Mindanao, Philippines: On 20 February 2024, The Box of Hope Initiative celebrated its 10th anniversary by blessing children from various areas in Mindanao. The celebration occurred in Libandayan, Rogongon, Iligan City, a hinterland barangay located in the heart of Iligan City. The Nazarios Child Development Foundation (NCDF) and the Iligan Church of the Nazarene organized the gift-giving event.

In 2014, Leody Echavez III, currently serving as the Regional NCM Coordinator, began his journey as a field volunteer in Zamboanga City. It was during this time that he witnessed the profound impact of war on internally displaced children. Together with his local team, fueled by a desire to bring happiness and joy to these young souls, Echavez initiated the “Box of Hope” project. Over the past ten years, this heartwarming initiative has become a beacon of light for countless children in Mindanao.

The essence of the Box of Hope initiative lies in carefully packed boxes filled with new toys, clothes, school items, hygiene kits, and other essentials. Donors and sponsors eagerly adopt one or more children, committing to brightening their lives with thoughtful gifts. This annual initiative has already made significant impact, distributing nearly 2000 boxes to various areas in Mindanao.

This year’s Box of Hope beneficiaries were predominantly tribal children studying at Libandayan Elementary School. Despite the lack of facilities, the school’s dedicated teachers have remained passionate about providing quality education to their students. The gift-giving event was a heartwarming spectacle, with some students from NCDF and their parents, members of the Church of the Nazarene, and the District Superintendent of Mindanao West, Rev. Dan Balayo, who also serves as the Holistic Child Development Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Region, all coming together to spread love and joy.

The selection of Libandayan as the beneficiary community was not arbitrary. It stemmed from an ongoing partnership and community work of the local church in Iligan, which has also partnered with the Sikyop Agricultural Cooperative and Libandayan Farm for coffee advocacy and farming.

The community expressed deep gratitude for the Box of Hope initiative, acknowledging the blessings it brought to their children. Excitement also buzzed as community members learned about the ongoing conversation between the local church and its partners for follow-through in child development, education, protection, and community engagement.

As the Box of Hope Initiative marks a decade of spreading joy, its impact resonates far beyond the contents of the gift boxes. It symbolizes a community coming together to uplift the spirits of its most vulnerable members, fostering a sense of hope, solidarity, sustainability, and optimism for the future. A small vision, which started amid conflict, has grown into a testament to the local church’s power of compassion and collective action.