We are touched to share this moving story from a young girl who has made a long journey from a garbage dump to learning leadership skills and working hard to achieve her dream of one day becoming a chef.

Helen Spillet writes:

Erika grew up in the garbage dumpsite area of Irisan Community in Baguio City, Philippines. This
is also where his family gets livelihood from. Her father, Randy, works as a volunteer garbage
collector and he earns by selling plastic and scrap materials that he collects from the dumpsite.
Erika’s mother, Bethres, is a homemaker who was diagnosed with a heart ailment, preventing
her to do any strenuous activities. Erika has a younger brother, Jericks, who is also a scholar of
The Purple Centers Foundation.

A Family’s Love

Despite the unpleasant living conditions, Erika has a closely-knit family that supports and loves
each other unconditionally. Life is tough but their love for each other keeps them going.

“I had a happy childhood with a lot of fond memories with my family and friends. I love my
family very much and I will do anything for them”, Erika mused.

Growing up, Erika was witness to his parents’ struggles to provide for the family’s needs and give
them a good life.

“I always tell Erika to study hard and reach for her dream so she can have a better life unlike
what her mother and I had”, said Randy, Erika’s father.

These words from her father serve as Erika’s motivation to study hard and reach for her goals.

“My father is my anchor. He’s always provided moral support for me and my brother. He attends
school activities with me and gives me advice and words of wisdom.”

A Clever Girl

With very meager resources, finishing school is unlikely in the offing for Erika. But fate had other
plans for in 2010, Erika was granted an education scholarship from The Purple Centers
Foundation. For a family that’s trying to make ends meet, this scholarship has been a welcome
blessing for them.

“I’m very thankful for this opportunity. It’s a big help for me and my family. I will not do anything
to disappoint everyone who helps me”, mused Erika.

And so, Erika did not disappoint. She’s at the top of her class and is very active in school activities.
“Erika is a very diligent student. She excels in academics and extra-curricular activities. Her
teachers have all the good things to say about her”, shared Pastor Leo Marin, Values Consultant
of The Purple Centers Foundation.

Education Opens Doors

Being a part of the scholarship program of The Purple Centers Foundation has paved the way
for more opportunities for Erika. Aside from the support for education, other programs are also
being implemented by the foundation to hone the talents and skills of the scholars.

“Being with The Purple Centers, I’ve been given the chance to be a part of the Chorale Group
and led the scholars during summer camps, outreach programs, and other team-building

Erika has also participated in programs to develop leadership, and social skills among the
scholars. One of these programs is Life Transformation Program sponsored by Pan-Asian
Women’s Association (PAWA).

“I’m very grateful to be given the chance to participate in this program because I learned a lot.
It made me more prayerful, sociable, and confident. I especially liked the Self-Defense Program
because as a woman, I need to protect myself from all forms of harm and abuse”.

A Life Transformed

“After Life Transformation Program for our female scholars, I noticed quite considerable changes in Erika. She has strengthened her faith in the Lord. She has become more open in expressing her thoughts and feelings and sharing her problems with us and her close friends”, relayed Pastor Hernan Sabluden, Values Consultant of The Purple Centers Foundation.

“Erika is a very responsible person. She’s more mature than other girls her age. Since her mother is quite sickly, Erika takes it upon herself to do all the chores at home while juggling with school works and projects. We, at The Purple Centers, are always here to guide her and give her advice when she needs it”, said Julita Pontanares, Social Worker of The Purple Centers Foundation.

A Hopeful Journey into the Future

Erika dreams of becoming a chef someday because her father inspires her every time they cook
together. Cooking for her loved ones is her passion and each recipe is created with love.

Erika has a long journey ahead of her. The opportunities are limitless. With God’s presence in
her life and adequate support and guidance from her family and the people around her, nothing
is impossible.

An adventure awaits. A bright future is in the horizon.


Support PAWA

You can support Erika and other young girls like her by becoming part of the PAWA community. Here are some practical actions you can take:

  • Find out about PAWA’s projects empowering young women across Asia – see What We Do
  • Become a PAWA Friend, Donate or Volunteer – come along and Get Involved


Helen Spillett is PAWA supporter and member of PAWA Charity Team, monitoring the Inspire Labs project.  Her professional background is in Chinese Studies and in education.  She has worked in a voluntary capacity to support educational projects in Asia for the past ten years.


Photos: Thanks to Helen Spillett


PAWA Magazine, is the online magazine of PAWA, the Pan Asian Women’s Association. The magazine shares news and stories of PAWA People and Projects supporting girls’ education across Asia.


From garbage dumpsite to becoming a young leader – Erika’s Journey ¦ A PAWA Success Story
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