Staff Immersion to the Philippines

Oct 20, 2014

10655376_10152438091944514_8415829302900063395_oA privileged group of fourteen staff members from our Good Samaritan schools travelled to the Philippines with Sister Meg Kahler and Monica Dutton during the September school holidays for an immersion experience. This experience was deeply profound and enriching, bringing a renewed understanding and respect for the Benedictine values lived out in everyday life.

The trip began in Manila, providing a social, cultural and historical context to the people we met on our journey. Our initial  walk outside the hotel was confronting as the dichotomy between rich and poor was evident in the first 300 metres: children begging on the street across the road from a state of the art, top brand-selling department store.

In the midst of extreme social challenges, Benedictine Sisters are doing incredible work in shaping young women at St Scholastica’s College in Manila: women who are advocates for social transformation. Students are involved in community service such as teaching children to read in underprivileged neighbourhoods; responding to tragedies such as Typhoon Haiyan; and protesting against governmental corruption. Graduates include the first female president in the Philippines and the first female Supreme Court Justice of the Philippines. St. Scholastica’s was a powerful testament to the relevance and strength of our Benedictine values.

The second part of our experience in Bacolod City was perhaps the most life changing. Our warm welcome at the Good Samaritan Kinder School by staff and students was humbling and incredibly moving. The kinder children were proud to show us their school and perform dances and songs with enthusiasm and vigour. Seeing first hand the extraordinary ministry of the Sisters and teachers made us honored to be connected to such a life-giving service.

We also had the privilege of visiting the newly opened Community Centre up the road which provides a space for mothers of the kinder students to work productively and learn new skills, rather then waiting outside the school for the duration of the lessons as travelling home can be too costly. These amazing women bake together providing food for the school, families and the feeding program at the Boulevard. There was a sense of joy, pride and comradery at the Centre.

Similarly, assisting Sister Grace and Sister Anne at the Boulevard as a part of the feeding program was a profound experience. This is one of the poorest areas in Bacolod City with no sewerage, housing made of scraps and living conditions that are impossible to communicate in just a few words. Our Good Sam Sisters visit twice a week, feeding the 150 children who live there in order to keep them nourished and alleviating some of the financial pressure from their parents. Despite being heart-breaking to witness, the practical work of the Sisters was inspiring and the warmth and thankfulness of the locals, overwhelming.

The Philippines Immersion cannot be summed up in a short article. The people we met, the hospitality we experienced, and the beauty and strength of Good Samaritans being the hands and feet of Christ has renewed our partnership and hope for a transformed future for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

We would like to thank the generosity of the Sisters: Sr Leonie, Sr Germia, Sr Anne, Sr Eko, Sr Hiro & Sr Grace – we are excited to continue our work with you from Australia and on return visits. A huge thank you to the staff at the Kinder School; the parish of Conception for your beautiful welcome; St. Scholastica’s in Manila, the beautiful staff at Mendez Centre for Sustainable Living and our trusty tour guides from Rajah Tours.

Finally, thank you to our dedicated leaders who are gifted in their roles: Sr Meg and Monica. We are grateful for your planning and gentle leadership. We had an incredible time with an amazing group of staff and our shared experiences have established a stronger connection between our Good Samaritan Colleges in Australia.

Carolyn Collins – Stella Maris College, Manly