Monday, 28 May 2012

Mission Camp 2012

Early morning on the day of the mission camp!

Late last night I came back from the annual VIDES mission camp on Mindoro Island.  We left at 5am Friday morning and after a few hour car ride and 2 hour boat ride we finally reached Mary Help of Christian Technology School. It’s an agricultural school, so we were basically living on a farm- with buffalos, goats, chickens and a few dogs.

Sorting through the supplies

After a quick nap, the volunteers regrouped and the mission camp preparations started.  On Sunday we expected to host 500 kids for a day full of activities (games, workshops, free hair cuts, rosary making etc), a medical mission and each child would also receive a school bag full of supplies for the upcoming year. First we started preparing 500 packets full of beads, string and a crucifix for the rosary making. 2 hours of bead counting later, we were finished but the biggest part had yet to be done- stuffing 500 bags full of school supplies. There were boxes and boxes full of supplies to be sorted, counted and organized. After a few hours of sorting and stuffing, we thought we were finally done- until we found more boxes full of donated clothes and stationary, then we had to repack the bags again. Finally at 9pm we were all done and we had dinner prepared by Stanley (a volunteer who would be doing all the cooking for the mission trip).
Checking the bags

Happy that we finished stuffing the bags!

We were so tired at this point, we called it a night and went to our dormitory to shower and go to bed. I was definitely worried when I saw the bathrooms- only 3 toilets, 3 sinks and 3 shower stalls for all the girls to share! Right now there were only 10-15 girls but the next day more volunteers were to come (at the end there were about 50 girls sharing the bathrooms). Also the toilets were non flushing, and the sinks were constantly clogged. I have no idea how I survived those few days! There was no air conditioning and sometime during the night the electricity went out and didn’t come back on till the next afternoon. I can’t believe that during the school year, students live here! It made me realize how easy I have it back in Manila with my own room, bathroom and air conditioning. 

At the local seminary
Beach near the school
The next day, since we did most of the preparations the night before we had half a day free. We got up at 6am in the morning and walked to a nearby beach. There were people singing karaoke there which was pretty cool. It soon got too hot, so we headed back to the school and had breakfast. Since we still had a few hours free, Varry took us on a quick tour of the churches and monasteries of the village. After that we still had to finish final preparations for the official mission camp day which would be on Sunday. During the day more and more volunteers kept coming, finally at dinner time most of us were there. We had a few ice breakers to get to know each other, led by Tony the president of VIDES Philippines. Then we had orientation and the assignment of duties for the next day. The children were going to be put into groups of 20, each led by one volunteer. Since Helen and I don’t speak Tagalog we decided to help out with the Medical Mission, and since we also don’t have any medical back ground we got the job of checking the heights and weights of all the kids. We were given the itinerary for the next day- wake up at 5:30am, breakfast at 6, greeting the children at 7am, then Mass and finally all the activities. Since there were so many girls sharing the bathrooms, people started waking up at 4am! As you can imagine, most of us did not get a lot of sleep that night. 

Helen having fun with the kids
First group of kids coming in

When the next morning came around, I was so sleepy! But since there was so much to do, the sleepiness quickly went away.  Soon the kids were coming in in groups of 20. Mass was going to be out doors, next to where the buffalos were! It was already so hot, so a few tents were set up to keep the kids out of the sun.  After Mass, we talked to some of the kids, but then we had to hurry over to the medical mission to start setting up. All the kids were going to get a medical check up. We had 5 volunteer doctors come, and we had collected donations of medicine and vitamins. Thanks to all the people in Canada who gave me the medication and vitamins to bring, they were put to good use! Soon kids were lining up for the check ups. The first station had nurses who would interview them, at the second station Helen and I who would check their height and weight.  Then they were off to Jennifer who would take their temperature, and finally they would see one of the doctors and get the medication/vitamins they required. Overall it was a very very long day! Checking the heights of so many hundreds of kids was so tiring! We did get a break at lunch though.  Finally at around 2pm we were done with the checkups.
Height Checking

Julie and Avic (nurses) interviewing the kids.
The doctors!

Some of the kids :)

By then the kids were lining up to get their school supplies, so we went to help them. Their school bags were so heavy with all the school supplies, some of the smaller kids had trouble carrying them! It was really nice to see how happy the kids were! After they had received their school bags, we had to pack up and leave!

Happy Kids with their heavy school bags

The next part of the mission camp was a full day of volunteer bonding as a thank you for the hard work put in. We drove two hours away to where Amy’s family owns a home. It was in a very very remote area on a beach front. It was soo beautiful, but I found out that we would be camping! I had never been camping before so it was an interesting experience! After dinner I went to bed in one of the tents, while some of the volunteers went swimming. I was so tired, that despite the mosquitos and heat I actually slept pretty well. The next day I woke up at 5am and saw the sunrise! Then after breakfast we hired a boat and went snorkeling. It was amazing swimming in the ocean after the past few days of hard work. Surprisingly a lot of the volunteers didn’t know how to swim, so most of them had life jackets on and stayed close to the boat. After a few hours we headed back and continued swimming at the beach. There was a bamboo raft close to shore which was fun to jump off, and even a fresh water stream which was cool and refreshing. At noon we had lunch but right after we had to leave to head back to Manila. We ended up missing the boat we were scheduled to take so we only got back to the city at 11pm at night.

Overall the mission camp was an amazing experience! Despite the hardships- heat, exhaustion, mosquitos bites, bathrooms, injuries (I slipped and fell on the boat, scraping my elbow and bruising my toes)- making friends with the other volunteers and being with the kids made it all worthwhile! The whole experience made me realize how truly blessed I am. All the things I usually complain about now seem so trivial in the grand scheme of things. I came back from the mission camp with new friends, a stronger faith and a ton of laundry.   

On the way to Puerto Gallera. I did not in fact ride on top- Sr. Jojo would not let us.

Clear waters! 


Happy to be at the beach!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Megan, glad to see you settling in and having fun with the locals.

    The cockroach in the bathroom was hilarious.

    All the best.