Mary-Grace’s struggle to escape poverty through education is the subject of a 23 minute documentary called “Grace” directed by Meagan Kelly, an Edmonton-based filmmaker and journalist, and now the Founder of The Gift of Grace Foundation. The film has gone on to be appear in nine film festivals worldwide. Grace has also won two awards: Best Short Documentary at the Monaco Charity Film Festival and Best Short Feature-Children’s Advocacy at the 8th Artivist Film Festival. Grace was an official selection for the 2011 Edindocs festival in Scotland, the United Nations Association Film Festival in San Francisco, and COMMFFEST Global Community Film Festival in Toronto, Brief Encounters International Film Festival, DOCUFEST Atlanta, St.John’s International Women’s Festival, and the Global Visions Film Festival in Edmonton this part March.
Mary-Grace Rapatan has lived on the Umapad garbage dump in Cebu, Philippines her entire life. This 13-year-old girl picks through mountains of rotting trash to make less than two dollars a day. With what little money is leftover, this optimistic teen pays for elementary school. She’s in grade six, and she already knows what she wants to be when she grows up: a doctor.
While making Grace, Meagan Kelly spent many hours getting to know the families on the dump site and seeing first-hand the appalling conditions in which they live. However, she also felt a spirit resilience. Through documenting Mary-Grace’s life, Meagan gained incredible insight into the power of education to inspire and empower. It was this experience, and the film itself, that led to the creation of The Gift of Grace Foundation. The idea: one child at a time, we will get children off the garbage dump, into class, and towards a better future.
Statement from Meagan Kelly: Founder, Film Director
I can still remember the first day I met Mary-Grace.She wore her favourite green-checkered headband, and was busy gossiping with her friends like any typical 14year-old would do on a Saturday afternoon. The difference: Mary-Grace calls a garbage dump home.
I met this girl while I was living in the Philippines as the 2010 Dekeyser&Friends MediaFellow. I spent a lot of time on this garbage dump, getting to know the people, producing videos, and writing for my blog. The dusty path shifted as I walked. Underneath my feet lay ten metres of compacted garbage. The stench of rotting food, feces, and methane gas became overpowering with even the slightest breeze. As I became a familiar face on the garbage dump, I was introduced to a bright 14 year-old girl by one of the community leaders. Mary-Grace was quite shy at first, until we started to talk about school. She smiled from ear to ear. I knew instantly this girl was special. I felt that she embodied the spirit of Umapad; that despite appalling conditions, there is hope. I wanted to document that on film.
The making of this film has been an incredible journey. I am overwhelmed with gratitude as people continue to share their interest in helping children like Mary-Grace follow their dreams. She is the reason why I have started the Foundation. I still believe there is a small part of me on that garbage dump, which is why I will do anything in my power to help. I know there are many more children like Mary-Grace who, if given the chance, can change their lives for the better.
About the Gift of Grace Foundation
In 2011, Meagan Kelly established The Gift of Grace Foundation as an incorporated non-profit organization in Canada with a mission to EDUCATE children living on dumpsites in the Philippines, so they can reach their DREAMS and provide for their FAMILIES. See more about Meagan’s film and the Gift of Grace Foundation.