Jerry needs a mum

By Melinda Irvine

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I’m an Australian woman who volunteered in typhoon damaged areas of the Philippines in early 2014. Obsessed with the poverty and the great need of the children here, I stayed on self-funded (also helped financially by family and friends) to run my own self-managed projects for the kids. I only planned to stay an extra year and return to Australia permanently to work again. Then I met Jerry.

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Finding Jerry

It was one day last year (May 2015) in the Philippine school holidays, a little boy followed a group of us to the beach. It was scorching hot and he had no shoes and cut bleeding feet. Jerry was so tiny and cute I thought he must have been about 4 or 5 years old (he was actually 7). My heart melted as the other kids told me his mother was dead, his father semi-paralysed by a stroke and his siblings scattered all over the country. The home and their belongings, including his pets had been destroyed in the typhoon. Within 7 days I had got him a birth certificate, bought him clothes, shoes and toys and put him back in school. That’s when he asked me (someone who had never, ever had children) to stay with me and live at the house. I immediately said no.

As much as my heart went out out to him I was concerned about how I could care for him being only a tourist in the Philippines and what would happen when my limited funds diminished. I was also warned that his family would try to extort money from me (which they did) and his behaviour would be impossible (which it was). But something about this little boy captured my heart and so, surrounded in uncertainty, somehow, with absolutely no idea how I was going to do it, I found myself in my mid-forties a mum for the first time. He couldn’t speak English and I could barely even say hello in his mother tongue Ilonggo.

(Check out Jerry below in his very first school uniform)

A challenging year

The last year and half has been really, really hard. Jerry arrived at the house with literally nothing. No possessions and no social skills. He had no idea how to behave, wash himself, use the toilet, read or care for property. I self-diagnosed him as hyperactive and he had trouble sleeping: crying for his mother each night. He hated going to school and fought with his classmates. I can’t count how many times I’d take him to the classroom only to have him back at the house an hour later. Despite all the stress and difficulties dealing with his invalid father and older siblings I just couldn’t give up on him. The main reason was that Jerry was so willing to be loved and improve himself. We communicated using a lot of sign language and pointing and we both loved to swim together in the sea opposite the house.

(Jerry's first ride in an aeroplane, oh and he only has two rotton teeth left now)

What’s happening now

Almost a year and a half has passed now since Jerry came into my life. We live now in a rented room together in his home purok (district): a fishing community deeply affected by poverty and seasonal typhoons. In less that a year Jerry has learned to read and speak English. Despite having extremely low grades and having missed almost all of grade 1, I managed to transfer him to a private school to start grade 2. He is learning to be kind, share and be gentle with animals. He now has school friends and I can trust him with money and small errands and chores. We sing together at night, we read stories, he loves helping me with the cooking or coming with me to the city. I can speak a lot of his native language Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) now too.

(look at Jerry helping me pack school supplies for one of our humanitarian projects)

The death of his father

When I told Jerry about the death of his father on 29th August this year, he didn’t really react. It took a few weeks for a deep set grief to set in. I guess it revived earlier traumas of losing his mother and having suffered considerable neglect and abuse. That’s when we both agreed that we wanted to be a real family. That I would adopt him and he would be my son. We have spoken to his older siblings and cousins and they want me to adopt Jerry.

(Jerry meets his niece for the first time)

How to adopt Jerry

In order to adopt Jerry I need to live in the Philippines until such time as our expatriate adoption application is accepted, reviewed and processed. Once that happens I can then apply to the Australian government for Jerry to become an Australian citizen. As you can imagine it’s a long and expensive process and is going to take up the next few years of our lives. Being only 8 years old, this is a critical stage of his development and I will not abandon Jerry.

Where is Jerry now?

At the time of writing (November 2016) I am back home in Australia selling art and craft, family heirlooms and donated goods at markets and garage sales. I have restarted my online businesses providing consulting services to clients as well as writing and performing. But this all takes time and I am away from Jerry. I have hired a nanny for Jerry and he is staying with her family and I call him every day at least once. We miss each other so much.

(Jerry and his best friend Nonoy enjoying a rare treat of ice-cream)

What I am asking for

I’m asking for donations both large and small to help me stay with Jerry. I didn’t expect to be still in the Philippines and I literally sold everything I owned (including my car) to continue my humanitarian projects. I need assistance with application and processing fees, travel to embassies and agencies, visa fees, legal costs, adoption fees as well as rent and living expenses while I build an online business again so I can earn money to support Jerry and myself. A lot of these expenses I have no idea about yet, they will emerge as we go deeper into the process.

(doesn't he look handsome in his Pathfinder uniform?)

Thank you

If you are at the bottom on the page and you read all that, please know that Jerry and I are very grateful for your time and your interest. All donations we receive will be used to stay together as a family, to adopt Jerry and to bring him to Australia.

Our warmest regards, thanks and blessings to you from Mel and Jerry

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Team Members

Melinda Irvine