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Update, November 6, 2004

Dear Friends,

It has been a long time since I have sent out an update on the current status of the Lingap Center Project. I have been waiting until I had some significant things to tell you. Well, the time has come. I have a LOT to tell! First of all, where are we financially? You will recall that my initial goal was $300,000. This was enough money to build the new facility for 80 children and run it for a year. Since then, we have had to move to an alternate location and I have approved the expansion of the plans to accommodate 100 children. However the budget remains the same (at least for now). As of today, thanks to you all, we have raised exactly $292,000 (97.3%) of the needed $300,000. As a result, construction is beginning! My concerns are now turning towards the operating costs of approximately $30,000 annually (in addition to the $10,000 that the Toledo City Council is contributing). So, we are about to reach a major milestone, but we need to look to the future. Therefore, please feel free to tell others about the project. We need the support.

My October Trip. As some of you know, I went to the Philippines to check on the status of things on October 16, returning on October 30. What a trip it was! Upon my arrival, I was advised by my very close friend and associate, Joji Deduque in Manila, that I had been asked to appear on ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC). This is the major television network in the Philippines, even broadcasting on the west coast of the United States. Upon arrival at the studio, I had to go to “make-up” and was briefed on the interview. It was quite an experience and I was asked to comment on child welfare issues in the Philippines. What an opportunity to influence social change in a third world country where it is so desperately needed!! The interview lasted about 15 minutes or so.

The next day, I traveled to Cebu, where I met with representatives of World Vision. During an earlier October trip to the World Vision Administrative Offices in Federal Way, WA. I had been asked to consider assisting with their “Child Sponsorship Program.” To provide me with the background I would need, they arranged to have me meet with their people in Cebu and visit some World Vision project sites. What an experience this was!! While there, I met children in desperate need of sponsors. For $30 a month, a sponsor is able to send a child to school, provide health assistance, help a child develop good values and make a difference in improving their community. I learned more about this worthwhile program firsthand and even met some adults who had been sponsored children themselves. In turn, some are dedicating their lives to helping other children in need. I came away a changed person. While we have sponsored a child for some time, we have decided to sponsor yet another. I also have files on children needing to be sponsored if any of you might be interested. Please send me an E-mail message and I can give you the details. As I mentioned, it is a wonderful program, but keep in mind they are not Lingap Center Children, who remain my first priority.

After returning to Cebu City, I learned that I had been asked to be interviewed by 3 of the regional newspapers, The Cebu Sun Star, The Cebu Freeman, and The Cebu Daily Tribune. They were very interesting interviews, with a lot of interest in the Lingap Center Project, why I am doing it and what the local Filipino Community can and should be doing in turn. This was a tremendous opportunity for me to build on what I had said on the television and strongly advocate that all children, regardless of their circumstances MUST be allowed to attend school – that without an education, they have little or no hope for a brighter future, or move the Philippines in a positive direction for that matter. I also discussed child welfare laws saying that without enforcement, they were meaningless!! They listened very intently.

Next, I was advised that I had received an invitation to go back to Manila to Malacanang Palace to meet Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the President of the Philippines!! Sadly, I was not able to meet with her privately due to a crisis of some sort, but I did attend a function with other members of World Vision and sat in the front row. I was able to meet her briefly afterwards (there will be a photo on the website). What an experience!!! I then returned to Cebu, where I learned that I was to be interviewed on the radio. This particular radio station focuses on family issues. It was a full hour interview, in 4 segments, again focusing on social responsibility and children’s rights.

Finally I made it to Toledo City and saw the Lingap Children. We had a beach party with them. Thanks to contributions from some of you, I was able to buy them all new clothes. They are truly wonderful children in every sense of the word. They are very bright and were very interested to hear all about their many friends and benefactors in America. We now have 32 children, the most recent being street orphans and a rape victim. In total, we have 3 John Doe’s and 1 Jane Doe (children who have no family and no names. We estimate their ages to range between 4 and 7). Thanks to the Lingap Center, they are now in a place of safety away from abuse, neglect and exploitation, are eating everyday and are attending school and church! The time I spent with the kids was the very best part of the whole trip!

On Monday, October 25, 2004 at 9:00 AM, at long last, we had the official Ground Breaking Ceremony for the new Lingap Center. This was a spectacular event, at least for me. It was the culmination of a crazy idea, a dream, a vision, a plan, a partnership between World Vision, Toledo City and myself and finally, it became a reality!! Of course, never at a loss for words, I gave a speech, the Mayor, Arlene Zambo gave an acceptance speech, Bebeth Tiu from World Vision dedicated it and members of the City Council also spoke. Aileen Bantolinao (12), one of the Lingap Children, offered a very stirring invocation in perfect English and then all of the children sang to the group. I have posted pictures of the event on my website and encourage you to take a look. Janice Mahilum (11), another of the Lingap Children, cut the ribbon and turned the first spade of soil, on behalf of the other Lingap wards. It was a fabulous day.

Finally I returned to Manila as I began my return trip to the U.S. I was contacted by the national newspapers, this time including the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine Star and the Herald Tribune. The stories were much the same; why was I doing the project, how etc. with the same focus on social responsibility. Here is a quote from The Daily Tribune, October 25, 2004 edition to show what I mean: "If a foreigner could see the plight of these underprivileged children, why not us, the Filipino’s? The government, especially the politicians, must now take a closer look at the whole picture of rampant poverty in the country and help or assist the impoverished orphans, like Drake has, who has chosen to travel halfway around the globe just to give the orphaned Filipino children a brighter hope for tomorrow." These are powerful words and I am humbled that I seem to have become a spokesman for social change. But what an opportunity - what a responsibility!!! I will continue to do my very best on behalf of these children and I thank God everyday for the support I have received from all of you. I then arrived back in the U.S. on the 30th, pretty tired, but incredibly committed to continue my journey.

Now a look to the future: Our next fund raiser on behalf of the Lingap Center is our second annual Valentines Day Dinner, Dance and silent auction "Hearts For Orphans" to be held at the Gene Davis Banquet Center on Saturday, February 12, 2005 at 6:00 PM. We will be having a silent auction, dinner, Lingap Center update, a performance by the children’s Jackson Fil-Am Folk Dancers and dancing with music by S and J Band. Tickets are $35 per person and can be obtained by sending me an E-mail. We will be sending future announcements about it, but please put it on your calendar.

As mentioned above, I would ask you to visit our website which can be found at Jeff (my son) and I have updated it to include photos from the events I have described. If you do visit, please feel free to sign the guest book.

In conclusion, I would like to again thank you so much for your support and encouragement. It means a lot and it truly is changing the lives of a lot of children who really deserve better things. Without you, this would not be possible. I believe it was Helen Keller who said, "The most beautiful things in life are neither seen nor heard, but are felt with the heart." I can assure you that even though we do not see them or speak to them often, the children are always in our hearts. And they truly are some of the most beautiful things in life.

John Drake