GSE Yr 11 Philippines Immersion
During the September holidays, myself and 13 other students from Good Samaritan Schools all over NSW and QLD were blessed and honoured to have the opportunity to travel to Bacolod in the Philippines alongside four incredible teachers.
The trip was an 8 day experience in which I gained an in-depth insight to the culture and daily lives of the Filipino people, and to experience the climate and society of an Asian culture for the first time. As a group we toured Manila, seeing of the contrast between the very wealthy and the extremely poor, travelled to Bacolod to work in the Good Samaritan Kinder School, attended a local church in Bacolod, visited “The Boulevard” where the poorest of the locals live. As a group we grew extremely close to and developed an intense admiration for the Sisters.
One of the experiences which stayed with me was the nature and hard work of the staff, including the Sisters and students of the Good Samaritan Kinder School. The moment we arrived we were welcomed in the most extraordinary way with open arms, flowers around our necks and presented with a song and dance. (This unlocked something in all of us as from that moment forward you could not get our group to stop dancing, playing the ukulele or singing, even when in the airport terminal surrounded by large numbers of weary travellers!) This hospitality and act of giving was extended everywhere we travelled. Whether it was having lunch with the local priest, dinner at the Sisters home or simply attending church – people continuously went out of their way to make us feel welcome and special, even more remarkable when the food they were providing us with was not easy to come by.
The Kinder School is such an inspiring place of happiness and joy that smiles are infectious and laughter is inevitable. The harsh reality however, is that when school is finished, most children go back to their homes where they don’t have a toilet, running water, underwear, hygiene products or electricity. The children we had seen that morning in perfectly white school uniforms with tied back hair, were now playing barefoot on dirty streets with a tyre from a broken car. This really hit home with us, as the opportunity for them to receive education is held in such high regard and with such an immense level of gratitude, it exceeds any view we take towards our schooling.
The genuine pleasure and excitement that the students gained from having us at the school really taught me the importance and value of the time which we spend with people. For me this was clear when one of the younger students of the school was terrified of the ‘white people’ but after simply sitting with one of the staff members, grew a little less shy and a little more comfortable. Our time is such a simple thing- even a small portion given to others can make an astonishing impact.
The Boulevard is a strip of land where some of the poorest families live. Most children barely eat except for the meal program set up by the Good Samaritan Sisters, in which some children even then may not receive a meal. It was striking to see that no one complained, no one tried to take from others…if they missed out then they just looked forward to their next meal opportunity.
The Boulevard was a strong memory of mine as it only reinforced how happiness and a welcome can be found anywhere, even in places you wouldn’t expect it. This for me was very clear at the Community Centre, also run by the Good Samaritan Sisters, where women who are living very simple lives give up their time and skills to cook for those who have even less than they do. It would be so easy for them to take the food back to their hungry families yet they identify that others need it more than them.
People say that immersion trips are life changing and as clichéd as it sounds this could not be more accurate. Our eyes have been opened to an entirely different side of the world and have really given us are new perspective on life. What stuck out most for us was not the poverty right before our eyes, but the happiness that radiated from the people who had so little. However when you really think about it, these people have a lot more than us, they have their happiness, a sense of community, complete faith in God and love and joy in their lives. We went into their community in the hope of giving some of ourselves to them, when really, I think we all have so much to take back from Bacolod, so much to gain from simply placing yourself in someone else’s garden.
Madison Nicholson, Mt St Benedict College