by Dianne Argamosa, University of the Philippines
For Rurals 2014, we, the volunteers of Iraya Study Center came together at Samar with the intent of being able help with the little ways we can through teaching, painting, interviewing and assisting in the medical mission. In light of the recent devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda, each of us was aware of the possible conditions the people of Samar were in. The weight of the tragedy falls greatly especially upon them, and it was still crucial to send the message of continuous recovery and hope. Keeping this in mind, perhaps I can say that each of us was determined to have that message come across. But of course, that won’t be a light task.
On our first few hours at Eastern Visayas, I remember one of the youngest volunteers saying, “We can’t really tell them everything will be alright”. She was staring across the window of the minibus we were on, getting a full view of the state the places were in.
Though it was evident that a lot of constructions were ongoing, people were recovering, I silently agreed. After seeing all the ruined houses, tree branches scattered across empty spaces that were probably residential areas before, hills full of ‘trees’ with only its trunk and roots remaining, bridges still being repaired, people still living in tents four months after the typhoon, people just beginning to build their houses, and the lives that were lost-- how can we explicitly and lightly say ‘Everything will be alright’? As much as we want to give happy memories to the kids we were going to teach, how should we go about it?
We had a lot of activities planned to make the most of our time at Samar. In the morning, we were to have enriching talks prepared by Ms. Marela, Ms. Krisna and Dr. Cla. The topics were on Piety, Sanctification of Work, Devotion to our Lady and Evangelization. We were also going to teach children with the lessons we prepared the evening before. Some days were allotted for Academics (like teaching Math), most were centered on Catechism and Virtues.
In the afternoon, we were divided into the Paint and Interview teams. We rotated each day to accomplish these two tasks. But, apart from St. Joseph GK Village, we also went to interview residents at Baranggay Trapikoand a person who lived uphill at Baranggay San Miguel.
Then on April 4, we were to have a Medical Mission at Mercedes, Samar. Each of the Volunteers were asked to fulfill certain roles such as being a doctor’s assistant, pharmacy assistant, A lecturer discussing nutrition facts and a ‘daycare ate’ taking care of the Children while the Medical Mission was ongoing.
In the end, despite all our worries, we were able to achieve all these and more. I think one of our guiding factors was the fact that no matter how challenging it may be, we were doing it for the Lord. We have Him as our strength. He has a purpose for why we came all together at Samar doing all these activities. He gave us protection and the grace to both accomplish our tasks and enjoy the activities with everyone as well.
Perhaps another reason for why we gained confidence lies in the GK Community itself. On our way to the GK site, I was wondering how to approach the village, the children. After all , we were still technically strangers to them.
However, when we arrived at St Joseph’s GK Village, those worries disappeared. It was already late in the afternoon, but the residents were still waiting for us, smiling at us as they welcome us to their community. I remember how the children’s voices and energy filled the place. They were even willing to play with us. Seeing them welcoming us so warmly gave us confidence.
And each day, it was the same. The children were always ready to listen to us, spend time with us while eager to learn the lessons we made for them. Though there was an initial language barrier, it gradually came down as we learned action songs and bits of Waray (and as we discover that there were students who can translate for us).
We also gained a lot of friends through each other. Having experienced the same conditions and activities, like bonding in the beach over a camp fire or lying on the sand under the stars on Samar’s clear skies, spending nap times in the bus on our way to our different destinations, preparing knock-knock jokes for our performances and surprise birthday celebrations. Honestly, our activities drained much of our energy each day, but it was fun spending time with everyone as well. Furthermore, as we offered it up to our Lord, it became more fulfilling and worthwhile.
If asked whether or not we would like to go to Samar once again, taking aside our school’s different academic scheduling, I think we would all immediately say, ‘yes’, because going back to Samar, to the children we teach, to the place that holds our Summer 2014 memories would make us all happy.