Former scavenger Jeb Bayawon from the Philippines recently graduated from Mindanao State University, and his inspirational backstory has captured his nation’s heart.
He grew up collecting trash from a landfill in Cagayan de Oro City with his siblings just to make ends meet.
To help his parents make money, they collected food and all sorts of recyclable materials such as empty bottles to sell.
Speaking to the Rappler, Jeb said, “We sold the scraps and bottles to the junk shops.”
Despite his family’s financially difficult circumstances, Jeb’s dad always made sure education was a priority, so Jeb went to elementary school.
“My father always advised me to go to school,” Jeb said.
But sadly, life wasn’t easy for Jeb at school. The other kids constantly bullied him for his smell—he smelled like trash from rummaging around in the landfill for his parents.
He couldn’t even enjoy his lunch in peace and was given an extremely tough time!
The other kids made fun of him when he opened his lunch box. They “grimaced because they knew that it came from the trash.”
So, when his parents passed away when was 12, he just couldn’t bear it any longer. His dad passed away after suffering from tuberculosis, and shortly afterwards his mom had a hypertension attack.
Jeb decided to drop out of school to take care of his siblings. He thought he’d have to spend the rest of his life selling recycled trash and almost lost hope.
Until one day in 2007, he happened to meet Thomas Kellenberger—founder of the Island Kids Philippines Foundation and a former policeman from Switzerland.
With the help of Thomas’ foundation, Jeb managed to turn his life around completely! They gave him somewhere to stay, an allowance, and most importantly, the opportunity to go back to school!
“I continued my studies because I wanted to learn. I didn’t want people to look down on me,” Jeb said.
Jeb was super excited to get a second chance to study, and decided he wanted to become a teacher and give back to his community.
More determined than ever, he quickly finished his elementary education while passing the ALS Assessment and Equivalency Test.
His hard work showed! In his first ever semester in college, he even made it to the dean’s list. Such an incredible achievement!
Jeb has already sat his licensure exam for teaching, too!
“Beyond that, I am planning to stay with the IKP Foundation where I can volunteer as an ALS teacher,” Jeb said.
Jeb is proof that anything is possible. If you are determined enough and work hard to pursue your dreams, you can make them come true!
Credit: The Epoch Times