Monday, 15 October 2012

Finally an Update!

I cant believe my laziness has led me to not updating this blog for such a long time! So much has happened since the flooding back in August and I’m leaving to come back home next week. Here are a few updates on the things that have been going on since then.
Baguio City Trip

Sr. Aylene, Dorothee and I went to Baguio City at the end of August for an ALS conference. Baguio is located on a mountain about a 6 hour bus ride from Manila. It was a nice change in scenery and weather! Sr. Aylene was nice enough to be our own tour guide and showed us around the city. The first night we stayed at the Teachers Camp, but the second night we went to stay at a retreat house that had running hot water!!! That made Dorothee and I very very happy!

At the strawberry fields!

Dorothee and Sr. Aylene drinking strawberry taho (not recommended for diabetics)

Great view!
New Volunteers
We got a new volunteer, Alice, from France who will be working in Palawan. She came to Manila for a few days before heading there and was able to come for busina a few times and even check out the city.  There were also two volunteers from Austria who arrived and will be based in Palawan. Unfortunately I wasn't able to meet them as I was in Korea. In November another Canadian volunteer is coming too!
Alice and me!
New Baby!
Sarah (VIDES’ Social Worker) came back from mat leave! She gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby boy called Gabriel.
Filipino babies make me happy!
In September Sr. Jojo, Riza, Dorothee and I went to Mary Help of Christians School in Canlubang for their Vocations fair to give a talk on VIDES and volunteerism. The kids were very friendly and very interested in VIDES- hopefully in the future with enough interest they will be able to set up their own mobile education unit there!
Just finished my speeched...Dorothee up next
Everyone in the Philippines loves Dorothee! Apparently she looks Anne Curtis (a famous actress here)

Group Shot!
There were a few birthdays including Sr. Ping’s and Sr. Jojo’s. For Sr. Jojo there was even a surprise party thrown by VIDES.
Me and Sr. Ping on her birthday

Sr. Jojo blowing out the candles!

Plan International
VIDES went for the launch of Plan International’s “Because I am a girl” Campaign. It was a great event and two members of the voice of VIDES choir performed a song written by Riza. Everyone loved it. The talented choir has even released a CD!

ALS Silkscreen Printing training graduation
Some of the ALS kids took part in a 25 day silkscreen training program and finally last week they were able to graduate. On Oct 28 they will take their high school/elementary equivalency exam and will hopefully pass!!

Those were the main updates of whats been going on J Hopefully next week I will not get lazy and will do a post on my final reflections on these past 6 months!


Tuesday, 7 August 2012


It has been raining like crazy for the past two days! I woke up Tuesday morning and noticed a few people camped out in Don Bosco school, but by the evening there were a few hundred! I feel so bad for them, not only were their homes flooded they came to the school soaking wet and a lot with no possessions. Luckily DBS is located on higher grounds so the school itself is not flooded and people can stay here, but just down the street the place is completely flooded.  The sisters have been really busy trying to care for so many people! Here are a few pics I managed to take:

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Laura Vicuna Center

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on a grant application to the Italian Bishops Conference for the Laura Vicuna Center run by the Sisters. I think I mentioned it in my very first blog post- it’s a home for girls who have been victims of sexual abuse. It’s a really sad situation, a few years ago there was a fire and the building is in desperate need to be rebuilt. For years they have wanted to do so but there has never been enough money. There are about 20 girls living there with the Sisters and they are definitely short on space. Even if there are referrals, due to the lack of space the center simply cannot accept any more girls.  As I was working on the proposal Sr. Jojo told me about how for many of the girls the fathers were the abusers with the mothers blaming the girls for being “flirts” who caused the abuse through their own behaviour. As a result a lot of the girls end up being severely traumatized and need to be removed from their family situation. The goal of the center is to ensure the welfare of the young girls in a safe environment where they can ultimately be reintegrated into society.  

