By Dianne Argamosa
Rurals 2012 in one word is: fulfilling. From the activities that maximized time, effort and resources to the people that made our stay more meaningful, the experience was simply wonderful and we all felt blessed.
On the afternoon of October 15, we, the volunteers, met the 70 female students for the first time. They cutely greeted us “Mabuhay” as they stood up from their seats. After the initial introduction, we realized that the students from the room were in fact a mixture of 3rd graders and 6th graders. We were highly impressed by their good behavior and looked forward to tutoring them.
The next day, we conducted the reading and virtues classes for the students. Around 6-7 students were assigned to each volunteer tutor, so that the learning could be more personal and focused. The students were very polite and hardworking. They would actively participate in all lectures and activities, but they also seem greatly prefer the latter. There were two things that highly helped all the volunteers, the modules which were specific, practical and well-rounded and the good behavior of the students.
In the afternoon, we cleaned fifteen panels of the front wall of the five-year old Mt. View Elementary School. When the dust, mold and moss were gone, we then painted it with a light green color, especially mixed by one of the maintenance staff, Manong Nap. He also gave us a quick lecture on how to paint the walls properly, since even though we were highly enthusiastic on this, we were all just beginners. We did this for two days, and then the next two days were delegated to painting the front pots with cool pastel colors.
At night, Ms. Gemma would give lectures inspired by the calling of the Year of Faith. Topics were about Friendship, Preferential option the poor, etc. We even had the chance to watch a movie based on the story of St. Sir Thomas More, a lawyer and martyr who was very certain of his faith despite all the ills of society and the attacks on the Catholic Faith.
On Saturday, we conducted a medical-dental mission to the 70 students who went to our program. Some had their teeth removed, some had boxes of medicines with them, most were very happy for the opportunity.
Reaction/Further Thoughts (by Dianne Argamosa)
As I’ve stated, the experience was simply fulfilling. Even though we only tutored for four days, the students have grown attached to us, and we to them. When we said our goodbyes, all of the students present were crying, telling us not to forget them, some silent but waving their hands. I remembered how every day after returning to our temporary home provided by the great Papas, we would talk about how to improve our lectures to better cater to the needs of the students. What could be a better strategy? How can we instill all the learning? How could we bring out their potential? And how can we make them more inclined to English/Reading, which most of them more or less not favored? These kinds of questions would fill our minds, and it made us more or less realize that we have really worn the shoes of teachers. In some way, it made us think that even at our tender age, we can still have these thoughts for kids whom we only got to know during this camp. Even the time where we finished our pilgrimage and went to a mall, we were still thinking of what to give our students. We spent a lot of time searching in the store, some even bought treats because their students would still be hungry.
I remember when one of the teachers told me how some students would still have to sell goods before they go to school, or others that would hide from them before eating because they only had rice for meals or simply snacks which were least costly. But most of all, I remembered my student who wrote me a letter saying she had someone who she had an argument with, but whenever she goes to the tutorials, she would be happy and forget the argument for a while.
What was fulfilling was that we spent our time so well. Forming ourselves through our lectures with Ms. Gemma; being friends with people who were going through the same experience; transforming ourselves as teachers for the students; then working hard on the walls and pots that would beautify the school and offering all these to God—these are the things that we couldn’t achieve all at the same time during our daily activities or other outreach programs. It was also fulfilling, because we know that we made a difference. The school felt that people cared, even though before that, it was quite a struggle to get funds. Our students learned, and for those who weren’t under us, they saw how we worked hard for the walls and the pots to make their school beautiful, that they too affirmed that it was better this way. And through the medical and dental mission, we were able to alleviate them from spending much in pharmacies for medicine or vitamins, or for dentists’ professional fees. Though we were simply volunteers, the experience was so special, because we were the ones God sent to be there, and we gained so much. I think we will all keep Rurals 2012 experience close to our heart, and remember it as our catapult to further extend our abilities to people who might need it. :-)