There comes a time in every person's life when you start to question whether the path you had taken was the right one. For me, this happened in 2012 when we found out that we had to find a new location for Mano Amiga, or else we would have to close down the school for good. The community leaders we were working with suddenly decided that the school was too troublesome because of the noise level during mornings, and that the area we were occupying was better off as their homeowners association office. The news came as a heavy and humbling blow to my team. We increased student learning outcomes and access to sustainable livelihood in the area, and our school model was gaining a lot of international attention, but we could not seem to win the hearts of the people whose opinion mattered the most.
We considered taking the easy route and to just close down the school. We had already been operating for four years, and we were hopeful that we've already equipped our students with foundational skills that would allow them to thrive, whichever school they're in. What motivated us to try to continue were the pleas of the families we've been helping- their countless stories of how Mano Amiga has improved their quality of life, and their commitment to help us in whatever way they can. The best encouragement came from the students themselves who found every opportunity they could, to tell me and their teachers that they will join us wherever we transfer.
What followed were four challenging years of looking for a new area, raising a huge amount of money for the property and the building, and eventually constructing a new school despite limited financial resources. I have learned so much from this experience. First was learning to accept one's defeats with grace, and to focus on what one could still accomplish instead of what one had lost. Perhaps the most important was learning how to trust despite the disappointments- trust in the generosity and kindness of people, trust in the fidelity of God, and trust in the wonderful surprises that any challenging situation could bring.
On September 2016, we found ourselves celebrating Mano Amiga's 8th year anniversary, not anymore in a small makeshift building, but in a spacious campus that could accommodate over 800 students. And though many challenges still lie ahead, we look back with pride and gratitude for what we have overcome, and look forward to the future with continued zeal and enthusiasm.