By Walt Walkowski, ER Global Impact Coordinator

Last month while in Manila to help Ravenna Baptist Church sponsor a youth sports camp, I was approached by one of the girls who asked me something in Tagalog (Filipino language). A co-worker interpreted.

The girl asked, “Am I beautiful?”

I told her, “Yes, absolutely, you are beautiful!”

And she is, inside and out. But she doesn’t feel beautiful.

I made a point to encourage all the girls at the camp with positive feedback. It was easy to do because these girls are smart, athletic and highly capable.

Unfortunately, many of the girls we help feel this way. They have low self-esteem — an outcome of harsh living conditions and generational poverty.

To fight this mindset, we place high value on social and emotional support in our programs. We combine skills development, compassionate mentors and unconditional love. Most kids, even the ones who are hurting, respond in kind.

We want all the girls and boys we serve in nine countries around the world to become “Overcomers” – kids who grow up strong, healthy and confident as they reach adulthood. After all, they are beautiful.

Scroll below to learn more about ER sports camps and how you can help encourage at-risk youth.

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Vulnerable filipino kids are overcoming tragic childhoods with love, nutrition, education and mentoring. We’re adding another element – extracurricular activities – to help them learn competition, teamwork and fun. ER’s Walt Walkowski accompanied a team of volunteers from Ravenna Baptist Church who sponsored a sports camp near Manila.

Overcomer: “Greatest Week of My Life”

By Walt Walkowski, ER’s Global Impact Coordinator

(May 20, 2019)

What do you get when you mix American football, volleyball, touch rugby and basketball? The answer is a very fun and active sports camp.

Nearly 50 kids from three children’s homes in the Philippines, including seven from ER’s Manila Children’s Home, learned together and competed against each other May 5-10, 2019, at Rizal Re-Creation Center in Laguna. The group consisted of boys and girls ages 9-17. The camp was planned and led by ER Asia’s Jason Chappell, and was staffed by a team of 14 people from Ravenna, Mich., who traveled to the Philippines specifically to take part in the camp.

The camp was meant to serve as an opportunity to introduce Filipino kids to sports they might not be familiar with, like American football or touch rugby. It proved to be much more than that, though.

For example, when Evangeline*, 16, was asked whether she had enjoyed the camp, she immediately said yes. But, she admitted, she did not have another experience for comparison. “This is my first time ever going to a camp,” she said. In fact, the majority of kids participating had never been to camp before.

Activities for Filipino children’s home residents like Evangeline are often limited. These facilities have tight budgets, meaning there is little wiggle room for anything which could be deemed extra.

As a result, the kids not only enjoyed playing the sports, but relished the camp’s other amenities. With temperatures during the camp ranging from 88-92 degrees, the pool area was a popular spot during free time. Kids and adults alike enjoyed zipping down the water slide, or shooting hoops in the nearby shallow pool, to cool off.

The kids also enjoyed interacting with the Americans. This was another new experience for many of them. While the kids practiced their English, the Americans worked to learn a few words and phrases in Tagalog. In the process, friendships blossomed.

On the last night of the camp, retired Philippines Basketball Association player Dennis Madrid and his twin brother, Christopher, visited. The two served as celebrity referees for the kids’ basketball competition, and then shared their inspirational stories in a talk called “The Four Quarters of Life.”

The kids universally loved attending the sports camp. “I don’t want to go back [to the children’s home],” Addison*, 15, told one of the American staffers. “This has been the greatest week of my life.”

Perhaps most exciting, nearly half of the kids at the camp responded to opportunities to set their lives on a path of faith, character and responsibility. There were some big moments in the lives of these young people.

ER would like this sports camp to become an annual event and open it up to even more children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience the joy of attending a summer camp. Interested in participating in an upcoming sports camp or donating toward making one happen? Contact Walt at wwalkowski@extremeresponse.org.

*Children’s names changed for privacy.

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Fearless Youth Sports Camp Inspires Kids

(Nov. 8, 2018)

Sports are a great way to help vulnerable kids overcome adversity, especially in the Philippines where culture celebrates athletic achievement. So when ER Asia wanted to pour into kids living at children’s homes and struggling communities, the Fearless Youth Sports Camp was born.

After months of planning, ER’s Jason Chappell, staff and volunteers launched the camp Oct. 29-Nov. 2 in the town of Rizal Laguna. An ER donor covered the costs for 50 kids to attend. The kids came from the Manila Children’s Home and two other children’s homes that belong to the MCH Network.

The children were able to play several sports, including basketball, soccer, volleyball and swimming. Their schedule also included team-building, memorization, hot meals, small groups and free time.

“My hope was to hold a sports camp and teach the kids the connection between playing sports and the discipline required to participate in them,” Jason shared. “The kids had fun and learned a lot.”

“The sports camp was successful for the youth. They met other people in the network. I believe it will grow over time.”

One of the volunteers, Lois Benavidez, said the camp paved the way for kids improve their ability to build new relationships and also will help them bring a sense of discipline back to their respective communities.

Learn more about ER’s Orphans & Vulnerable Children’s initiative here.

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