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Kuya Thom Goes Home

Text & images by Lily C. Fen, Zurich

A grand walk in support of the children of Cagayan de Oro, in celebration of true Filipino community.

Thomas Kellenberger fell in love with the Philippines and its people when he traveled through its islands in 2007. Inspired by the laughter of Filipino children despite their difficult situations, he soon after founded Island Kids Philippines. Its state-recognized arm, Philippine Island Kids International Foundation, Inc. (PIKIFI) provides food, shelter and protection to hundreds of abused and abandoned children yearly.

Focusing on family-oriented care, victim support and medical aid, PIKIFI runs a children's village and two day schools in Cagayan de Oro. More than 700 children receive basic schooling and practical training that allow them tangible prospects in the future. A few aim for university degrees. PIKIFI also provides emergency aid after climate disasters.

A year has passed since Thom came home to care for Ruth, his mother. Her eventual passing was soon followed by the world shutting down due to the virus. As the world slowly opens up again, Thom has decided to walk back to the The Children’s Village in Cagayan de Oro all the way from Switzerland. He hopes to find a way to heal after his loss along the way, as well as raise awareness and funds for the children of CDO.

On the 25th of August 2021, Thom will embark on a journey that will lead him through 15,000 kilometers on foot. This trip will take up to two years, covering 22 countries, with Thom walking for an average of 30 kilometers a day. Some stretches, however, such as that going from Vietnam to Manila, require travel by plane or ship. He is scheduled to arrive at the child welfare center in CDO in the Spring/Summer of 2023.

To date, The Children's Village is at full capacity and PIKIFI turns down requests for new admissions almost every week. The demand for care places remains high. Thom plans to establish a second children's village in 2023, one that offers full-time care for abused and neglected youngsters. He aims to raise up to CHF 165,000 through his journey on foot, enabling him to build two houses for 15 children each and operate them for a period of one year. He would also like to arrange 30 sponsored childcare slots.

The journey is Thom’s goal—no matter how far he may get on foot, he invites others to join him in his walk for a cause, and help raise funds to further the projects of Island Kids Philippines. Since the Galva Swiss Company will cover Thom’s travel expenses, every penny raised for the walk goes straight to the young ones. Thom has discovered that he and his colleagues at Island Kids are able to aid the children directly while keeping administrative costs low.

To support Island Kids, whether financially or through raising funds while doing your own walk for the kids, contact Thomas Kellenberger at: Island Kids Philippines, Vorholzstrasse 12 , 3800 Unterseen R&W

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