On 27th May 2012, a group of 15 Year 5 students led by Mr Eldwen Ong and Ms Christine Tan embarked on the overseas community service trip with NGO (non-government organization) GK, Gawad Kalingda, to Manila, The Philippines. The 9 days 8 nights programme was planned with the following objectives:
- To enrich our students with a homestay experience with the locals who had benefitted from Gawad Kalingda and local sponsors.
- To enhance our students leadership experiences through planning and execution of basics Mathematics and Science lessons as coaches.
- To educate our students in understanding the importance of advocating sustainable community projects that has a meaningful impact and understand how social entrepreneurship and environmental projects works in The Philippines.
We were greeted with hospital smiles during our 1 full week homestay in AMPAPP village sponsored by the local company Philippines Prudential, where students got the opportunities to spend time with their local buddies every day. Each home hosted a pair of students and they gave us their best mattress or space to live in their homes. Every drop of water used for cooking and bathing is precious as it has to be carried in pails by villagers, the water point is at least 50 m away from the village down a slope. Our students wanted to try and did their best to carry one pail of water while the local teenagers carried two pails of water effortlessly.
One of the highlight of the trip was 5 day of labour in the morning, from shoveling soil, ploughing soil , mixing cement and moving bricks to build houses under the hot sun. Our students were resilient and strive their best to complete their task in small teams. These experiences gave us an opportunity to deeply appreciate of our own homes in Singapore. The local villagers pampered us by cooking snacks and cold drinks as we were the first visitors to stay with them since their first phase of completion of houses.
Next highlight of the trip was the opportunity to execute our children games on Mathematics and Science. During the afternoons, students will interact with the local children on simple counting games with ice-cream sticks, ‘What is the time , Mr Wolf’, singing songs of ‘Hokey Pokey’ and folding paper origami.
In return, students from Dunman High School volunteered to give a simple treat to each family as they had hosted us, each student bought simple snacks like fried chicken and small pizzas which are so commonly available to us, yet the villagers ate them only during special occasion.
Students also presented to the village a cultural dance and song item during the farewell and community night where a modern dance and a skit on the founding of Singapura were presented. This special night was important to them as the neighboring villagers and important sponsors from GK were also present to thank us for being with them.
The students felt sad as we tearfully departed the village on last day. Students and teachers were hosted in their small homes, but their hospitality were greater in hundredfold in than their homes. Students have matured in their thinking and able to show appreciation on life back to Singapore, and will continue to show love to the underprivileged back to Singapore.
This is evident in the students’ reflections below:
“Also, as the village does not have a ready supply of water, the villagers have to collect water and carry pails and buckets of water by themselves, just so that they can complete their daily tasks such as cooking and bathing……. Everything seems to come to us naturally, like a ready supply of running water, and we never actually have to work hard to get them. This makes us take many things for granted, and we forget to cherish the things around us. Every drop of water is precious to the villagers, and they are careful not to waste any bit of it. This is something I feel that we Singaporeans can learn from them, as our supply of certain things like natural resources, will run out one day as well.
Another thing I learnt from the villagers was, to be more easily contented. ….They had to collect water by themselves every single day, they did not have computers at home, and most of them did not even have proper beds to sleep on, but all these did not stop them from living life happily. The kids there found joy in the simplest things – they took beetles and mice as pets, they pretended a slope was a slide, they played with paper shurikens – and these were enough to keep them entertained all day. This made me reflect upon the behavior of Singaporeans. I feel that we can learn from the villagers and be more easily satisfied with the things we already have.”
12Y5C32 Tan Tse Jie
“During this trip, I saw the resilience of the people through some of the life stories that were told to us and also through the actions of the people as they go about with their daily lives. The youth in the village, unlike most Singaporean youth, will dutifully help out with the housework and look after the younger children without complaints. Interestingly enough, the younger children does not only refer to those in their own family but includes all those in the village as the parents of each family are usually busy at work which results in the need to depend on the older children to look after the younger ones.
The children play together on a daily basis and since they do not have much access to computer games or other high-tech games, the children are interacting with each other personally every day and thus are all very close-knitted. In addition, their lack of access to commercial games and toys……The majority of the children are extremely independent and obedient while still possessing the innocence and playfulness expected of children. Perhaps what Singapore needs is to some of this village spirit of caring and sharing, much akin to the ‘kampong spirit’ of olden Singapore.”
12Y5C22 Hiew Wei Ling Sarah
“I think the most important lesson that I learnt from this trip is teamwork. During the 6th day, we went to another village to help out. We make a human chain to transport bricks from one end to another. Without this human chain, I believed that we would not be able to complete our task in such a short amount of time.
I think going out and hanging out with the children allowed us to become more aware of how blessed we are and how we should use this blessing to help other people. From this trip, i get to know a child name Riko who is only 11 years old and have to take care his 3 siblings who are younger than him. He helped to do housework, take care of the siblings when their parents are away. Even though I am 17 now , I do not think that I will help out in tidying of our houses and I will leave those housework to our parents. From this trip i learnt to be more independent, I should learn to do most of the things by ourselves and not to rely on our parents. This kid had taught me many valuable lessons in life….”
12Y5C38 Tan Siew Wei
“After this trip, I have better understood and felt the real meaning of community service as well as servant leadership. In the past, I always thought that community service was solely beneficial to the receiving party. However, after this OCIP trip, I realize that serving is in fact more gratifying to the person who gives it because I made so many friendships and I have never felt so contented by simply doing manual labour before. Although CIP has never been an obligation in the past, I find more meaning in the things that I do as compared to the past. “Just a little action can make a small change to the world” is the biggest takeaway that I have from this trip.”
12Y5C44 Loh Choy Mun