The flight journey of a UWC Maastricht FILIPINO scholar
It’s amazing how God can bring together different people — a journalist, an Etihad Airways employee and a student in need — to carry out great things for His glory.
It all started when my friend Ivory (the journalist), tagged me (the airline staff) on her Facebook post. It was an article about Zharina Nikko Casil (the student), a 17-year-old from our small hometown, Nueva Vizcaya, pursuing a really big ambition in Amsterdam.
I felt an instant connection with Zha. Her story brought back memories of my student days when I was fighting for dreams that were seemingly impossible.
God placed me now in a position to help and my heart has always been sold out to any cause that enables the Filipino youth to break borders and enlarge their territories. Ivory and I didn’t think twice, we immediately committed to sponsoring her flight to the Netherlands. Not by our own might, but with the confidence that our family and friends have the same heart as ours.
As her departure day approached, we couldn’t get her a confirmed seat on staff travel. We considered other options but couldn’t afford to book her a revenue ticket, even after putting together all the pledges we had so far.
In the end we decided to book her on standby. It wasn’t an ideal plan, especially for a first-time flyer, but this was the only way we could help. We just had to trust God on this one.
All our flights were full and her chances were getting slimmer each day. It worried me that she might not make it on time for her school orientation. Also, her visa release was delayed so I had to book alternative dates as back-up flights. We were all waiting in suspense.
Her visa was soon released, surprisingly on the day we originally planned for her to fly. She traveled from Nueva Vizcaya to Manila, straight to the embassy for her visa, then off to the airport. While Ivory was coordinating check-in and immigration instructions from Abu Dhabi, I was in the middle of Hong Kong, checking flight status and making more back-up plans.
Flights were still full and chances were all in the negative. I never expected her to get a seat on her first attempt.
When she told us she got a boarding pass, I was elated! I did a scandalous happy dance in the subway (all in my mind). Our system showed she had negative chances for this flight and the standby list was long. But our God was in the check-in counters.
I heard Him speaking to me,
“Ye of little faith”.
8 hours later, she landed in Abu Dhabi. Her transit time was more than 9 hours and I was worried she’d get lost, hungry or sleepy and miss her connecting flight. Again, I was on my toes but all my attempts to find her a “meet and greet” service failed.
In the end, Fhaye (a Violetologer-turned-friend who works at the airport) assured us everything will be ok. Zha even got a free meal just before her plane took off.
Someone greater than me was watching over her.
God works the morning shift and the night shift. I didn’t have to spend my days and nights worrying, making plans and back-up plans. This was his cause from the start and He is able to finish it, with or without my help. I learned that all he needed from me was a willing heart not a controlling hand. Me of little faith 😦
Zha impressed me a lot throughout this adventure. She remained positive at all times, listened well to instructions, and fearlessly maneuvered through airport check-in, immigration and transfer desks. For someone coming from a small provincial town, these are real challenges.
She arrived in Amsterdam just in time for her airport welcome and orientation. I felt so proud of her!
I believe that the small tribes and towns of the Philippines have many smart, talented and promising students like Zha. I wish more of them would be given opportunities to come out of their shells, do hard things and positively contribute to the society.
I came from the same small town and I too dreamed big. I was a scholar from highschool to college, a recipient of people’s generosity. I am paying it forward because what I have now is not meant for me to keep, but to share, like what others did for me.
To all who pledged their support for her airfare, and to all who supported her journey, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We successfully connected the Philippines to the Netherlands and have officially planted our ambassador of peace, waving our flag for the world to see.
We made a big difference in just one life, but it only takes one stone to create ripples in the sea.