LAUREN IN THE PHILIPPINES
My name is Lauren and I spent 4 weeks on the island of Negros Occidental in the Philippines. I worked with a project called the Bettey Bantug Benitez Foundation Inc., which is involved in a number of projects in the local community.
MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS
After travelling for over 24 hours, I finally arrived at my destination and it was definitely worth the wait. The towns I passed on the way to the project were busy and filled with life even early in the morning!!!
We rolled by fields and fields of sugar cane and eventually I was told that the area was home to the largest sugar refinery in the Philippines. Seeing all the amazing scenery made me excited to see where I was living and what the project would be like.
The Foundation that I worked for was involved in a variety of projects within the community. This varied from helping with medical assistance to providing support to school feeding programmes for malnourished children in the area. Therefore this meant that I got to experience a variety of different activities and get a feel for the project and the community.
MY ROLE IN THE PROJECT
Whilst I was in the Philippines I took part in a variety of activities. The first few days were spent being shown the area. The foundation worked with the government in the area and over the first few days I met lots of people involved in politics and even the vice mayor of Bacolod (the
capital of Negros Occidental). I spent a week working in a local Daycare centre assisting the teacher. Another week was spent working at an orphanage for girls aged between 9 and 19 and I also spent a week at a variety of different schools helping them with their feeding programme for malnourished
children. Then I also spent days working in the projects office and helping with paperwork whilst also getting to see how the foundation is ran.
MY HOSTING SITUATION
A TYPICAL DAY FOR ME…
Depended on what activity I was taking part in. I usually got up around 7 every
morning but when I was at the orphanage the days started at 5 in the morning, which I must admit was a struggle for me. Breakfast mostly consisted of rice but some days toast and cereal was available. When I was at the Daycare centre I had one class in the morning and one class in the afternoon. In between classes I would go to the office for lunch. When I worked in the orphanage I spent my day at the orphanage helping the house parents and then when the children came home from school I would help the children with their homework.
There was also time to play with the children and answer their questions about my life back in England before the children went to bed and I stayed with them at the orphanage. The feeding programme ran in the mornings until after lunch where I would then return to the office. My evenings would be spent at my accommodation
where I could unwind.
WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO WHEN I’M NOT VOLUNTEERING
During my stay in the Philippines, I had a period of 4 days off where I travelled to Boracay Beach, a beautiful 4km white beach. It took me around 7 hours to get there but even the journey was interesting as you got to see the different areas of the Philippines. Also because the project knew people who lived on Boracay Island, I was welcomed onto the Island by someone who then found me accommodation and showed me around. This meant that it was so easy to travel alone. On my other days off I enjoyed going around the local town of Victorias City and visiting the local swimming pool, as well as going to Bacolod and having a look around the city. I was also shown around a highland resort, which was fun and had the most amazing views looking out over Bacolod and the sea. On my last night a goodbye party was thrown for me where we spent the night on a karaoke
machine singing and drinking homemade punch.
THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT LIVING & VOLUNTEERING IN THE PHILIPPINES
was the initial adjustment to the way of life. I expected it to be different from England but until you’re put in that environment you don’t fully understand the extent of how different it is. Not everyone speaks English so sometimes it was difficult to communicate. Though after a couple of days I felt I had adjusted well.
THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING AND VOLUNTEERING IN THE PHILIPPINES
has to be seeing a completing different culture to the one back home. As one man said to me ‘we might be poor but we always have a smile on our faces’ and it was so true! Everyone I met was so friendly, kind and generous, and that made you feel
welcome and comfortable. Working at the orphanage was definitely a highlight for me because of how funny and happy the children were and how genuinely excited they were to have someone from a foreign country living with them.
FROM MY VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT I HAVE LEARNT
to appreciate what we have in England. I have learnt how to adapt to different situations and environments and from that, I have become more confident. From volunteering in the Philippines I have met some amazing people whom through Facebook I am able to stay in touch with. It definitely was a trip that I won’t forget!!!