• September 30, 2010

Leeanne, volunteer in Philippines - “Come to me all you who labour and I will give you rest”

Jossa and Tuto-Manila, 2010

“At Tahanang Puso we try to give rest to our chil­dren and our friends. They live enclosed in the looban, or the slum, or the world of under the bridge. They so rarely see beyond crowded and ugly Navotas. We organise out­ings – to the swim­ming pool for the chil­dren, to the park for the young mothers we know and their babies. And every year, we organise the most anti­­ci­pated event for the neigh­bour­hood chil­dren, the annual summer camp.

Our camp is in Talim Island, a small bamboo island in Laguna Bay, where we are wel­­comed by the Com­munity of Tiberiade. It was so exciting to travel to Talim with the fif­teen chil­dren, all between 10 and 12 years old. They were all queasy from the hour long jeepney ride to the dock, where we caught a long-boat to the island. As the city thinned out, and the expanse of Laguna lake became vis­ible, with its fish farms and lilies, these chil­dren from Mar­cello and our looban and the garbage dump slum and under the bridge opened their eyes wide and expressed how ‘maganda’ (beau­tiful) it all was. It was the first time for most of them to be out­side Navotas.

The com­­mu­nity of Tiberiade has young, ener­getic vol­un­­teers who ani­mate games, songs, dancing and prayers for the chil­dren. On the first day, they asked the chil­dren what they hoped for from the camp. Their responses touched us. They wanted to enjoy nature, make friends, and to sing and dance, and espe­­cially to pray for their fam­ilies. Over the five days of the camp, we watched a change in the chil­dren, some­thing calmer. They sat qui­etly to listen to sto­ries. They anti­­ci­pated each next activity on the schedule eagerly. They prayed the rosary (a long prayer for some adults, let alone ener­getic chil­dren!) qui­etly all the way through. And they were fun too! They sang songs loudly, played water fights and chess, and danced con­s­tantly. The chil­dren spoke to us more. We learned about their hopes for school, their ‘berkada’ (the gang of friends they hang out with), and their fam­ilies. Each morning the chil­dren were tasked with washing the dishes and sweeping their sleeping room and the out­side paths. They hand-pumped water to wash them­­selves and their clothes. They loved this inde­pen­dence, this reliance on their own com­pe­tence, and we mar­veled at them too. Joshua smiled more and more.

But it was Jossa who sur­prised us most. While the other chil­dren loved looking up the posted schedule, she strug­gled with the con­straints of time, of being asked to wash at this moment, or to eat now, or to be quiet at this time. She cried often, and wanted us near her. She was afraid she was a bad girl, she said, and we did our best to com­fort her and assure her Jesus loves her. I won­dered more at her life on her little raft bat­tered all these months by wind and rain. On the last day, the chil­dren cried and cried. They loved Talim Island they said. It is clean and quiet. There is no fighting at Talim. They love to pray in the chapel. They had many, many kuyas and ates to play with them and care for them. And they had so many friends.”

Leeanne G.

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