Never stop dreaming
- Cheeko B. Ruiz () - July 24, 2011 - 12:00am

Manila, Philippines - Prince Joshua Iquina is the Philippines’ first case of Menkes disease, also known as kinky hair disease, characterized by sparse and coarse hair, growth failure and deterioration of the nervous system.

Upon discovery of his disease when he was three months old, doctors gave Prince Joshua three years to live. He is now on his second year.

All in all, Prince Joshua’s family spends around P30,000 monthly on food and medical expenses. His mother, Josephine, says with God’s blessings they manage to get by, thanks to the help of kind donors.

Prince Joshua is just one of the many beneficiaries of Operation Damayan, The STAR Group of Publications’ socio-humanitarian arm.

According to Josephine, her son would probably not be alive today if not for the generosity of Damayan.

Prince Joshua suffers from constant seizures, mental retardation and developmental delay, among other things.

“But we will continue to fight even if everything seems to be hopeless. We take comfort in the fact that there are people and organizations like Damayan that give us hope of a rainbow after the rain,” Josephine says.

Last October, Josephine became a recipient of Damayan’s pangkabuhayan project. She was given P20,000 capital to start a sari-sari store. Josephine says during peak days, she makes around P3,000 profit, enough to cover their daily expenses. She and her husband, a laborer who earns P100 per day, have five other children.

Prior to the pangkabuhayan package awarded to their family, Damayan also helped Josephine and her husband send one of their children to school.

Josh Christian McCarver, meantime, graduated first honor from batch 7 of ABKDamayan, an accredited alternative learning system provider and one of the projects of Operation Damayan.

Josh says he learned about ABKDamayan through their neighbor who is one of the implementors of alternative learning. At that time, he said, he had only finished second year high school.

Josh is an only child but his father died when he was eight years old. His mother worked as domestic helper in Dubai.

Josh relates that his most unforgettable experience with ABKDamayan was when he was declared the overall champion in the Battle of the Brains contest in Manila in September 2009.

He gained confidence with the recognition, and this fueled his ambition to finish high school.

To be able to have some money to spend for his transportation while studying at ABKDamayan, Josh worked part-time at a fastfood chain in Bacoor, Cavite where he lives.

The company saw his potential and hired him, not as service crew but as marketing representative. He also tutors elementary students.

After passing the non-formal education Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) test of the Department of Education-Bureau of Alternative Learning System, Josh is now studying AB Communication Arts at St. Dominic College of Asia in Bacoor, Cavite.

He decided to quit his job to concentrate on his studies. He has joined his school’s publication as writer.

Damayan is still helping Josh by giving him P10,000 allowance per semester. Josh says he could not ask for more for all the blessings he has received. He thus wants to help other people, too, once he is in a position to do so.

As of now, Josh says he has realized that one should never give up despite life’s challenges.

“Poverty should never stop anyone from pursuing his or her dream. If there’s a will, there’s a way. More importantly, God will see us through, and will be with us in all our trials through people with big hearts,” he says.

Like Josh, Rodel Valdez, a 4th year student taking up Business Administration major in Financial Management at the Southern Luzon State University in Quezon, is also being supported by Damayan.

Rodel, whose father is a farmer and mother a housewife, says the money being sent to him every semester is a very big help for his school expenses.

Even in grade school, Damayan has helped Rodel.

His elementary school, Tabason Elementary School in a far-flung municipality in Tagkawayan, Quezon, is a beneficiary of the adopt-a-school project of Damayan, which also helped with Rodel’s tuition and other expenses in high school.

Rodel is proud to share that he once became an academic scholar in college, proof that he is doing well in his studies.

Asked about his dream job, Rodel has a simple answer – he wants to work in an office. And when he does have a job, he wants to send his cousin to school.

“Whatever happens, never ever stop dreaming,” Josh says.

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