Joshua is 8 years old. He loves Batman and Superman. He even loves the Minions.
His life is hard, but Joshua doesn’t realize it. He lives in the slums of Manila. Tondo, Manila to be exact. Here humans live among the trash heaps and often scavenge for garbage which is resold. His home is a two level shack which his family made. Their cooking area is on the bottom floor, which often gets flooded. Just outside is a little bonfire where they burn trash. He along with his 6 siblings and two parents live on the second floor. Joshua sleeps in the fetal position on the floor.
The main provider for this home is Joshua’s older brother who is a laborer. He makes about US$6.50 a day. Joshua’s father has health issues and his mother is the strong woman who keeps everyone together.
Joshua loved school and playing with friends. But in first grade he made the drastic decision to drop out of school because he was being bullied. Every single day. All because of his face…
Joshua was born with a large bump on his nose. This bump is a sac-like protrusion which is actually his brain pushing through his skull. It is called a frontonasal encephalocele.
Easily fixed with a routine cranial surgery in most countries, this bump not only was life threatening but also made Joshua feel worthless. He walked with his head down, he didn’t speak up, he didn’t want people to notice him.
When his case was brought to us, we spread awareness about his story. So when we fundraised for his surgery, he even got a monthly sponsor. His sponsor Amanda wanted him to feel like a superhero so she prepared a care package. It contained cookies, toys, books, and a superhero costume – Batman to be exact.
While I was fundraising for Joshua’s surgery, I had an emergency trip to the Philippines. I went to see Joshua and as luck would have it, his gifts from his sponsor arrived.
I came to his home and brought his gifts. As he opened each gift, he revealed the most beautiful smile. His eyes lit up and with every gift, he offered to his siblings. Finally he opened his last gift which was the Batman costume . He put the mask over his face and he felt like the coolest kid.
He was Batman.
He put on his shirt and mask and then carefully put it away in a safe place. I announced to his mother that while I was in the Philippines, I wanted Joshua to have his surgery. So with delight, she agreed. This was just after a near fatal heart attack of Joshua’s father. She had him sent away to family to take care of him while she would prepare to provide to care for her youngest child.
Joshua went from being an outcast to the special child. He got a private room with air conditioning at the hospital. He had a real bed with a mattress. He had his mother sleep in his bed with him. He also brought his Batman costume for luck.
Just before Joshua’s surgery, I made a surprise visit. He was so happy that I came to see him. I hugged him and told him it would be okay.
A few days after his surgery, I came back to see him. I asked him what he wanted and that I would get whatever he wanted.
He said, “Minions.”
I asked, “How do you know about the Minions?”
He replied, “I saw them on a neighbor’s television.”
His family is too poor to afford a television so he would go to the one neighbor and all the kids would go to watch Minions.
I went to the mall and got coloring books of Minions, Superman and other superheroes. I returned with his request and he gathered the strength to sit up just to color.
Watching him color, I witnessed the immense strength Joshua exuded. Although weak from the surgery, he managed to keep a steady eye and hand to create his masterpiece.
Within 5 days of his surgery, I witnessed him stand on his own two feet and walk to the bathroom unaided. Even his doctor was impressed with his improvement.
A month after my visit to Joshua, I received a picture of Batman. He was smiling.
He received more care packages and instead of being the one who was teased and bullied, he became the popular kid with all the cool stuff. But like a superhero, he shared everything he received because he already received the best gift: the gift of hope.