m really honored & blessed…that was 1 of the unforgettable LDP days in my life..
    I’m always praying for compassion..w/out this ministry, Im not what I am now..thru my sponsor’s love & support…I’m now a registered medtech..
    Thanks Copassion…my life had never been happy & successful w/out your help & support..
    hope I could also support a child someday…
    wished there is a site for compassion children like me where we can communicate w/ our co-LDP scholars & esp sponsors…

  3. Amy Brooke August 7, 2008

    Thanks for taking time to respond. It is appreciated.

    I also have a child in Rwanda. I got a letter from her today. I had sent birthday money. She wrote to tell me thank you and that she had bought a hen for her family. I love hearing from her.

  4. Edwin Estioko August 7, 2008

    Hello Amy,

    Registered children who are not yet sponsored receive the same interventions, go through the same activities and get the same care as with the sponsored ones. Only, they don’t get letters or special gifts, and that’s so sad. That’s why we pray hard with our church partners that God will call in more and more loving sponsors who can make a difference in the lives of these children.


  5. Amy Brooke August 6, 2008

    Thanks for the perspective. I hopped over from today’s blog — was interested in children not receiving letters. I try to write regularly.

    I do have a question. How are children without sponsors, the registered ones, ministered to?

    I had the sad thing happen of one of my children leaving the program. It broke my heart. I cannot imagine how a child would feel to lose a sponsor.

    I had the unique opportunity of being able to send gifts this past month. No one knew yet that Delia wasn’t coming back. (A friend was going to Ecuador.) I talked to Compassion and they said that most likely the staff will still try to get the things to her. I told them if not, I would love for them to use this backpack full of stuff for the children who are waiting.

    And Compassion set me up with another little girl. I wrote her right away even though my heart was heavy for my Delia.

    Blessings on your work.

  6. Gerald Hessel July 14, 2008

    Thank you staff and Edwin for that exchange of questions and answers regarding how
    “Compassion” works in the Philippines.
    I just became a sponsor for a Philippine girl and am moved by by your story of your love of the children and how through certain circumstances, God led you and your wife to become parents to many children.

    I wrote my first letter to Michelle three weeks ago by email and now understand the length of time it will take to receive an answer.

    Thanks for all the info and tips regarding relating to my sponsored child.


  7. Advocate July 9, 2008

    So helpful!!! Thank you for taking the time to do the interview! I will pass it on to sponsors of Philipino children!

    May God Bless You!!!

  8. Sara July 8, 2008

    Thank you for getting her story published.
    I got a copy of that book a few months ago and it has been a real encouragement to me and my family. Careen is a preciuos friend and little sister. I pray that God will do might things through her.
    Many children have stories which will inspire many people, that are just waiting to be told, and that’s what makes your ministry so important. Thank you.

    If you happen to see her again, let her know I say hi and send my love.

  9. Edwin Estioko July 7, 2008

    Thank you for your comments. It’s really a blessing to be a blessing to those who need it most.

    Hello Sara,

    Yes I have interviewed Careen. She is a special young lady. Our country office has put up a book where I wrote stories of sponsored children and how their lives come together through this ministry. One story was about Careen’s before she became LDP and many of the readers were mostly drawn to her story. I called the book “Shine Forth” because through their lives the light of Jesus is clearly seen, and that was most evident in Careen’s. Compassion Netherlands picked up that part of the book and wrote an article on Careen in German. I think Compassion Korea wants to do the same.

    For everyone’s info, Careen has difficulty in seeing, hearing and speaking and yet she is a student/church leader, was editor of their school paper, and has won in several writing competitions.

  10. Sara July 7, 2008

    Thank you for your answers. I enjoyed hearing more about the work in the Philippines first hand.

    I sponsor an LDP student in The Philippines. She mentioned having been interviewed about her story by some people from the compassion staff. Would you have possibly interviewed her? Her name is Careen (ed: last name removed for privacy reasons).

  11. Vicki Small July 7, 2008

    Your reply to #10 is what breaks my heart when I hear that a sponsor has already stopped supporting a child.

    What makes it worse is when the sponsor simply lost interest or was–sorry, I have to put this in quotes–“led into another area of ministry,” and just stopped sending the support and any letters. I can get very carnal over that; I’m pretty sure God does not tell people to “drop the kid; I want you to do something else.” But I’m at least flirting with arrogance, at that point, too, so I’ll shut up.

    Thank you for your care for the children. I, too, never had children of my own, but God has blessed me with several through Compassion, and the opportunity to find sponsors for others. What a joy that is!

  12. Mary July 7, 2008

    Thank you for all the work you do for Compassion and the Philippines. I was able to take a Compassion trip to the Philippines last year and meet my sponsored child. What a blessing. Everyone welcomed us with open arms and displayed so much love and kindness toward us. I enjoyed learning about your country and know Compassion is making a difference in the lives of all the children. After the trip I decided to sponsor an additional child from the Philippines!
    Edwin, your sponsored child is beautiful. I’m so glad you were able to meet her. May God’s blessings always be with you and your wife.

  13. Juli Jarvis July 7, 2008

    Thank you so much for your sharing. I learned a lot from your answers here. I will share this with others.

  14. Tina July 7, 2008

    I sponsor two little girls in the Philippines – these Q&A’s gave me some helpful info! I really enjoyed your insights. Thanks!

  15. jason July 7, 2008

    Cool to see my question posted, and glad to see such a well put answer!

  16. Beth Ingersoll July 7, 2008

    My sponsored child is not in the Philippines, but that does give me some insight for her anyway. Thanks for the information, and for all you do in the Philippines!

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