Whew! Time has been flying by these past few days. I am finally feeling adjusted to the twelve hour time difference, but not for long! These past few days have been filled with quite eventful experiences.
On Saturday, I began my video documentary on street children with a fellow student and promotional video for ChildHope. Childhope Asia Philippines is a not-for-profit, non-government organization working to promote the welfare of street children in the Philippines and the Asian region. It works towards the liberation of the child from the suffering caused by working and living on the streets. The organization opened up its doors to my fellow students and I to show us what it does in sending out street educators into nearby communities to help educate children living on the streets. Topics range from hygiene for the younger children to vocational training for young adults who have dropped out of school. I will give you more details on the NGO as I work on the project, but one moment in particular stuck out to me on Saturday. My fellow students and I went to a nearby park on Saturday to view an alternative educational program which had about 20 kids ranging from ages 4-12. They absolutely captured my heart! They wey were so welcoming and friendly and loved our cameras and to see themselves in the viewfinders. One girl in particular grabbed my attention when first getting to meet the children, Justene. She could not stop posing her “diva” poses for my camera and kept following me around everywhere. When it became time to do some activities with the group, the leaders brought out paper for the children and asked us to join them. Justene got my attention and I came over to draw a shoe on her white piece of paper that was dusted brown from the dirt in the grass. I drew my best depiction of some sneakers with laces, a house, and even showed her my best flower (not the artist in the family). We even traced each others hands to overlap on the other side of the paper and wrote our names inside the tracings. Before I knew it, it was time to go (an hour did not feel like enough time)–and I could see she did not want me to leave..I was being torn away and I cannot even describe it, but I held back tears in my eyes–I knew it was the last time I would see her.
It was at that moment that the reality that we were from two separate worlds sunk in. On the surface all I could see was her dark brown eyes that widened with her smile. Her sholder length dark hair framed her face and although it was hot, she seemed to like it down. Justene wore a creme and red colored oversized shirt that fell below her knees, and her bare Filipino feet had some fresh scrapes and other picked scabs. Behind the surface I knew that there was so much more I did not know and would never know about her life. We each would never understand the other person’s life, but in our time together we did form a bond and acknowledged our friendship. Due to privacy I am unable to share any photos I took of the children, but do have them to keep for my own memories.
It was brought up later in discussion with fellow classmates that maybe our interaction was a distraction to the children and disruptive to their usual schedule. Although we were invited, what was our physical presence doing in the lives of the children? The point was not to come in with our cameras and treat them as objects, like subjects on a safari. It was to see the childrens’ lives to make a difference. If we do not get involved we cannot make a difference, and no one will give these children a second look. You cannot change the situation if there is no contact- ” if the eye does not see, then the heart cannot change.”
Fast forward: Sunday was a free day filled with shopping for family gifts and some me time. Monday was lectures at the Ateneo de Manila all day on Filipino history, economics, and cultural values. Today we took a tour of St.Luke’s Hospital in Global City near Makati and took a tour of a community behind the buildings that line Katipunan Ave in Metro Manila.
The community was very welcoming and houses lining the narrow streets with people outside chatting away, children coming home from school by trike, and others playing basketball on the community court. The community did have built in store and electricity, but I could see that their water was not in the best condition or supply, and on top of that it was hot. There’s people seemed to live comfortably, after all they looked happy. But after the tour and asking about the income of those families, I was told they live off $100 a month. That is less that $4 a day and I think to myself, “how is this possible?” These people are a part of the majority in the Philippines that live in poverty. Two of our topics are wealth and poverty and here in the Philippines the differences are stark. Is it fair that the small minority own the most and spacious land while the other majority are in cramped corners? There is no right answer. Like visiting the children from Childhope, it was good to visit the community to gain awareness and answer that question for ourselves. Hopefully giving is the guidance to know and do what is right.
Tonight the students were given the assignment by one of our facilitators to pick a song that is important to us and be able to explain why in our next group discussion. My favorite form of art is dance and I love the show, So You Think You Can Dance. The song that came to my head was David Archuleta’s version of John Lennon’s Imagine. Katie and Will performed a piece to it on So You Think You Can Dance many seasons ago, but that dance and song still remains in my head. I came back to my room and listened to it again, focusing on the lyrics. Just imagine– a world of peace where variables that separate us are removed, its not that hard to do; so if you can imagine it, it can be done. The “if you can dream it, you can do it” motto. This world will change when a group of people form together and join the dream of a world that is peaceful and lives as one. This world has no greed, hunger, hell below us, nothing to die for, and no countries (represents division). Let us aim for a better world where we live as one. I think this relates a lot to the Philippines because we as students are trying to imagine what the world could be like if we changed it. We need people to join us, and imagine with us so that we all have the same goal of a better world–where people live as one. This trip inspires me to change the world and make it a better place, and I imagine that it can be. Change does not happen over night- it happens over time. An individual may have an idea, but needs a group to make a signifcant change. After studying all that we are here in the Philippines it makes me want to fix the world, but the question is how and where do you start? I do not know that answer. Right now, I think it begins with awareness; especially with the help of technology to show the rest of the world who does not have the first hand exposure or opportunity that I am having. This awareness will hopefully spread to a shared dream imagined by a mass group of people who all gain the desire and act to live as one. That awareness begins with Childhope Asia Philippines and the street children..