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Difference Maker

Marisol Lizelle Salvador lost her brother, but found a life – helping kids in the Philippines

Her brother's death inspired a foundation that supports an orphanage in the Philippines

By Marilyn Jones/ Correspondent / June 27, 2011

Former investment banker Marisol Lizelle Salvador was deeply moved by a visit to her parents’ home country of the Philippines when she was 11. Five years ago, she left her high-powered job to found a nonprofit group named for her brother to help children abandoned on the streets of Manila.

Marilyn Jones

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New York

After graduating from George­town University with a degree in international business, Marisol Lizelle Salvador "wanted it all."

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So she parlayed her degree into a great job with a world-class Wall Street firm, made big bucks, and lived the life of a young mover and shaker on the fast track to a top career in the financial world.

Yet, after actually achieving the success she'd envisioned, she realized that "having it all" felt more like "not having enough."

A first-generation Filipino-American, Ms. Salvador grew up in an upper-middle class home on Long Island, N.Y. Her father, a doctor, and her mother, a nurse, had immigrated to the United States in the 1960s, where they raised their five children to seek the American dream.

At the age of 11, however, Salvador took a trip with her parents to the Philippines. There she understood for the first time the huge disparity between her life and that of the children she saw begging on the streets of Manila. Those images would profoundly affect her for years to come.

Her family lived what seemed a charmed life in the US, but their happiness turned to sorrow when Salvador's eldest brother, John David Vincent, was killed at age 14 by a drunken driver.

Salvador felt her brother's loss deeply, but it wasn't until years later that she found a way to honor his memory. As she found herself on her rise to success, she began to wonder, in effect, "Is that all there is?"

She contrasted the amazing abundance in her life with the plight of those desperate children in the Philippines without food, shelter, or even parents to care for them.

How could she give back, as her parents had always taught her? And what could she do to honor her brother's life?

Her soul-searching led to a new calling. She returned to the Philippines in 2004 and contacted a family friend, Father Florentino "Boyet" Concepcion. Father Boyet ran St. Martin de Porres, a home for children that was desperately in need.

Salvador quit her job, and in 2005 she founded the John D.V. Salvador Foundation (JDVSF), in memory of her brother. "Perhaps our foundation could help provide opportunities for these children," she says.

In the beginning, St. Martin housed 42 children in two retrofitted school buses and a one-story house. Today, JDVSF and St. Martin support 88 children and provide dormitories; a farm and pond for vegetable, rice, and fish cultivation; staff cabins; and a multi-use dining-hall complex.

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