Providing one smile at a time

Jennifer Batin will soon take her first “normal” step after undergoing painful surgery to correct her bowed legs, a congenital condition.

Latrobe City Christian Church pastor Tom Scott said the church and other Gippsland residents raised $7000 last year so Jennifer could receive the surgery to straighten her legs at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.

The City Builders Church in Sale also contributed funds for her recovery.

Jennifer is being supported by A Thousand Smiles, an orphanage established by the Traralgon-based Christian church in 2007 in Siargao Island.

The orphanage is financed by Gippsland people and currently provides shelter for 25 Filipino children who were either orphaned or abandoned.

Jennifer was two years old when she was left by her 14 year-old mother.

People took turns caring for her until she was nine years old, and then she was left at an orphanage in the southern Philippines.

With no birth certificate Jennifer was unable to enrol in school.

Thanks to the church and Gippsland residents, Jennifer and other children like her can now have a good start.

Pastor Scott said Jennifer was being cared for by her biological mum during her recovery, but would return to the orphanage.

“We traced her mum and found her in Manila where she’s working as a nanny,” Pastor Scott said.

He said concerns around the home’s authority to approve a big operation prompted them to tap into their network and find Jennifer’s mother.

“It was a tearful reunion. She was very remorseful for what she’s done to Jennifer,” Pastor Scott said.

The two now live in a rented room in Manila while Jennifer undergoes physiotherapy following the removal of metal braces from her legs. She has been confined to a bed for months.

The Traralgon church pays for their accommodation, also covering the $57-a-month salary Jennifer’s mum earned before quitting work to care for her daughter.

Pastor Scott said the surgeon had told Jennifer her surgery would be a painful process, but she had accepted the challenge bravely.

“I just want to walk like a normal kid,” Jennifer had said.

Once she has fully recovered Jennifer will return to the orphanage as her mother cannot support her.

She will also receive schooling after the orphanage was able to obtain her birth certificate.

For more information on how to help the children of A Thousand Smiles, visit or phone Pastor Tom Scott on 0418 550 629.