Rugby-sniffing street kid now a college grad | Inquirer News

Rugby-sniffing street kid now a college grad

/ 03:51 AM April 10, 2016



ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—He used to beg on the streets to fund his compulsive habit of substance abuse.

Dennis Sumampong, a former “Rugby boy,” spent his tender years on the streets of this city relying on the kindness of strangers after being abandoned by his parents and subsequently fleeing his abusive adoptive family in Margosatubig in Zamboanga del Sur province.


Now 25, he has walked free from the addiction, thanks to the social workers from Akay Kalinga Center, a program of the Catholic Church-based Katilingban sa Kalambuan (Community for Development) Inc., who plucked him from the dead end.


Not only that. Because of Akay Kalinga, he has earned his bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management.

Akay Kalinga not only provides a safe and comfortable shelter for street children, it also sends these out-of-school kids to school. It is currently sending 127 street kids to school—from elementary to college.

Loida Sapalo, head of Akay Kalinga, told the Inquirer that like other street kids, the glue-sniffing Sumampong initially resisted help.

“We followed him, we talked to him and we convinced him to avail himself of our services. At first he hesitated. He wanted to always be free. He reached as far as Sulu and Basilan by himself,” she said.

After three years of constant prodding from social workers, Sumampong finally agreed to submit to their care.

Reuniting with dad


When he turned 9, Akay Kalinga brought Sumampong back to Margosatubig to be reunited with his father.

“He stayed with his father for almost a month. We thought it was for good. Then he came back and he was quiet and never left Akay again,” Sapalo said.

Sumampong said his father, who had abandoned him and a sibling, had told him to leave because he could not feed him. His mother died when he was barely 3 years old. His younger sibling, Lovely, was also adopted by another family.

Like a slave

Sumampong said he was 6 when his father abandoned him. He was left in the care of another family, whose members took turns in physically abusing and treating him like a slave.

“I escaped from my adoptive family. A failure to fetch water would mean hanging me inside a sack … or hitting my head, beating me black and blue,” Sumampong said.

He then decided to leave and traveled between Zamboanga City, Basilan and Sulu just to beg.

“It was really hard. Every time I was sick, I just slept. Sometimes there were those who pitied me and gave me food. But I longed for the love of a mother or a father,” he said.

True family

He said he came to realize that the nearest family he could have were the workers of Akay so he agreed to be put under their care.

Last week, Sumampong received his diploma from Nuevo Zamboanga College in the presence of her four surrogate mothers—social workers Loida, Jamilla, Marcy and Janeth—and his surrogate father, Fr. Angel Calvo, the president of Katilingban sa Kalambuan Inc.

He spent a total of 16 years under their care.

Sapalo said Sumampong was among their three original wards when the center opened on Feb. 2, 1998.

Of the three, only Sumampong got through college. The other one got married at an early age while another one now makes money by watching over cars.

Sumampong said children are forced to live in the streets because of poverty and the lack of a loving family.

His advise to street children: “Work on your dreams, love yourself.”



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