JOHN LESTER ARATEA
Jhonrey’s parents are farmers of rice and corn on land they do not own, and without regular income. Depending on the season, they only eat banana, corn, or cassava. On top of these, he has a younger sister born with hydrocephalus. They did not have enough money to get her proper medical attention and the medicine she needed.
Despite their lack of finances, Jhonrey believes that having education is the way out of poverty. He became a working student in college, reporting to the administrative office during his vacant hours to do office work, cleaning jobs, and run errands. He also drove a passenger motor after class and removed coconut husks with his bare hands, earning 20 pesos for every hundred coconuts. He was this fervent and hardworking because he was not only supporting himself, but also helping provide for his family’s daily needs.
In his first year in college, Jhonrey had a two-hour travel to school everyday, and was constantly hungry in class. He used cellphone light to study at home, since there was no electricity, and studied library school books because they did not have the money to buy his own.
He once said, “I have been so used to having an empty stomach that I could no longer feel hunger. Stomach pain was already normal to me. Everyday I would go home exhausted from juggling school and work. Living in a boarding house near the school was not an option for me. Apart from being an additional expense, I always want to go home so I can look after my sister. I want to see her everyday to make sure she is all right. She cannot take care of herself, we need to take turns feeding her and looking after her. Life is really difficult but my sister’s condition and the dream of giving my family a better future keep me going.”
In his second year in college, a classmate invited him to apply for a Real LIFE scholarship. He said that more than the financial assistance, what he appreciates most about being a Real LIFE scholar is having a renewed hope.
Years ago, Jhonrey said, “When I pass the board exam and become a Certified Public Accountant, I really want to reach a point where my parents will no longer have to work. They are already getting old, I want to provide everything they need and give them a good life. I also really want to bring my sister to the hospital and give her all the medical attention she needs.” And just recently, he passed the board exam to become a full-fledged Certified Public Accountant. He also plans to enter law school soon.
Jhonrey’s life is just one of the many that have been impacted by Real LIFE. Many more lives will be changed through the continuous support of our partners as we change a life and change the nation. To be part of the stories of our scholars, click here.