Remembering Roselyn

Several weeks ago, Compassion internally released a book communicating its brand, its mission and its character to employees worldwide. I eagerly flipped through the pages, as I always do, looking for photography by my co-workers.

On the second page was our mission statement, “Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name,” and a picture of Roselyn.

girl with arms crossed

I remember the first time I read about Roselyn. It was my first month on the job. Edwin Estioko in the Philippines had written a story about her in September 2007:

Inside the unfinished concrete house I wait for Roselyn. Her mother, Rufina, pulls out a plastic chair for me. She narrates how they were evicted from their old shanty and how now they have to occupy this roofless, doorless bunker.

Then 10-year-old Roselyn comes running in, smiling as if she already knows me. Neighbors follow her in.

“Hello, Roselyn,” I introduce myself and tell her I am visiting to know more about her special condition. Her smile and endearing eyes help us get acquainted easily. She’s dark and sweaty from playing under the sun.

I ask, “What do you hope to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a doctor.”

All her neighbors and relatives laugh. Even her big sister, Rosel, giggles.

They laugh not only for the impossibility to afford medical school, but also for the irony. Roselyn is in need of a doctor. She is dying.

In 2002, Roselyn was registered at Kapatirang Kristiyano sa Coloong. Her wit and spunky attitude made her stand out.

Alma, her caseworker in the center, remembers, “Roselyn was always one of the quickest to recite and answer questions in class. She had no problem speaking her mind.”

In 2004, Roselyn’s profile reported, “She runs fast, very energetic. She is lively and fun.” But that year, all the children at the child development center had their medical checkup.

It was then that Roselyn found out she was sick. “They said there’s something wrong with my heart, that I cannot play anymore as I used to. I guess that’s why I get tired easily from playing and studying.”

Roselyn has rheumatic heart disease, made more complicated by a leaking mitral valve.

The student center acted quickly, consulting with doctors and specialists at the Philippine Heart Center, and immediately Roselyn entered a medical regimen that required her to visit the hospital every 21 days for her shots and to take two medicines every day.

“I am very thankful to Compassion and Roselyn’s sponsor,” Rufina says. “Without their help I don’t know how I could afford all her medicines,” she continues. “It is even difficult for me to buy food every day.” She earns $2 per day selling ice cream. The father left the family, which is why they live in this roofless bunker.

Rufina says, “I don’t know what will happen to us. We just keep on living every day and hoping for the best in God.”

Roselyn has a positive outlook. Although she feels the pangs of poverty — not eating enough some days and not living in a safe and comfortable home — poverty could not steal away her hope in life. She is happy.

Roselyn looks forward to going to school every day, to study and to finish her assignments. She says, “I hope that I could also live longer so I could finish my studies and help my mother someday.”

The day after I re-read Roselyn’s story, I got an e-mail from Edwin.

Roselyn passed away.

smiling girl in yellow shirt and blue shortsThis beautiful, spunky, playful and hopeful girl left this world and went back to her Father.

Roselyn’s heart disease was most likely caused by an untreated infection in childhood — a common consequence of poverty.

At first I was worried. Her picture has been used in various publications, and now prominently in this book. But as I thought about it more, it seems to be a proper memorial for Roselyn.

Our mission is to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Roselyn won’t ever be an adult on this Earth. But she can help us remember all the other Roselyns. The little girls and boys with piercing eyes and a lot of spunk.

I know a lot of you speak up for these children, just like for Roselyn. Keep doing it.

When you get tired or frustrated, remember Roselyn. Remember that poverty is real. Remember our mission. Remember all the children like her who have dreams and need hope and opportunities for their future.

17 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Sam Llanes August 12, 2009

    As a Compassion International Guatemala’s employee, I have enjoyed reading and seeing this beautiful new book recently released that explains in a very detailed way that “A Good Name Is Compassion”. =)
    You don’t know how bad it has hit me to know that Roselyn is no longer with us … I too write stories for Compassion and my heart gets broken so badly when I know that a child has a departure from our program and this brokenness reaches its highest peak when I know that one of our children has left us to be with our Heavenly Father. God knows the sorrow and all the questions that start to be piled up in my mind in times like these but only God knows why He took her away and we just need to praise Him always: in the good and bad times! And just as you have encouraged us, we need to always remember why we are here: TO RELEASE CHILDREN FROM POVERTY IN JESUS’ NAME and this is the fuel I need to keep striving in what I do here! =) You too, Amber, are an advocate for all of these children… keep up the good work!

