A volunteer’s perspective

By Keziah, Global Volunteer September – December 2014

I watched a promotional video for MiA when I was 12 years old and fell in love with the organisation, the Philippines and its people. 6 years later I got to experience it for myself. As I was just starting out on my gap year I really didn’t know what to expect. Sure enough MiA gave me loads of info and prep before I left but I never could’ve imagined the ‘trip of a life time’ that I experienced. I was a long term volunteer for 3.5 months. As you’ve probably guessed I went on my own, and I never regretted it for a second.

On the day I arrived it was the birthday of one of the boys at Spring Village. I was instantly welcomed, regardless of being this big, tall, slightly crazy white woman. Having 24 children running around, most with cake on their face and huge smiles was overwhelming of course, yet it was so liberating. I almost joined in; the cake was delicious after all! It was a moment where you could see the joy and restoration that has occurred as MiA had invested into these children. My time there was full of these moments.

My work was mostly split between the residential homes and the drop-in centre. I got to know the residential homes and the children that live there very well. As Spring Village is both the volunteer accommodation and the Boys Home it was great having evening meals with the boys and spending time with them after school, helping with homework, reading etc. As they were all in school during the day, I spent most of my volunteering time at the girls’ home. There I got to have the pleasure of helping the house parents look after the three youngest in all of the homes, two girls and a boy. They were in school for only a few hours in the morning and so I spent time with them in the afternoons. Considering I thought I was going to be working with mostly teenagers this presented a challenge to me. At the time I was scared to be working with such littl’uns but I enjoyed the challenge and it turned out to be a great deal of fun. I got to teach them bits of English, helped with their studies and then we played games. Their favourite seemed to be a mix between who can climb on ‘Ate’ (big sister) Kez the quickest and who can hold on to her legs the longest!

The Drop-in presented different challenges. Finding a way to connect and to relate with children (some very near my age) was difficult. However, as they were so welcoming and kind, I wasn’t intimidated for long. I got to help them with their lessons and sit down to eat meals with them, but most of all I got to hear some of their stories and to have fun with them. One boy there, let’s call him ‘Sam’, was such a leader. He was the oldest attending at the time I was there. He always showed gratitude, didn’t complain and was such a ‘Big Brother’ to them. He was also such a laugh, keeping smiles on peoples’ faces. He also tried extremely hard with his English and improved so much, just in the short time I was there. If he keeps working hard it’s hoped he can get an education, a good job and get himself off the streets. He is just one of the amazing kids that I got to know.

A drop in activity

Some members of the youth group

I was invited to be a Youth Leader. They have ‘Youth’ three Sunday’s a month where 40 teenagers, high school age and above, meet together, worship, have games, teaching and of course, snacks. Another project that was great to be involved with was the Source Mums on a Tuesday. There was a range of ages and backgrounds involved. Those who came were treated to worship, teaching and a great sense of community and shared belonging.

The teams there who run the projects are amazing. It was fantastic to be able to work with them. They are humble, kind, always looked after me and definitely fed me well! In that sense they became my family while I was out there. Being in a work placement and being able to call your work friends family, is something you don’t find often.

A snapshot of some of the MiA family

Having culture shock and feeling separate from other people who don’t speak your language is inevitable when staying in a foreign country. I did have those feelings and at times it was very hard, missing home, feeling lonely or embarrassed when I made mistakes. But they passed. They always did. I learned more about myself, what I could do and over come and the staff there, both British and Filipino, were a great support.

It wasn’t all work and there were plenty of opportunities to explore Cebu, its beaches and its culture. Days off were spent eating out with friends and wandering around the malls. The local swimming pool is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon. I found it really helpful to have time and space to reflect and relax.

The whole trip was a fabulous experience and I have come home with a wealth of great memories. In fact, I loved it so much I’ve already booked in another visit!

If you’re interested in becoming a Global Volunteer, for any length of time, please email: globalvolunteers@mercyinaction.org.uk

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