For my final day, I opted to provide you all with a draft that I wrote for our final report to the United Nations. I hope that it summarizes everything that you are looking for as sponsors of my trip and I am hoping that you continue to support me in my future (probably really close) aspirations to help other people in other countries.
Waking up on our last day in Tacloban was a very curious experience. Our mission for the day was to drop off some much needed supplies in one of the Northern Barangays, yet we still maintained the same optimism and excitement from when we first arrived in the Philippines. Was it just a façade to get over the inevitable disappointment of knowing that we were leaving tomorrow?
Our team met together and gathered all of the necessary supplies that would be distributed to the Barangay. We had about 120 bags of rice, as well as a huge suitcase full of small supplies like shampoos and soap thanks to our charitable volunteer Sasha. At this point of our trip, no weight was too heavy to carry to our destination. We left for the Barangay with high spirits and perhaps, just a little sadness knowing that we would be departing the Philippines soon, and separating a team that has worked so effectively together these past few days.
When we arrived in the Barangay, we quickly unloaded and were greeted by the children. They were excited when we suggested to them that we should play a game and the whole village eagerly followed us to their main hall area where Valerie led an enjoyable game of ‘Fruit Salad’, where all of the children participated.
Before distributing supplies, some of our volunteers took the time to explore the village and take in the sights and sounds of Northern Tacloban. There was almost a kind of freedom in this area, which was prevalent in the openness of the countryside, the relatively quiet atmosphere and the scenery from the top of the hill that showed the entire village and the surrounding area. None of us in all of our privileges from living in middle class families, first world countries or in possession of personal luxuries could fathom how amazing this feeling was. The people in this village had less to own than even the people who were under our own country’s welfare systems, yet there were smiles all around. There was basketball games, and community and family, which illuminated everything that Tacloban’s mayor said when he emphasized his city’s need for livelihood. Indeed, possessions and supplies mean very little in a population that is devoid of livelihood, sharing, love and all of the other attributes that connect us all as humans in this world.
The villagers eagerly volunteered to help us distribute our supplies to their fellow countrymen and women. The men followed behind us with bags of rice slung on their shoulders as we distributed one bag per household. Their gratitude was inspiring. “Salamat”, which is ‘thank you’ in Tagalog could be heard across the village as everyone thanked our volunteers. We also had the opportunity to distribute pencils to the children and they lit up when we realized we had more than enough to go around. Some of the kids ran away from us carrying up to 4 in their tiny hands.
Sasha then led the distribution of the goods she brought. Everyone gathered around and though it may not have been enough to go around the entire village, we were amazed at the courtesy that everyone showed. Many people relinquished their claim on an item in favour of giving it to someone who did not have one themselves. It was inspiring how close knit this village was. Some of the people we have known back in our countries have trouble sharing a seat on the bus.
When everything had been distributed, we said our final goodbyes. Our team saw no tears that day; it was nothing but smiles and good wishes all around. We felt we had accomplished our mission successfully by bringing a little bit of joy into a side of the world that we previously did not know even existed. We wish we could say that there was much they learned from us, but as a matter of fact, all of us agreed that we have learned more from them and their overwhelming hospitality, kindness and undying spirit.
To summarize, our team would like to encourage future Humanitarian Affairs UK volunteers with the following words of advice:
Be resilient. For those who are curious about taking the challenge of coming on a trip like this. Just commit and do whatever it takes to make it happen. Do not hesitate or second guess yourself. We learned from the people of Tacloban that life does not always go our way…and sometimes it can be downright terrible. However, there is nothing that can be concocted from trials, challenges and even pain that cannot be overcome by the kindness, gentleness and determination of the human spirit.
Be faithful. Our team was comprised of young leaders from different countries, religions and cultures. Yet faith was a fundamental aspect of our success and a valuable lesson that was instilled in the hearts and actions of the people of Tacloban. Be faithful in your works and your words. Allow your actions and decisions to reflect your faith in your God and your personal morals. And also remember to be faithful to each other. Generosity, kindness and sacrifice were three of the most powerful traits we have come to realize from the people of Tacloban. During a time when death and flooding was everywhere, the people of Tacloban still shined a light not just to God, but to each other. The stories we heard about the destruction, corruption and other negative aspects of Typhoon Yolanda were miniscule compared to the love that was prevalent in the hearts of Filipinos who sacrificed their possessions and even their lives to help their fellow Pinoys and Pinays. We spend too much time doubting the world and other people. Be faithful to others and trust that the hearts of the majority are sincere and kind. Most importantly, be faithful to yourself. You can accomplish more in life than you realize.
Be human. The people of Tacloban were a reflection of each of our inner selves. As we traveled this beautiful country, we saw the same ambition, fears, desires and humour in the Filipinos that we often find simply looking in the mirror. Our trip showed us that we are all alike in some way. We all desire productive careers, meaning in our lives, family, friends, and love. There is nothing wrong with being human. Your desire to travel abroad and see the world beyond your backyard is not a wild ambition, but a calling in your heart to pursue your humanity. We crave companionship and adventure. We yearn for challenges and opportunity. Some find this in the quietness of their hometowns. But if you feel that your heart is asking you to pursue a higher calling. It’s okay. Do not be scared. Our desire to connect and help others is a beauty of humanity.
This little bit isn’t part of the report but for my own personal bible reflection:
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”