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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

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But the tasks ahead are enormous, Salvador acknowledges. Many of the children have lived their entire life on the streets. The goal, Salvador says, is to shepherd these children so they can become fully functioning, self-sufficient adults.

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One source of support is the congregation of a small Roman Catholic church in Eggenwil-Widen, Switzerland.

"We were looking for a project that would support the needs of people in other parts of the world," says Edith Rey Kuhntopf, who heads the small church. "Having seen photos of the village under construction and learning of how carefully the project was managed … we knew it was the right project for our parish."

To date, JDVSF has met a specific building goal each year. Its current project, building a halfway house in Manila for kids in vocational training, will be completed in 2012.

Only 3 percent of JDVSF's funds go to administration costs. Salvador, the board of directors, and most of the staff work as volunteers, with three social workers and a cook in the Philippines drawing a salary.

"Lizelle is remarkable in her pursuit to provide the disadvantaged children in St. Martin de Porres an opportunity for a sustainable future," says Annie Yeo, the director and head of corporate social responsibility for Deutsche Bank in Asia in an e-mail. The bank has been supporting JDVSF since 2006 and "we have been impressed by what she has been able to deliver," Ms. Yeo says.

One teen, Christian Avon Garcia, tells of being dropped off eight years ago at an orphanage by his destitute mother. His father had died, and his siblings were dispersed to orphanages around Manila.

Christian, who has been at St. Martin for two years, says that going to school was something he could only dream about before.

"For me, St. Martin means a new life.... I still get lonely because I do not get to see my family." he says. "But St. Martin has helped me redirect my life. I discovered my skills in art. I paint in rich colors to forget my hurtful past."

While the work will continue at St. Martin's in partnership with JDVSF, Salvador also plans to take JDVSF to other countries. Working with strong local partners will prove critical to the foundation's success, she says.

Today, as Salvador takes each step one at a time, day by day, her life may not look like the high-powered one of her college dreams. But she has no doubt that she has made the right choice.

And if you ask her, she'll tell you she's right back on top.

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