I woke up to hear people cheering and the ground beneath me shaking.
Rubbing my eyes and putting on my glasses, I see trees and planes outside. As we gather our things and make our way off the plane, the heat and humidity hit me hard. I look down and realize that maybe sweats weren’t the smartest thing to wear.
Our team from Surrey, B.C. consisted of 33 Grade 11 and 12 students, six staff members and a priest, and our destination was the Philippines for our school’s bi-annual mission trip. Our main focus was a small village called Avanai in Metro Manila. We worked together with volunteers from ANCOP, or Answering the Cry of the Poor, which is based in the Philippines with chapters worldwide, as well as people that lived in the village.
Under the sweltering sun, we began a week and a half of building new houses that our school had helped to finance. We came in with work gloves and steel toe boots, ready to take on the task of building new houses for families that really deserved them. Though I knew it from the start, I quickly began to see how inadequate I was. I had never held a hammer in my life, and the week ahead of me was daunting. However, the villagers in Avanai didn’t mind that we were inexperienced and helped us and encouraged us. While we had steel toe boots, these villagers worked with flimsy rubber boots. Some even wearing flip flops. There was a lot of manual work with little supplies or tools to use, yet they still managed to build beautiful houses with smiles on their faces. It was truly an honour to work with such humble people.
Aside from building houses, we also did a lot of outreach as a group. We visited an orphanage and a place called The House with No Steps, which is a place for handicapped and disabled people. Visiting these places and speaking to the volunteers made me realize how much I take for granted. While visiting the disabled at The House with No Steps, we had the opportunity to work with them. The House with No Steps employs these people and gives them an opportunity to work. I worked with people who packaged medicine samples, which consisted of folding the boxes and stuffing them with pills. In the time that it took me to make 3 boxes, one of the women made 10. The kicker? She only had 2 fingers on each hand. It blew my mind and humbled me greatly.
The highlight of the trip was being able to communicate and spend time with the children in the village as well as in the orphanage and sick kids’ home. Despite the language barrier, I was able to talk to kids about their life, their hobbies, and their futures. I remember talking to one girl in the village that was my age. She asked first if I had a husband waiting for me when I got back to Canada. I laughed and told her no, I’m still single. She then proceeded to tell me about her celebrity crush and the dreams that she had for her future.
“I want to be a doctor. I want to help people, like you are helping us,” she said.
That struck a chord with me.
I can honestly tell you that once I returned home, there were many times between March and now where I complained about different things. But now I bite my tongue. This girl has so many dreams and hopes for her future, some that may go unrealized. She valued the help that we gave to her and her village. She valued our time and our company and wanted to be just like us, which was so humbling to hear.
Our trip was spectacular, even with sharing three beds and one washroom with 4 other girls, the sweltering heat, interesting insects and one hospital trip (and yes, that was because of me). I hope that all SLNers and students find ways to do outreach, either locally in your communities or abroad through some fantastic organizations like Me to We trips, Project Abroad, or International Volunteers Abroad.
I promise you that big or small, your impact matters.
ED. Note: Have you been on a volunteer trip with or without your school? How was your experience?
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.