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Intersection of Life and Faith

Inheriting the Gift of a Lifetime

  • Sarah Jane Velasco
  • 2009 6 Feb
Inheriting the Gift of a Lifetime
Cristina Benavente was excited and nervous when a staff member at our agency in Tabaco, Philippines, informed her that her sponsor, Barbara Broderick, wanted to talk to her over the phone. It would be her first conversation with Ms. Broderick, and Cristina wondered what she’d tell her and what stories she’d hear in return.

That was December 2007, and Cristina, then 18, had no idea it would be the one and only time the two ever spoke to each other.

During their conversation, Cristina learned that Ms. Broderick was suffering from an aggressive form of brain cancer. “She told me that whatever happens, I should pursue my studies and that I shouldn’t get married at an early age,” she recalled.

Cristina couldn’t hold back the tears. She was struck by the realization that the person who had been helping her couldn’t even help herself.

Ms. Broderick explained that if it weren’t for her cancer, she would have visited Cristina in the Philippines long ago. “She apologized because she wouldn’t be around for long to help me. I told her to stop worrying about me – it doesn’t matter if she stops helping me as long as she gets well,” remembered Cristina. “She kept telling me to study hard because a good education would take me places and help me realize my dreams. It would be my greatest achievement, and it would help me spell out my future.”

Before they hung up, Ms. Broderick asked Cristina to write her a letter. Soon after, Cristina received a card from her sponsor, along with a gift for Easter, and she promptly wrote her a letter in reply. But nothing followed.

Weeks later, Cristina was called to the community center. She assumed it was for the usual sponsorship updates and requirements. When she arrived, the chief of sponsor relations, Raynor Rodriguez, told her that he had some good news and some bad news for her.

Cristina broke into tears the moment she heard the bad news. Ms. Broderick, her sponsor and friend, had passed away. It felt like she had lost someone in her own family. “Even though we didn’t have the chance to see each other, I felt that she was someone who really cared for me,” Cristina confided.

Then came the good news. Ms. Broderick had included
Cristina in her will, with instructions to cover Cristina’s educational expenses through college.

The news arrived at a pivotal point in Cristina’s life. She was about to graduate from high school, and her parents wouldn’t be able to help her pay for college on the $45 they earned each month as daily workers. Her only alternative was to find a low-paying job and continue her studies once she saved enough money. But as to when that would be, she wasn’t sure.

Cristina returned home that day, overwhelmed with mixed emotions. She was grieving the loss of her friend, and at the same time, she couldn’t believe that Ms. Broderick was thinking about her until her very last moments.

Now whenever Cristina tells the story, she can’t help but get emotional. “I promised myself that when I graduate from college and find a job, I’ll go to the States and pay her a visit, even if it’s just her grave. I want to meet her family and thank them for all the help they gave me…and for making me feel that they cared.”

Before she passed away, Ms. Broderick asked her good friend Bernard Damashaek to carry on her legacy. Mr. Damashaek continues to sponsor Cristina to this day. He is committed to helping her enroll in college and achieve her full potential.