  2. Mike Stephens June 14, 2009

    Her town looks very similar to many we saw. In some ways better than some we visited. Pictures can be so deceiving.

  3. Amber Van Schooneveld June 9, 2009

    Hi Dwight, Edwin wrote a story about her in 2007, but she passed away several weeks ago. The book was produced before she passed away.

  4. Amanda Dzielski June 9, 2009

    The treatment is medication and surgery to repair or replace the damaged heart valves if the valve leaks are severe enough.

    It is not common in the US because it is caused by untreated strep throat, and here we very commonly treat strep throat.

    Praying that God will comfort and strengthen her family.

  5. Dwight June 8, 2009

    Did she die a few weeks ago or in 2007? Did they put her picture in the book because she died? I don’t hear of children dieing in the USA from this…is that because its treatable in the USA or for some other reason?

  6. Mike Stephens June 4, 2009

    Thanks for the reminder….we are called to speak out for the “least of these”….We can make a difference

    The only reason I have the ability to speak for someone else is because Jesus speaks for me!

  7. Mike Stephens June 4, 2009

    You guys are all so right!!!!!!! It is amazing the difference we are making and can make! I stopped by the Compassion building today and saw the new book with a full-page picture with Roselyn just like the blog says.

  8. Juli Jarvis June 4, 2009

    I’m so sorry to hear about Roselyn — what a tragic loss! But you’re right — her life and example will not be forgotten! We will continue to speak up for the Roselyns of this world!

  9. Vicki Small June 4, 2009

    @Britt – I’m crying, too, Britt, even though I know that Roselyn has experienced the ultimate release from poverty, in Jesus’ name, and that she is living in that freedom.

  10. Sara Benson June 4, 2009

    She was a beautiful girl on the inside and out. Thank you for sharing her story. Whenever I question the worth of my efforts I will remember Roselyn and realize that we are not promised tomorrow, but we can make a difference today.

  11. Amy Brooke June 4, 2009

    That is heartbreaking — especially if it was the result of an untreated infection. We take medical care too lightly here.

    She was a beautiful little girl.

  12. Mike Stephens June 4, 2009

    It is hard to imagine the reality just looking at a picture and reading a blog, I am very thankful I will understand a little more in a few days when we visit the Philippines. On a positive note Roselyn is a fulfilled Christian adult!!!!!!! You can’t get much more fulfilled being in a new body being face to face with God and Jesus! My understanding may be quite off but if it was Compassion who introduced her to Jesus Compasssion helped give her all that she needed! Compassion even helped meet the physical needs as best they could also! Death doesn’t seem like VICTORY but when we are in CHRIST it is!

  13. Britt June 4, 2009

    You know…I can’t help but cry that Roselyn passed – I wanted her to survive…to study…to become a doctor. Perhaps that’s selfish of me?

    I have to remember what GOD’s plans are (not my hopeful thinking) and that He knows best.

    So even though I’m sad to hear that she has passed, I’m so excited for her that she’s with her Heavenly Father!!

  14. Amy Wallace June 4, 2009

    What a beautiful girl, inside and out! I’ll bet she’s having a great time in heaven running around and playing. 🙂

  15. compasion dave June 4, 2009

    When (I) get tired or frustrated, (I will) remember Roselyn. (And that) that poverty is real. (I will) Remember all the children like her who have dreams and need hope and opportunities for their future.

  16. Chuck Guth June 4, 2009

    Thanks for the reminder….we are called to speak out for the “least of these”….We can make a difference

  17. Geri June 4, 2009

    I’m terribly sorry to hear that we have lost such a wonderful young girl. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain her family and friends must be feeling. May the Lord hold them all in the palm of his hand.

    We all need to work together so that there are no more children like Roselyn.
    I sponsored a boy in Kenya with another organisation who also had rheumatic heart disease with a leaking mitral valve. We were able to find a charity that flew him to London where he had an operation and is now healthy.

    In an ideal world access to adequate health care would be the norm for all people. With God’s help, perhaps we are working towards that goal.


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