On Wednesday I was finally able to visit the center and meet the girls! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the girls were so sweet! They performed a few dance routines and then we sang karaoke! You would never have thought they were victims of such abuse. Though during karaoke one of the girls started crying because some of the pictures on the screen reminded her of home and how she missed her mother. It was really sad! I think her dad (the abuser) is still living with her mum so it’s not safe for her to go home. There were a few really young girls there too- I asked one of the Sisters and she said the three youngest (aged 7, 8 and 9) were actually sisters who started living at the center a year ago. It makes me so mad that such young girls had to be subjected to that! I really hope that the grant gets approved and the center can finally be rebuilt. I took some photos during my visit, but due to privacy reasons I can’t post them online. Please keep the center and the girls in your prayers!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Hellos and Goodbyes

Friday was Helen’s last day in the Philippines so for a week before she left there were many good bye events for her. On the 20th the entire VIDES crew went to a residential resort in Batangas for the day. It was such a pretty resort, unfortunately there was a typhoon close by and it rained really hard the entire day. But it still did not stop us from swimming J

On Monday we were taken out for dinner to a nice restaurant with a live band and on Wednesday Helen’s host family arranged for a goodbye karaoke night. It was so much fun, I had forgotten how much I love karaoke! Finally at ALS on Thursday night the kids made sweet goodbye cards, sang songs and gave Helen a few small gifts. It was really sad and there were many tears! I have to admit there were a few times when even I got teary eyed (even though im not leaving for another 3 months).  It’s really sad to see Helen go, VIDES won’t be the same without her! On the Brightside we have a new volunteer from Germany who will be staying here for a year. Here are some of the pics from the past week:
You can tell that it was a windy day!

Lunch time!

Melvin and Me

It was cold and rainy, but that didnt stop us!

Group shot!

Helen about to get emotional

Us and the delpan kids

Friday, 13 July 2012

Update to "An eventful day"

Today when we went to Delpan I managed to get a few photos of the kids I was talking about in my last post. I found out that the little girl who has no friends is called Angel Ann and the little boy who got hurt is called Teddy. Thankfully Teddy’s cut had healed this week!
Angel Ann


Saturday, 7 July 2012

An eventful day!

Unfortunately not in a good way. Saturdays we go for the busina at delpan in the morning and pasay in the afternoon. Delpan is the poorest neighbourhood we visit- there is always a really bad smell there and the children don’t have access to clean water so they cant take baths frequently(some times only once a week). The kids there while they are very cute and friendly are also the most rowdiest. This combined with the fact that 200-300 of them show up for the busina, always make it very hard to control them and it provides for a hectic morning! In fact a few weeks ago a little boy (maybe 9 years old) got into a fight with another little girl and by the time we managed to pull him off her he had already torn of part of her hair from her scalp! It was very very disturbing and upsetting. You can definitely tell that a lot  of  the children here are not very well cared of and are exposed to violence on a frequent basis. I was told that they have a very serious drug problem here (with some parents even doing drugs infront of their children). One of the volunteers once asked one of the teenage kids why they do drugs. The reply was heartbreaking- they said that with 2 pesos they can either buy bread or buy rugby (the name of the drug). Unfortunately after a few hours they are hungry again after eating the bread versus if they did the drug they don’t feel hungry for the rest of the day. Since they have no money and don’t want to feel hungry they usually opt for the drug instead. According to Sr. Jojo, Delpan has actually improved since when VIDES first started coming here 6 years ago. Apparently back then the busina consisted only of giving the kids baths and sending the children home with towels, soap etc.

This particular morning at Delpan it started as usual, but I noticed a little girl only a few years old. I remembered seeing her last week as well. She is one of those kids who you can tell does not get taken care of well. Her clothes were filthy and torn. The front of her shirt were soaked with saliva, mucus etc. Last week she had a really bad eye infection but luckily this week her eyes seemed a lot better. You could tell that she has no friends at all and is treated like an outcast. Another little boy suddenly smacked her as well! When that happened she didn’t even do anything and just sat there as though she was used to getting hit a lot.  When Riza asked her if she was okay she only gave a small nod. I felt terrible and I tried talking and playing with her, asking her what name was but she would not tell me. After a while we realized that she just refuses to speak, though she does understand what people tell her. She did warm up to me though and when I was sitting down at one point she came and sat next to me and took my arm and placed it around her.  You could tell that she liked the affection and attention because she usually doesn’t get it. Later on Helen even cleaned her face since it was so dirty. We tired asking a few people if they knew her name but nobody seemed to know.  It was a very sad situation L  and I cant stop thinking about her!

