This year saw our largest group of Year 11 students journey to the Philippines to immerse themselves in another culture and gain a deeper appreciation of the various models of development used by organisations working with some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world. It was an honour to accompany these 17 young men who so willingly engaged with the entire experience and conducted themselves so commendably. The boys share some of their insights and experiences which I’m sure will give each of us in the College community something to consider and reflect upon.
Mr Rulewski, Youth Ministry Coordinator
The Philippines Immersion was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, allowing me to connect with teachers, fellow peers and the people of the Philippines, as well as reconnect with myself. By leaps and bounds the most confronting and shocking experience was the trip to the slums and meeting the street kids. We began the day venturing to Tondo to meet with the ERDA foundation, a group of people involved in providing education to kids living within the slums nearby. My first impressions as we stood outside the slums were that of shock and sadness, and this rapidly escalated the longer we remained there. From the piles of trash found that were stacked on top of each other to the putrid smell that made me feel sick, I couldn’t even bear to imagine a lifetime living in here as I struggled being in there for an hour. The journey to these slums was one of the most sickening and disgusting experiences of my life.
We then went to the Kuya Centre, a place where street kids are taken in for education and rehabilitation. We began with a short briefing and met with some of the kids currently spending time in the Centre. George was one of the workers and his job involved venturing out to poorer areas of Manila, meeting with street kids in order to help relocate them back to their families and if this was not possible, to the Kuya Centre. We spent about an hour with the kids playing clapping games, scissors, paper, rock and lifting them as high as possible until our arms hurt. The way the kids never ran out of energy put a smile on everyone’s face as all of them tried to make friends with new people. No matter how saddening the situation was, my friends and I could not take the smiles off our faces as we spent time with the kids. This experience changed the way I view the world – learning through the smiles on the kids faces that happiness does not stem from materialistic items as we are led to believe, but instead from human connections and new experiences.
Whilst I was in the Philippines one fundamental factor that really stood out to myself and the whole group was how happy everyone was. It was quite shocking and extraordinary to see how these simple people who lived such simple lives could achieve more happiness than what most people can in Australia. One very humid afternoon,we went to visit an extremely poor community that lived underneath a railway bridge. The kids that lived there were overjoyed to see us and they all had strived to be something in there lives, regardless of their wealth or living conditions. Seeing how happy those kids were, living in the dirt, really made me feel appreciative for what I have but also showed how money can’t buy happiness.
During our time in the Philippines we stayed in an Indigenous village about an hour outside of Olongapo. On our arrival to the village we were welcomed into the community by the chief, who shared the villages journey as a more progressive indigenous tribe and how this was down to the education the children were provided. While the community could be perceived to be poor it is not the case, as they are in fact extremely wealthy in the harmony and sense of community the people have and the love that was clearly shown to one another. And during our time with the chief, he stated that his village was not poor as they had land under their name, and their own resources that they could live from. The Indigenous tribe had 1600 people living together Sharing food and farming amongst one another, and if not for the PREDA Foundation would not have been able to lay a claim to their land, which would have seen Australian and Canadian mining companies take over the land forcing the indigenous families to move to the city in a hope to find work. Often ending with whole families being homeless. This was a clear example of the unjust distribution of the Philippines national resources as 90% of the nation’s wealth is split between 10% of the population.