On October 3, 2015, I attended a luncheon fundraiser benefiting Beyond Borders International with my friend Sharon Charleston. She founded this tax exempt public charity to help educate needy children in the Philippines, with donations going towards a Christian school located outside Manila. Proceeds also go towards training for the schoolteachers; tables and chairs and equipment; and much-needed books and supplies.
I was invited to say a few remarks during the luncheon. When I got up onstage I immediately realized that almost everyone in the room was African-American; there were only two other Filipinos in the large banquet hall. I had never addressed a group about issues in the Philippines that wasn’t primarily Filipino, yet here was a room full of African-Americans who wanted to help school children in the Philippines. They had been moved by their faith to help others in a good cause, regardless of their background. I realized that giving knows no boundaries. Giving hope goes beyond race.
I was filled with joy to know that there are people out there like Sharon Charleston and her husband, Jerry, who give unconditionally to help children thousands of miles away. Many years ago, Jerry served in the US military and they both saw the deep poverty in the islands. Hundreds of thousands of American GIs and their families have passed through the former US military installations in the Philippines but few and far between were moved like Sharon and Jerry to help.
Many Filipinos have negative stereotypes of African-Americans, primarily fed by negative images from the media. But Sharon Charleston’s charitable work shines above all that and defies those stereotypes. Maybe Sharon and her public charity, Beyond Borders International, can be the new norm for the 21st century, where hope goes beyond race and we all see the common bond of helping each other beyond borders.