Thank you to guest blogger Cassidy Jackson-Carroll for this entry. Cassidy is an Australian lass with bags of energy and an infectious laugh who came to Malapascua insistent on helping the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. She has had some great adventures like the time she was dressed as a boxing kangaroo at the Olympics….
How can I help?
Whenever a massive natural disaster occurs in the world, the humanity in all of us appears. Although many of us may not be able to empathise with the enormity of the event, we can certainly sympathise for our fellow brothers and sisters in the affected area. We want to help.
En route home from travel, I decided to stop off in the Philippines. Aware of Typhoon Yolanda having hit much of central Philippines in late November, I thought of combining a small diving trip with some volunteer work. Malapascua Island – the perfect combination for both.
Upon arriving to Malapascua, I instantly saw how badly hit this island had been. Houses had been flattened, boats upturned (some hanging in trees), trees fallen, everything windblown; yet fortunately enough, no lives had been lost.
Although the proximity of the tiny gem of an island to mainland Cebu is only 8km, due to it being so small (motorbikes and bicycles are the main form of transport on the dirt roads) and surrounded by coral reefs, it makes the transportation of materials to the island rather difficult. Therefore reconstruction is a challenging task.
Candice from Thresher Shark Divers was instantly very helpful and enthusiastic about my desire to help out wherever needed. Thresher Shark Divers were managing donations they had collected and directing a lot of their attention to the local primary school, Logon Elementary and Candice was overseeing this project. Being a teacher, I know the importance of creating and rebuilding a community centre where students felt safe and happy to attend. Along with another young volunteer, Phillip, I attended the school every morning with Candice. She introduced us to some of the teaching staff and the local construction workers. Half days had been created for all grades, as many of the classrooms had been damaged and were unusable as a learning environment. Often students shyly smiled at us and greeted us politely. We were treated every morning to students proudly singing the national anthem as they lined up on the playground.
Phillip and I helped Candice in the ordering of materials, from the mainland, so new roofing could be installed and classrooms could be rebuilt. The playground was a construction site, however this never dampened the spirits of the students or the staff. A lot of classroom equipment, such as wooden chairs and desks, was sitting in the middle of the playground under a tarpaulin. This had been the case for a couple of weeks. Phillip and I rearranged space in an unused classroom, (that had been housing the school’s computers) and moved all the ‘outside furniture’ inside. Through a game of ‘real life tetris’ and with the help of some staff and a few students, we managed to create more space on the playground and a storage room for currently unused furniture.
Mentioning I had a physical education background to the Grade 6 teacher, she had her 60 students line up in front of me in a matter of seconds! For an hour, I had the students involved in kinaesthetic movement through simple yet engaging games. They relished the different form of learning, some starting to tire after an hour!
One of the staff, who also acted as the swimming coach, invited me to watch the swim team train one afternoon. In front of the cemetery, in the open sea the youngsters swam lap after lap. They were training for an upcoming state meet in Cebu – a meet they have previously claimed the winner’s trophy for! The open water swimming training was enough to even make an Olympic swimmer dig further for inspiration.
My contribution to volunteering did not last as long as I had initially anticipated, and I know and felt I could have done a lot more for the community. As short as the experience may have been, I, myself, learnt a great deal, mainly how resilient and genuinely lovely the Filipinos are! Even the stray dogs were friendly! Phillip mentioned that Filipinos, worldwide, have a charismatic spirit – an extremely accurate statement. It is spirit like no other I have come across in my many worldly travels. A spirit you are charmed by, and a spirit you want to adopt for your own ambience.
Thank you Malapascua – tiny in topography, but huge in heart.