Santino’s Story

By Kim Thomson, ICM Volunteer

All his life, five year old Santino Elisalde has watched his fisherman father at work each day.  Santino lives with his parents and six siblings in a two room shack which hovers above the sea water at high tide. During low tide, the home is surrounded by residual rubbish and sludge. When Santino wakes up, his father is already far away in the distance, returning at mid-morning.

Santino’s mother, Tina, wakes up early to make breakfast for Santino and his siblings. After they have eaten, they run across a rough wooden bridge to a jeepney which takes them to primary school. Last year, Santino studied at First Read Kindergarten, the donor funded, ICM operated kindergarten. That kindergarten changed the family’s life.

First Read - Santino's Siblings (1)

Previously, Santino’s family struggled by on whatever Tina sold the day’s catch for at the market. That amount just about covered the family’s daily expenses, but left nothing for lean times or emergencies. Many days during typhoon season (May to November) when the seas were rough, Santino’s father cannot fish and there would be no money for food that day. On those days, Tina was grateful knowing the ICM Kindergarten was providing Santino with a complete hot lunch. At least one of her children would have a full stomach that day.

First Read - Santino's Graduation (12)

When Santino began studying at ICM’s First Read Kindergarten, Tina was invited to join ICM’s VHL program. She learned to prepare delicious snacks that required few resources to make, and began selling the snacks in the community. The family’s income began to grow.

Today, all the children are in school, studying for a future that will take them, and their parents, out of poverty.


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