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Libby native aids the Filipino poor

by Seaborn Larson
| July 2, 2013 5:28 PM

Annette Fosgate traveled to the Philippines as a tourist on vacation to see the mountainous island life known by more than 9.2 million Filipinos. She returned as a missionary two years later.

Fosgate,34, was raised in the Assembly of God Church in Libby but today accepts support from every church in the Libby area. Fosgate believes this testament of commitment by the community can translate to any community overseas.

More than 90 percent of Philippine population is of some Christian denomination, a welcoming environment for a Christian missionary, especially on an island in one of the poorest regions of the country.

A Libby native, Fosgate has spent the last five years in the municipal village Panglao, a small island near the coast of the island-province of Bohol. The former teacher hopes to lay a foundation for generations to come and change the belief that for children, education should come second to providing for themselves and their families.

Fosgate explained a common saying heard around the island, “what good is an education if your stomach is empty?”

“When you don’t have these basic needs, I can almost understand,” Fosgate said. “But what parents don’t understand is that without an education, kids are going to stay at that level.”

A sad narrative, but sometimes found to be true for many local families. Hunger is one of the biggest problems children face, Fosgate said.

For now, Fosgate chooses to put her faith in the youth of Panglao. Her one-woman organization called, “Simple Faith Ministries,” takes in classes of dozens of children in a preschool, teaching lessons that include colors and numbers. Before school, Fosgate and a group of other community members contribute in providing breakfast to many of the children. Some mornings, Fosgate will go as far as to help some kids prepare for school.

“The parents aren’t involved as they could be in their kids’ lives.” Fosgate said. “A lot of kids end up raising themselves.”

Each evening Fosgate helps children with Bible studies and reading. She is usually aided by a translator and many mothers who enjoy seeing their children growing outside of the fields. Often Fosgate will spend time with mothers of the village, making days easier for those short-handed.

“She saw this space over there and filled it.” said Joan Fosgate, Annette’s mother. “That she invested her love in these children, and she is receiving that love and rewards of it. As a motherand that blesses me.”

Fosgate’s parents admit that they often miss Annette, but are grateful for Skype to make international communication easier.

Beyond the problems of poverty, other social maladies begin to stack up. Fosgate said alcohol and gambling are problems connected to poverty.

While industrialization is gaining traction in the Philippines’ northern region, the central region in which Fosgate’s recent island home is found relies heavily on fishing and agriculture. Panglao’s population of 29,000, recorded in 2010, is yet to be tapped by major manufacturing companies. Panglao falls into the fourth-class tier of income in the Philippines.

According to Fosgate, the northern and central regions of the Philippines are happy to embrace white people. She believes the embrace may be leftover feelings remaining from the World War II era, when U.S. forces collaborated with the Philippine army to combat Japanese invasion.

Fosgate has two new projects she is looking forward to, one of which will launch in the Libby/Troy area. Fosgate has placed a basket in The Western News and the Venture Inn, where people may drop off backpacks to be donated to children in Panglao.

“I think the biggest thing,” Fosgate explained, “is I will hand these backpacks out and get to say to the kids, ‘you know what, there are people in America who want to see you succeed, that’s why these are here right now.”

The second project: Fosgate has offered to paint the pediatric ward of the local hospital. 

Fosgate will return to the Philippines on July 9.