Just before school opens in the Philippines usually the first week of June, Filipino-Australian Midel Santos-Stokes troops to the Philippines to personally attend to his sponsored children, now numbering 87—shopping for their school supplies and other needs such as uniforms or shoes and distributing them. He enlists the help of Dad Jim and a few family members to reach out to poor children in Pateros.

If it were up to him, he would be the last to promote his charity work. But The Philippine Times thinks it’s about time that his contributions get recognised.

Philippine charity

Midel, former financial consultant in Melbourne and now retired, has been conducting his charity in the Philippines for almost 20 years. According to Midel, he started with eight children recommended by a friend, who was then president of the Parent-Teacher Association. Since the kids were studying in public school, thus their tuition fee covered by the government, he only had to provide for their school supplies, including notebooks, pens, pad papers, colour pencils/watercolours and whatever else is prescribed. Sometimes, if necessary, he provides for school uniform and shoes.

Packing school supplies
Packing school supplies

He has a team composed of teachers in Sto Rosario Elementary School and some family and friends to keep track of the number of students, attend to their needs, and keep a systematic file, as well as distribution system just in time when school is about to start.

For the past many years, Midel has been sustaining the project on his own, relying on his own funds from his investments for giving to the kids. The gift-giving is not even limited to the children’s school needs. On occasion, he would send balikbayan boxes with bags, chocolates, or any other item on sale which could be necessary for the kids’ needs. He confesses to becoming a sale hunter so he could send something for his sponsored children.

Some sponsored kids also get uniforms, on top of school supplies.
Some sponsored kids also get uniforms, on top of school supplies.

Special attention to children

Not known to many, Midel had a difficult childhood when his parents separated. Midel got emotional as he shares, “I experienced going to school without school supplies. I only had one set of uniform which had to be washed every day or fortnightly just so I have something to wear to school.”

He even recalls, “On graduation day, my classmates had their families with them. They had roses or a sampaguita garland on their neck. I was all alone that day, and what was even sadder was that I had to come to school in shorts when the prescribed attire was long pants.”

These memories had been etched on his mind that he has learned to share his blessings with children who have very little. For his charity, he doesn’t even have criteria for selection, only that they are poor and they would automatically qualify. “If a family is poor and sends six children to school, I provide for all of them. I don’t want anyone to be excluded.” He continues the support even if some of the kids had to move to another town due to the government’s relocation program.

Midel's dad, Jim (second from left), has always been supportive of his charity work.
Midel’s dad, Jim (second from left), has always been supportive of his charity work.
The long line in front of Midel's house during the school supplies distribution.
The long line in front of Midel’s house during the school supplies distribution.
Getting ready for school supplies distribution
Getting ready for school supplies distribution
87 kids get new school supplies. Filo Midel Santos-Stokes provides for the children in Pateros so they don’t feel left out in school
87 kids get new school supplies.

Feeling blessed

Despite the traumatic experience of his childhood, Midel has always been positive in his outlook. He is not one about to harbour negative thoughts or feelings, but instead “turns to God for guidance for every decision I make.”

And he has been blessed multifold. Midel often receives gratitude from children he has helped through the years. He had a former sponsored kid come to him to share that she has become a teacher and how big a part Midel played for her to get to where she is now.

He shares, “I don’t expect anything in return from them, but many come to say thank you when they see me on the streets.”

At this point, Midel says that he could not ask for more in life. “I’m blessed, healthy and have peace of mind.” He intends to continue doing this work for as long as he can, as long as poor school children need his assistance.

Read another inspiring story:
Putting up an after-school care program in the Philippines

(First published in The Philippine Times print edition)

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