This award seek applicants who have overcome obstacles and are trying to get their lives back on track, build a better life for themselves and their families and lift themselves and their families out of poverty through education and skills training. They have overcome violence, addiction, health issues, the death of a spouse or parent, or mental health. And, they are women with dependents. 

Around the world, households headed by women have the highest poverty rates. Helping these women improve their education offers them the best chance of improving their lives and the lives of their children – ensuring more positive outcomes for generations to come. Specifically, these women:

  • Have had their dreams derailed

  • Are getting their lives back on track

  • Are the heads of their household

  • Care for their dependents

  • Want to increase their standard of living

  • Lack the financial resources to access quality education

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Having gone through a lot in life taught me about the importance of education in making a difference not just

in my life but in other peoples' lives as well. I struggled

to stay in school despite the lack of support and finances from my family by working odd jobs and serving families as a housekeeper. Luckily, an opportunity opened up when one of my grandmother's employer's daughter offered to help send me to school in exchange that I serve their family. I gratefully accepted the offer and efficiently serve them up to present. I am now nineteen and enrolled in Grade XII. My age does not hinder nor discourage me to continue my studies because I believe that life is a continuous process of learning. We do not stop from learning and dreaming. I am determined to make something better out of my past.

 

Now, I am CONSISTENT HONOR STUDENT optimistically looking forward to earning my college, masters and even doctorate degree so that I could provide a better living for my family and become an inspiration to others as i serve other people through

my future profession. I am also currently an ACTIVE MEMBER OF THE JUNIOR CATHOLIC WOMENS LEAGUE where I diligently participate in their activities and attend mass every Sunday. Our organization reared me to be a woman for others especially for young people like me. We assist in the tasks in our church and also conduct outreach programs for young people.

 

My education in school and in Junior CWL showed me that I could do more for others. There is no giving up in reaching for our dreams. In my heart I know that my dreams for myself and for others may become a reality with the help of SOROPTIMIST INTERNATIONAL.

On a sunset in 2000, an old couple heard a weak desperate cry of an infant in a

far-flung area near their home in Dingalan, Quezon. To their surprise, they found a newborn baby wrapped in dirty clothes inside a shoe box left under a huge mango tree. The couple was overwhelmed with pity to see the still bloodied body and immediately brought the child home, cleaned her up and swaddled with clean clothes.

 

The couple were in their mid 60's, childless, so finding the baby gave them the opportunity to have a child to nurture and love. They decided to take care of the baby as their own. She was the source of happiness and life for them.  This is me, Mariel Serrano, the abandoned infant.

 

Few years later, misfortune stepped in, the old woman died leaving me a three year-old toddler in the care of the old man. Despite being sickly, he tried his best to take care of me, but unexpectedly, my biological mother came looking for an abandoned baby 3 years ago. The old man was so sad and resistant to give me back, but upon recounting the past, he was convinced she is my mother and gave me back since he had no more capability to take care of me.

My fate twisted from good to bad as I started a new life with my mother, who turned out to be a prostitute, and i shared a home with my mother, a stepfather and five siblings in Bocaue, Bulacan. At a young age of nine, I was given the responsibility to look after my two younger siblings everyday after school which I would diligently do since my mother was out for work. Everything was going well until I turned fifteen years old when my stepfather started to sexually abuse me whenever my mother was away. I reluctantly told my mother my ordeal in the hand ofs of my heartless stepfather. Sadly, my mother did not believe me at first, until one night, my step-father started raping me at knife-point but resisted and was able to flee, wounded in my inner thigh. To my rescue came my mother who tried to shield me from my attacking stepfather. My mother was killed in fighting back my stepfather who was later imprisoned. I and my five siblings were left under the care of our maternal grandmother in Tarlac City.

Life became harder for us since our grandmother, an on-call house helper could barely provide for us. I was forced to stop my studies and decided to work as housemaid. I grabbed all the opportunities that came my way, selling fruits, vegetables and even engaged in illegal "jueteng" during my day-off.

 

Despite all the hardships I had undergone, still my determination to study is always in my mind.

 

I told my grandmother that I wanted to finish my studies. Luckily, an opportunity opened up. My grandmother's past employer's daughter in Angat, Bulacan offered to help in sending me to school with a salary in exchange for my services as family helper.

 

At present, I am in Grade XII at the age of 19. Half of my salary is sent to my siblings. I wake up at 4:00 AM to do household chores. After that I go to school up to 4:00 PM. Back to home to work again up to 7:30 PM after which I would study my lessons & finish school requirements. If I have time, i would repack peanuts, cornicks and other goods for my neighbor's store as additional income. During my free time in school, I work in the canteen and sometimes as part-time janitor. After school, for 30 minutes a day I help the pre-elementary teacher mentoring 5 kids and for this, she gives me an allowance.

 

I am consistently in the list of students with honors and looking forward to the day that I can be a degree holder. In my mind, i know I have been a survivor from the very first breath I took, the time i was abandoned and found, abused and saved, lacked and given an opportunity.  This is my story, a girl who will not stop in achieving her dreams.

 

My wholehearted thanks to SI Angat and I believe that this very prestigious International Organization will serve as the key behind my success.