It was one day last year in the Philippine school holidays that Australian writer and musician, Mel Irvine met a little boy on a dirty roadside in the Philippines. He had cut, bleeding feet and no shoes and was crying. He had been following a group of kids she was taking to the beach and couldn’t keep up.
Mel had volunteered in typhoon damaged areas of the Philippines in early 2014, and obsessed with the poverty and great need of the children, she literally sold everything she owned to stay on and run her own self-managed projects for the kids. She had only planned to stay an extra year and return to Australia permanently to work again, but a chance meeting with that little boy Jerry changed everything.
“Jerry was so tiny and cute I thought he must have been 4 or 5 years old.” says Mel. “My heart just 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.”
Learning that the home and all their belongings, including his pets had been destroyed in the typhoon spurred Mel into action and within 7 days she had got him a birth certificate, bought him clothes, shoes and toys and put him back in school. That’s when he asked her if he could live with her.
“I said no immediately”. Mel says. “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.”
But something about this little boy captured her heart and with absolutely no idea how she was going to do it, Mel found herself in her mid-forties a mum for the first time. He couldn’t speak English and she could barely even say hello in Jerry’s mother tongue Hiligaynon.”
More than a year and a half has passed now since Mel met Jerry on that roadside. It’s been a rough time with Jerry arriving with no possessions or social skills. But with love and patience Jerry can now read, write and speak English. Mel is now speaking in Jerry’s native language which helps a lot too.
When Jerry’s father died on August 29th, 2016 he was left an orphan. With no family able to care for him, Mel is currently home staying with her parents, working and raising funds to adopt Jerry legally and eventually bring him to Australia.
“The Philippines is a wonderful country, with a vibrant culture and warm, open-hearted people but it is also a troubled country with high incidences of violent crime, murder and corruption.” says Mel.
“Jerry is still at that beautiful, hopeful age where he thinks gunshots are firecrackers so I am able to shield him from a lot that is happening around us”.
Mel is due to fly back to Jerry on January 18th, sadly missing Christmas and celebrating New Years together because the December flights are so expensive.
“I have come to love Jerry so much that being separated from him is almost unbearable, but I can manage because I know that everything I am doing here in Australia is securing our future together as a family.” She said.
Mel has an active campaign to adopt Jerry with the non-profit and social enterprise crowdfunding platform Chuffed.org, where campaigners get to keep all the donations they receive.
You can learn more about the story of Mel and Jerry (and hopefully give a donation too) by visiting their crowdfunding campaign page https://www.chuffed.org/project/jerry-needs-a-mum.
About Mel Irvine: Mel Irvine is an Australian writer, poet and musician living between the Philippine Western Visayas and Australia. Adopted/Foster mother to Jerry, an 8 year old boy whose parents died tragically, Mel spends her time in the Philippines helping the women and children of Jerry’s home purok (district): a fishing community deeply affected by poverty and seasonal typhoons. She provides free creative activities, art and craft supplies, music lessons and school tuition as time and resources permit. Mel is a freelance copywriter, daily blogger, busker and regular contributor to ABC Open.