Emma's Garden Grows Hope
7 years ago, Super Typhoon Yolanda made landfall in the Philippines. It was nothing short of catastrophic. Countless families lost homes and loved ones. Most affected were the poor and amid all the destruction, recovery seemed impossible. But it's in times like these that we’re reminded that even small acts of kindness and generosity remain more powerful than nature.
Emma Stang started Planting Wishes to raise funds to help charities like Gawad Kalinga. Through her work, she was able to raise enough money to build a home for a family who lost everything to Yolanda. It takes $3,800 to build one home with GK and Emma did it by selling tomato plants that her mom and her grandmother helped her grow.
She did this when she was 9 years old.
She’s 14 now and like most young people entering high school, she’s full of confidence and energy to do more. Emma says, "I was 7 and in 2nd grade when I started Planting Wishes. We wanted to help charities by doing something simple. So, we grew and sold tomato plants, 100% of which goes to charity. In 1 year, I think we did 4 or 5 charities."
Planting Wishes has since grown year after year, annually raising funds for programs such as GK’s Kusina ng Kalinga (Care Kitchens), a feeding program for children in need. "Ever since I was 3 years old, I remember, through my mom and my grandmother, I was always around community service, helping people a lot from a really young age, and so as I got older, I think that just became my passion, and it still is." says Emma.
Perhaps even before she could remember, Emma was already surrounded by the kind of love, care and generosity that she would so freely give as she grew older. Emma was born in Antipolo and was in the care of the Sun and Moon orphanage in the Philippines. At 11 months old, she was adopted by a loving family and moved to the U.S. 4 years later, they went back and adopted her younger brother Zachary who now also helps with Planting Wishes.
Emma shares, "The tomato plants, they are very strong. I remember one year when one of them broke. We just taped it up, hoping it would survive. It did and that was so awesome." Like her tomato plants, Emma’s loving and caring spirit grew strong because of the love she was given. "My birthmom wrote a letter to me, she said that I want you to be a good person. I can't take care of you and this is the best I can do for you. It's not because I don't love you, it's because I do love you. I know that you will make good choices and that you will lead a life that can make your family proud, make God proud."
For all the blessings she has received, Emma eagerly passes them on. "This year, we are doing a scholarship program where we are funding a scholar for 4 years at St. James High School in Iloilo. Her name is Desherie Solanio and she's also a freshman like me."
At such a young age, Emma has done more than most of us by doing small, simple things like selling tomato plants, grown with care and love. She's not overwhelmed by the challenges ahead, she’s energized by it. She’s an inspiration and an example to us all that maybe it's not about solving the world’s problems all at once. Maybe it’s just about a house. Emma says, "I love the feeling, especially after we did the house. The family sent a card back and they were so grateful. This is a really nice feeling to be able to know that you made a difference in someone’s life."
It's amazing to think her story is just starting.