One of my favorite rituals at the Thanksgiving dinner table is to go around and share what we are thankful for. Albeit somewhat cheesy, I really believe it allows one moment for us as a family to reflect on our blessings over the last year. The reality is that not everyone has the same types of blessings.
Let me tell you a story. This one is about a woman named Imelda.
In 2018, our family decided to visit Panglao, Bohol, Philippines. If I had to describe this town, I would say it’s a town of juxtaposition. On one side of the street, beautiful 5-star hotels offer all the amenities a traveler could want. On the other side, locals live in shacks made of foraged scrap metal.
On this trip, in this curious town, we met Imelda.
Imelda works as a masseuse, offering massages to tourists visiting her local beaches. To give you some perspective, she charges $6 USD for a 90-minute massage; of that $6, a portion goes to her employer. We visited Imelda daily, and it was during this time on the beach, we began to learn her story. Imelda used to work in a convent in Italy but returned to the Philippines to care for her elderly mother. Along the way, she also informally adopted a newborn boy, taking care of him to this day (10-years later) while his mother works abroad. We quickly grew close with Imelda, in awe of how someone with so little could continue to give so much to others.
The beautiful part of this friendship story is that it did not end post-vacation. Over the past 4-years, Beth worked diligently to maintain contact and continually offer support. Beth sent supplies, holiday gifts, and money for medicine or food – whatever was needed to provide for the family. These packages became the height of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic as Imelda could not earn a living.
In December of 2021, disaster struck again. Typhoon Odette landed in the Philippines and severely damaged Imelda’s house. In response to this tragedy, Beth came to me and said, “I want to build Imelda a house. One that will survive future typhoons and tropical storms. We must go to the Philippines and build it for her.” While reality set in that neither of us knew how to build a home, Beth did not give up on the goal. Instead, she funded the project to build Imelda and her family a house that would not only withstand climate and monsoon season, but also one that would become home to this family now and for generations to come. After nine months of emails, design decisions, land purchases, and growing anticipation, the house was officially built. The family moved in August of 2022 after the official ceremony of the blessing of the house. Since then, and most notably, the home stood strong during the recent Typhoon, Noru.
So, during the season of giving thanks, we wanted to share this with you. This is not a blog about cash flow or budget management, all very important topics, but one that allows us to reflect upon the blessings in our life, including those that we pass on to others in our community. In the spirit of the holidays, we would love to hear more about how you are impacting your community during this season of giving.
Read more from Imelda, below (in her own words):
“We [Way] back August of 2018, I first met Maam Beth Richardson, Lauren and BethAnne. They stayed in Hennan Resort, one of the most beautiful and prestigious hotel in Panglao Bohol Philippines. I am one of the massage therapist base[d] in Alona beach. One day Maam Beth went to the area where we having a massage. I was one of the lucky therapist who give a her a massage. I was so happy then because she likes my service to her. They stayed 8 days and have a massage every day and even twice a day. The time is up, they go back home. But that is not the end of being in touch to them. It continues until the Covid-19 pandemic. She never stop communicating and helping me and my family financially and supporting me spiritually, especially when I'm down. She is always there, especially when I needed her most. It was December of 2021 when the supper typhoon Odette was harshly destroyed many livelihood and houses in Panglao. Many of us put in a situation of nothingness. Maam Beth never stopped monitoring in the midst of strong rain and wind. Every now and then she asked what happen. That very day after the typhoon when she saw many trees had fallen, our house roof was out and some part destroyed, without asking, she send her love and support by sending money for us. My tears drops on my face not because of sadness but of happiness because of this amazing woman came into our life which really a gift from God. Two weeks later, she asked me a life-changing question… how much to purchase a residential lot and a house. It never came to my mind that she will buy for us. But, after three days, she announced a very surprising news that she and her two daughters decided to buy a lot and build a house for us. Without any further questions, … she started sending money for the lot and the house construction as follows. August 18 of 2022 finally we move to the new house with new vision and new life. What a great gift for us... once upon a time of my life, meeting a woman with a big and great great heart, our life change into more meaningful to live not just for the comfortable and nice house, but by having a person who is truly a human but possess an extraordinary heart that felt what we really felt... So, [on] behalf to my mom, Angelo, and my family, our heartfelt gratitude to the Richardson family who made our dreams come into reality..."
Imelda’s Home (Before):
Imelda's Home (Today):