Friday, July 25, 2014


by John Coffey

Turn on the news. The top stories today will bombard you with tragedy, hatred, and fighting occurring simultaneously around the world. You won't be too encouraged or inspired by the picture of our world seen through the lens of news cameras. When hopeless headlines are the norm, anything that speaks of compassion, peace, and joy seem like naive sentiments or words best fitted for a Christmas card.

Thankfully, even on the front lines of catastrophe, there are countless stories of quiet compassion, selfless love, and untold heroism. The vast majority of these stories go unnoticed. They are surprisingly common and typically unsensational (not like in the movies). These include the poor, single mother who teaches preschool to street children, the volunteer community worker who picks up the pieces of shanty towns dismantled by typhoons, the street youth who scavenge through dumpsites to provide for their families, and the affluent teenage girl who celebrates her birthday each year by handing out cupcakes and school supplies to street children. These are true stories that I witness everyday here in Manila. I am uplifted each day by these heroes.

I want to share about these individuals not because they need recognition or praise, but rather the opposite. They don't seek recognition or reward. If they want anyone to be recognized for their efforts it's the God who they believe has given them those talents and abilities to serve others.

So here are my "heroes of the month"...

1) Pen Pen from Extreme Response

Pen Pen (left) shares canned goods with one of the locals
Last week a typhoon ripped through Manila, destroying many homes in poor communities. The families of children in our programs were greatly affected by this storm, though we thank God that all of them are alive and safe. I myself had to evacuate my apartment due to excessive flooding and the collapse of part of my ceiling. I feel very fortunate to have been able to move to another apartment while most others in our community don't have that option. Our partners at Extreme Response sent volunteer community worker Pen Pen to assess the damage in our community and work towards a solution in helping families recover. Pen Pen is a bright, young Filipina with a master's degree in community development.

Children from our programs wade through dirty flood waters after the typhoon

Even several of the apartments in my own building were heavily damaged by the storm. This is not my apartment, but my neighbour's.
Most of the residents in my building transferred to safer apartments after parts of our ceilings had collapsed.
2) Jizza Magallanes, Registered Social Worker at IT Tender

Jizza (right) assists families in renewing their contract with our Sponsor-A-Child program that supports their education 
Erica proudly shows off the new backpack she bought through the Sponsor-A-Child program
Jizza Magallanes has been simultaneously leading our Sponsor-A-Child program while going to college to complete her degree in social work. At times her and her family have lived in the IT Tender Drop-In Center because they were unable to afford both Jizza's college tuition and the rent of a place to live. Jizza has prioritized her studies because she wants to be better equipped to serve the community as a licensed social worker. On June 30th Jizza completed and passed her two-day licensing exam and is now a registered social worker. Working on a small team at IT Tender doesn't afford a generous salary or very much recognition. It means long office hours in an unairconditioned office and frequent visits to the community and our clients in the streets. Yet Jizza makes no demands and serves the community with humility and passion. Her heart for our clients and her faith gives her the drive to keep going and invest long-term in the lives of our street children and youth.

3) The Night Life Youth in Putatan

A group of youth in an area called Putatan scavenge through garbage to earn a living. IT Tender staff Lorna Carro reaches out to them through our Night Life program which builds relationships and mentors them with the goal of helping them move off the street and reintegrate with their families and communities. Gabby Malquisto also provides a weekly bible study for these youth to be discipled and gain further direction in their lives.

Our youth scavenge for materials to sell at the local junk shop

Angelo is an active participant in Night Life and in Gabby's bible studies
Over the last year, many of these youth have voiced the desire to complete their high school education, to quit their addictions (e.g., sniffing solvents), and to find better jobs than scavenging. They are resilient despite the hardships they have endured and they inspire me by their desire to change. Thanks to our partnership with Action International, these youth have been invited to apply for an 8-month discipleship and life skills training program at Action's "Honest Hands Discipleship Home". Honest Hands provides tutorials to help them work towards their high school diploma, bible classes, and trainings in cooking and socializing. Students in the program stay in at the discipleship home from monday to friday and go home to their community every weekend to maintain their relationship with their families and churches. We are praying to send three of our youth to the 8-month Honest Hands program which begins next month, and in the future we would love to send more youth to Honest Hands each year. However, our monthly budget at IT Tender falls short of the funds needed to cover the transportation of these youth going back and forth Honest Hands. It costs just $35/month to send one youth to Honest Hands. If you would like to set-up a monthly donation towards IT Tender, please contact me ( or follow the simple directions on our donation page:

8 of our Night Life youth experienced a 1-week trial at the Honest Hands Camp
We are praying to send 3 youth to the 8-month program this year and even more in future years
4) Bianca

My fourth hero of the month is a Filipino teen from an affluent community in Manila. Bianca and her family have supported our programs at IT Tender for the past few years. Last year she celebrated her 14th birthday at our drop-in center by throwing a party for the street children. Both her and the children were so blessed by this experience that she decided to do the same this year. Bianca's 15th birthday on July 20th was an epic day of games, food, and celebration for our kids. Bianca is my hero because she chooses to bring joy to the street children on a day when she could be the centre of attention.

Bianca poses with some of the students from IT Tender's preschool
The children enjoy a cupcake designing competition

Bianca surprises the kids by giving each of them a package of new school supplies
5) Office staff at International Teams

Last but not least, the people serving behind the scenes are just as essential as the people on the front lines. Those of us working in the community wouldn't be able to do our jobs without so many working hard in the offices of International Teams. I want to thank everyone in the offices of IT Philippines, IT Canada and IT Tender. Three of these staff in particular are my personal heroes this month because of their exceptional work in promoting and empowering our programs at IT Tender. These three are Greg Reader (Program Champion for IT Tender at IT Canada), Lauren Anderson (Writer and Editor of International Teams' newsletters), and Chris Fane (Director of Online Services at IT Canada).

Thanks to their efforts, IT Tender now has a comprehensive website where anyone can learn anything they need to know about our programs and how to get involved. Check it out here:

Also, Greg Reader at IT Canada is encouraging anyone and everyone to join the Ride for Refuge bike-a-thon taking place this October 4, 2014. There are Ride for Refuge locations all across North America so anyone can join and help support our efforts in Manila. If you are interested in putting a together a team to ride for IT Tender you can start by registering the team on this page:

If you are interesting in riding, but not being a team leader, please contact Greg Reader at IT Canada at and he will put you in touch with a team that is already formed.

Thanks for following along with my blog! May God give you the inspiration and boldness to be a hero in your own office, community, or across the globe.

Jam & I are thankful to have heroes that encourage and inspire us each day to continue serving God's wonderful children


  1. Great write-up John! (not just cuz of office staff recognition either, but thanks ;v)
    It is good to remember that the news is a money making proposition based on bad-sensationalized-news not Good News, so thanks for that reminder and taking time to share!!! All of God's best blessings as you serve, and recover from the storm!

  2. Hey, thanks for the shout-out! Loved reading about all the heroes.