Virlanie celebrated its 28th year. We know we could not do it alone, but we are grateful for the people who made this possible. The people behind the scenes, the people who are Virlanie’s backbone, the house parents.
We got a chance to interview Mama Sarah, one of Masaya Home’s Houseparent. She has been with Virlanie for 21 years.
I hope I would not take much of her time, but I just really enjoyed talking to her that we did not realize that time flew by so fast. We sat in a small office inside Masaya Home. We spoke over coffee so she will just feel at ease.
Get to know Mama Sarah as she also spoke to us about her experiences with the Virlanie kids. Here are some highlights of our conversation.
How long have you been working with Virlanie?
I was working here for 21 years already; my work anniversary is on September 19. Oh, I forgot. Today is September 21, right? 2 days have already passed, I should have celebrated it.
From 1999, I was already working here in Virlanie. I was 28 years old then, and still too young when I became a house parent.
What is the age range of the kids that you first handled?
The 4 to 6 years old kids. In the MPCC Home in Hawaii Street, but I first came here as an OJT taking care of the Young Adults. The girls, in Singalong.
Within 22 years, what is the most challenging experience that you encountered in taking care of the kids?
Maybe it is the thought that my son is living away from me. I taught him to be independent at a very young age. So, when he is still in Grade 4, I was already leaving him alone at home, but when he is still 3 to 9 years old, he was staying with my mother in the province. So that is one of the challenging things, I was not able to be with my son all the time, but at the same time, I am also happy, taking care of my children here.
What is your most unforgettable and valuable moment with the Virlanie kids?
One of the unforgettable moments is that I was able to go to places that I have never been to before or the places that I cannot imagine that I can ever go to. Some of the supporters usually invite the kids to go out for a tour, and sometimes, I was able to accompany them. My most unforgettable experience among all was the time that I tripped and fell to the ground, head-first. The kids immediately rushed to my rescue. I was teary-eyed at that moment because I thought, with their age, 6 to 12 years old, they will definitely go and enjoy playing first, than going back for me, but instead of taking their time to just play around, they all went back to help me. You can always feel that they wanted to repay the love that you give to them.
Also, whenever it is Mother’s Day, they always prepare something for us. They surprise us with greeting cards. I still remember Jordan. When he was already reintegrated outside, he, along with some other ex-beneficiaries, came back and prepared a program for us. They surprised us with heartfelt messages.
What did you learn from the kids?
It is loving beyond measure. They have so much love to give. I can recall a moment when I got sick, and a child that was not so expressive came to me and told me that whenever I need her assistance, she will be there. They will not say the words “I love you”, but they will always make you feel that they are also there for you. They feel that we also get tired though we are not showing and saying it. There are kids who will offer you water to drink, massage, and when I was not feeling well, the kids will come rushing, competing who will get to help me first. They show their love through their actions.
As their Mama Sarah, what are the unique values that you passed on to the kids?
The values of being helpful, and generous to anyone, and always be grateful for whatever they receive. Though we are in lack, it should not stop us to be helpful to others, especially when they will already be outside the foundation, they should always treat other people equally.
What is the saddest moment that you do experience the kids?
Maybe it is when a kid will have to go out for good (to be reintegrated). But I always remind myself that it should not negatively affect any of us. I always tell my co-staff, yes, it is painful, but we should always remember that it will be for the kids’ own good. The kids are temporarily here so we could prepare them for a better future. They are not ours, but let us give them the love that they deserve within their stay here. We might long for the kids, but we are happy as they will already have a family that they can call their own. I do not show anyone that I cry whenever I see a kid leave, but at the back of my mind, I am grateful that this kid will finally have a better future.
If you have a message for the kids who are no longer with Virlanie, what would be your message to them?
Love your new families. Whatever values that we taught you, continue doing them, and whenever you need us, we are still here for you. Do not forget to be always thankful to God. Always pray in whatever circumstances. If you have problems, or if you do not, just pray and be grateful every day.
What is your message for the kids who are still with Virlanie?
Acknowledge that they are still blessed. Life outside is difficult, and as any parent would say, Education is the only treasure that cannot be stolen from them.
Always be strong. There are times that some of our kids were being bullied at school. It is painful to see that some of the kids will go home crying because of it. I tell them that they should not fight back, but we will go to their school and explain it to the other kids. Never think that you do not have a family. You have a family here in Virlanie, be proud because you have a very big family. You have a lot of siblings, and mothers and fathers who you can call your own.
What is one of your proud moments as a house parent?
Whenever we go to their schools, I am always happy whenever the kids introduce us to their classmates and friends. They will ask, “Is she your mama (mom)?” They will answer, “Yes”. And then another Virlanie kid will call me “mama”. I consider all of them as my own children.
I am also proud that the kids that we take care of are intelligent. If you have seen the banner that we put last year, almost all our kids got an achievement in school. We climb up and down the stage untiringly to accompany them in getting their awards!
What will be your advice for the other Virlanie employees on how to last this long in service?
I was here for 22 years because I love my work. Do your work without competing with others, it will make the job lightly. Teamwork and socialization with each other are the keys to why an employee would not leave their jobs. But if there’s division among the employees, you would not think of staying for too long. What established me here is love and teamwork.
Before we ever think of leaving our work, let us not only think about ourselves but also think about the kids. If we are going to leave, who will take care of them especially during this pandemic? We might always choose the jobs that we want, but the kids did not choose this life.
As a house parent, you have sacrificed a lot for these kids. What is the greatest sacrifice that you did for the sake of Virlanie kids?
My time. I was just so grateful that my son understands me. There are times that he needs me, but he will not call because he understands my job. He does not want to get the time that I was supposed to be looking out after the Virlanie kids, because he was also concerned about who will look after them if I will leave. In an unfortunate event, he was involved in a road accident. He never told me about that, I only learned about the news from our neighbor. He said he did not call me because he is worried that no one will look after the children because it happened at night and it will not be easy for me to go out by that time. He himself also sacrificed for the kids, but I am equally proud of him because he understands my job. I am a single parent because his dad died when he was still young, and my son became independent at a very young age. Now that he is a grown-up, I make up for the lost time. He is already 25 years old.
If you will ask me, what Virlanie did to me, I can say that they have really helped me a lot.
When the time comes that I will retire and will no longer be here in Virlanie, I will always remember Virlanie because when I will be going to look around my house, everything that I will see there is the fruit of labor from working here.
I have always dreamed of having my own business, but I will see if I could accomplish that in the future.
Since I was in Grade 4, my life is already dedicated to the kids. I took care and looked after my siblings then. After going home from school, I was always preparing meals for them. There are times when I was in class, and I brought my sibling. There she was, crying by the door. My teacher told me; you can go home with your sister because we cannot concentrate in class.
I was a working student, working as a babysitter throughout high school until I graduated. Then after, I also worked as a nanny for three years until I was blessed with my own son, Paolo. Then here I am now, with the Virlanie kids.
I can say that I was living for the children. This is my calling and lifetime mission, to be a mother to everyone who needs care and love.
We cannot say that we could give the perfect love. I was not expecting that I am perfect, but I just give all the love that I could give until I can.