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.
I remember the first time I read about Roselyn. It was my first month on the job.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.
This 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.