Magandang Umaga from Manila, Philippines!

June 13, 2012 | Helen, AFS, Philippines, Volunteers International for Development Education and Services (VIDES)

As I head into my second month here in the Philippines I find myself reflecting on my past four weeks and the reoccurring thought in my mind is that I couldn’t have found a better way to spend my summer! For my three month internship I am placed with VIDES Philippines, which is an international organization that works with poor urban youths in many countries around the world.

Here in the Philippines, VIDES is made up of just a small handful of full time employees and dozens upon dozens of volunteers.  I must admit, I have found myself disappointed with my “internship”. Upon arrival I quickly realized that they consider me to be just another volunteer, and not an employee. I therefore was only asked to help them with the actual hands-on activities; going out into the poorest districts of the city every day, and teaching children on street corners. Over the weeks we have begun to develop a system in which I can also help with light office work; but this is mainly just editing documents that they have written in English, and maybe writing a few articles for their news magazine.

Working out in the really rough areas of Manila has been an experience I would never take back. Not only have I been able to see firsthand the overwhelming poverty and shocking inequalities of the Philippines, I have also fallen in love with the kids we work with everyday. Work experience aside I have had the most amazing month here so far in terms of cultural integration! I was completely welcomed by my fantastic host family, and the VIDES employees immediately treated me as if I am part of the family. I have seen so much of this fantastic city already, and feel like I truly am experiencing the Filipino culture in a way I would never be able to if I were to just travel here alone. My host family not only treats me as their new “adopted daughter”, but also really enjoys taking me around the city and surrounding areas, and showing me all of the highlights that Manila has to offer.

Furthermore I was very lucky that one week after my arrival, another Canadian girl working through VIDES Canada, named Megan, arrived in Manila. So it has been great to have someone to enjoy all of the new experiences with. Last weekend VIDES Philippines had their annual Mission Camp, which Megan and I were invited along to. The camp was one weekend, in a nearby province, serving over 400 children of the area. Megan and I were able to experience what life is like in the rural areas of the Philippines, as well as spend a day swimming in the South China Sea and snorkelling off a gorgeous white sand beach!

Every single day of this past month has been full of new experiences and adaptations, and I know there will be more to come, as we have a busy week coming up with the start of the children’s school year, and a trip to the province of Cebu this weekend for their Independence Day long weekend!



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