This is the story of Edward Macabio. Edward was born June 22, 1992. He just turned 19 years old this June. As this school year begins in June of 2011 Edward entered grade four of elementary school. He just started going to elementary school in first grade last June, 2007.
Edward is the oldest of three children in his family. Edward’s parents were both alcoholics and never took care of their children. Edward has a very mild case of Cerebral Palsy, part of the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. It really only affected his ability to learn to walk when he was very young. Because of his situation as the son of alcoholic, uncaring parents, Edward never had the help he needed to learn to walk.
Edward crawled around on the ground from the time he was small. His legs became stiff, the joints froze and the muscles and ligaments retracted. He could no longer straighten his legs. Edward became very depressed as he grew older. All he could do was crawl in the mud by the seashore where he lived.
Eventually, Edward’s father abandoned the family leaving the children with their mother and her parents. Two years later, Edward’s mother told her parents she was going to go to Manila to find work so she could help support the children. She was never heard from again. Physically challenged and very depressed, abandoned by both of his parents, Edward saw no hope in his life.
One day the grandmother heard of a program called “Community of Hope”. This program was set up and is directed by the Columban Sisters. It helps young people with severe cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome and autism by training the children in certain repetitive action jobs that not only give them some small income, but, more importantly, teaches them that they, too, have dignity as children of God.
Edward’s grandmother, seeking freedom from part of her burden of raising the children, brought Edward to the Community of Hope program. When the sisters had interviewed Edward they found that he was far too bright and far too able to fit into their programs.
Because the sisters knew of my work with bringing hope and salvation to children of alcoholics and drug addicts, they suggested that the grandmother should bring Edward to me. My home is called “Balay San Columbano”, the House of Saint Columban. Its whole purpose is to give children of alcoholics and drug addicts a chance to have life, not just birth, to have love and respect and to learn to share the love of God with others.
When I heard Edward’s story, I knew immediately that he would fit in our home. I also saw the Edward was a very gentle and loving person. He had no great dreams that could not be fulfilled. When I met Edward in 2005 I asked him what he would like me to do for him. He told me, “I would like to be able to stand up so I can go to school.” That was all he wanted out of life.
That was almost 6 years ago now. I took Edward into my home and cared for him along with more than 20 other children at that time. Later, I arranged for Edward to have an operation on his legs so Edward could make them straight again and so that, eventually, he could walk. That operation entailed cutting Edward’s legs in three places on each leg. The doctors stretched Edward’s muscles and tendons. He was hospitalized for two months in a body cast. He was released from the hospital but was sent home to rest for two more months in our home.
I had arranged for a care giver to work with Edward from the time of the operation until he was able to stand up and use a walker. His care taker was Margie who was one of the former students who lived in our home before she graduated from her course as a Care Giver. She became Edward’s Mother and his Care Giver.
Once the cast was removed, I had to buy braces for Edward’s legs and shoes large enough for his feet to fit inside along with the foot of the braces. Edward was so proud when he put on his new shoes that first day. It was all a dream coming true for him, a very nice dream.
However, before Edward had his dream truly fulfilled he had yet to undergo another operation to connect his thigh bone to his hip bone. For the second time in a year, Edward found himself in the hospital in a cast. Once again I called on friends in the USA to help me pay for the needed operation.
The generosity of the doctors who performed both operations and cared for Edward was inspiring to Edward and to me. Not one of them charged even one cent for their services. They even arranged for the hospital to be completely free. All we had to pay for was Edward’s transportation, the medicines that were used and the food for his care giver, Margie, another blessing from God in the life of Edward.
If Edward was filled with joy and pride when he first stood up in his shoes and braces, he was even more proud and filled with joy the day he went to school for the first time. He was now nearly 15 years old and starting Grade 1 in elementary school. The school was too far for Edward to walk to so I arranged for him to be taken to school every day by one of the older students in a small minivan.
Edward is very happy that I listened to his grandmother when she asked if I could help him. Living at Balay San Columbano is so much better for Edward than living in the village by the seashore. He now has his walker and even a wheel chair. Recently a friend in the USA, whose loved one had died, donated an electric wheelchair for Edward. When the weather is nice he can ride that to school.
At Balay San Columbano we live as one big family. We share the good times and the difficult times. Edward was sad last year when I had to ask some of the older kids to stop going to school because there was not enough money. He even offered to stop if it would help, but it does not cost nearly as much for him to go to school as it does for those who are in college.
Even though Edward is much older that his classmates he fits in with them because of his gentle character. They respect him like an older brother and the teacher often calls on Edward when she needs help in spite his physical limitations. Edward has no problem being with the younger children. He hopes to continue going to school at least until he finishes High School. As he draws nearer to graduating from Elementary school, he has begun to think about going to college. Only God knows if he will be able to do that.
I thank all of you who have helped me to give life to Edward, to bring him hope and to show him that God truly loves him. He has become such a gift to me and to the others in our home. May God continue to bless you and to bless Edward!