After the busina got over and before we packed up to leave while I was playing with kids (they kept jumping on top of me!), about one foot away a small child (maybe 2 years old) ended up falling down with one kid on top of him and hitting the back of his head on the cement ground. I went to pick him up and noticed that he had cut the back of his head. It started bleeding a lot. Luckily Sr. jojo knows first aid and had someone bring her an ice pack while I held the poor kid and Helen tried to wipe away the blood and his tears (he was crying so much! My shirt got covered in his tears, I felt so bad). I have to admit that the sight of blood makes me queasy. This combined with extremely hot and smelly environment made me start sweating profusely.  After a while I started getting really dizzy and I thought I was going to faint. I didn’t want to make the situation worse (and faint and fall on top of the kid hurting him again) so I had Helen take over while I sat down. Sr. jojo sent me to the van to get some juice to drink, inside I found Riza- I think the heat and the blood had gotten to her too, she did not look to great either. I tried pushing the straw into the drink carton but my arms were shaking too much to do it. Luckily Riza was there to help me.  I felt bad for Sr. Jojo not only did she have to deal with the hurt child but she had VIDES volunteers dropping like flies!  Finally Helen and Sr. Jojo got back to the van and we left. The kid was taken home by his sister and they were given bandages to cover the cut. I was very glad to go back to DBS after that, we have a 2-3 hour break before we go to Pasay in the afternoon. Pasay is completely different from delpan. Vides has been coming there for 12 years so the area has improved the most. The kids are well behaved and are well taken care off despite the poverty. I absolutely love going to Pasay, the kids are so cute and funny and they get really excited when we do the dancing at the beginning of every busina. When we went there in the afternoon I noticed at the beginning that a girl was crying and had a small crowd of people around her. I assumed she had gotten into a fight with another kid. Later on I found out that she had nearly been kidnapped!!! Turns out while she was waiting for our van to show up a man on a bicycle grabbed her and tried to take her away, luckily she managed to fight her way out of his grasp and escape and run back to the church where we hold the busina! She was very very traumatized by what had happened. I could not believe it! I’m not sure what happened to the kidnapper, but I will find out and let you’ll know.  Her dad ended up coming and taking her home. Im not sure if any police action will be taken or not.

Overall it was an eventful day! Please keep me and the kids in your prayers!

Friday, 29 June 2012

I am now a teacher!

Sorry for not blogging in a long time, I’ve been super busy the past two weeks. Right after I made the “Day in the life of” post my schedule actually changed a lot. The accounting office at DBS was understaffed so now in the mornings I go there to work until lunch time. I was also asked to become an English teacher at DBS’ ALS (alternative learning system) program. It’s a free program for out of school youth who want to go back to school or college. We hold classes Monday-Thursday from 4:30-7:30pm and hopefully by the end of the year the students can write and pass the elementary level exam  (so they can join a public high school) or the high school level exam (so they can go to college). There are currently over 100 students enrolled. DBS’s program is actually really good- last year they had a 100% pass rate for the elementary level exam and an 86% pass rate for the high school exam. Some of the kids we see during the busina even come for ALS.

I have to admit the first day of class was very intimidating- Helen and I went there right after Busina and we were separated to teach two different classes. Neither of us had any lesson plan prepared! For the first part of class I made them play hangman with English words and luckily I found an English workbook. So for the second part of class I made them change verbs to the past tense and make sentences with words I gave them. Mondays are now being devoted for all my lesson planning! Unfortunately I think there are quite a few students who don’t understand what I say because of the language barrier, so most of the time another volunteer or student has to translate for them. The kids are really great (as expected)- really goofy and friendly, though sometimes it’s hard to get them to talk in front of the class in English without using chocolate as an incentive.  We also do a lot of spelling bees which is always exciting (the kids get into teams and whoever spells the word correctly first gets a chocolate). One thing that sucks is that the students don’t get textbooks, and they are too poor to buy their own. I’m not sure how one is supposed to study and pass for an exam without textbooks, but considering the high pass rates for DBS, I guess their system does work. I think I will start making handouts to give the students, so before the exam in October they have materials they can study from at home.

Overall the ALS experience has been great so far- I’m so busy now (mornings at the accounting office, afternoons on the busina and evenings teaching ALS) but I love it! I’m really glad I’m here till October, I hope all my kids pass the exam!
We made the kids write a small introduction about themselves and read it aloud to the class.

Myself, Helen and Riza (a former ALS grad) who acts as translator for us.

Kids in one of our classes. Ages range from 12 to early 20s.

Amy and Melvin having one on one sessions with some of the weaker students.