In June, nine IB staff members took a service trip to the Philippines and discovered what it takes to make a real difference in the lives of others.
After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013, killing thousands and displacing millions more – staff members at the IB Asia Pacific Global Centre in Singapore had been searching for a way to support the reconstruction efforts. Last month, a group of nine volunteers took action by completing the Bayani (‘Hero’) Challenge, an initiative that encourages people to be “heroes” in communities affected by Haiyan.
The group headed to the small town of Sogod (Cebu, Philippines) where over 3,000 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds had converged on the town for the challenge, but despite the language and cultural barriers, people were warm and welcoming.
On their first day, the team traveled to a primary school called Paraisong Patamba (‘Paradise for Children’), where they had a chance to better understand the local educational setting and get a feel for life in Sogod schools. PYP School Services Manager Monita Sen remembers the “amazing sense of community” that was immediately palpable:
Teachers, farmers, social workers, families – regardless of age or background, everyone is working together to make things better.”
– Monita Sen
At the school, they greeted over 100 local students, parents, and teachers who had been anticipating the group’s arrival. They brought along some IB beach balls as small gifts.
Despite the school’s limited resources and location in a typhoon-ravaged area, both the students and teachers maintained their enthusiasm for learning. Dave Green, IT Testing Team Leader, was especially impressed.
It was great to see the priority they gave to education in circumstances that are very far removed from anything I’ve experienced before.”
– Dave Green
On the second day, the group became decorators and painters at the Sogod Central School. They broke into four small teams, applying fresh coats of paint that served to brighten up the aging buildings.
The team also had time for cultural activities. Their Filipino counterparts organized a group “Boodle Fight” – a shared meal where food is placed on banana leaves. It was an opportunity for the group to experience the strong sense of community that is embedded in Filipino culture.
Their third day began with an early start on the beach during low tide to plant mangroves. Laurens van den Brule, Business Process Team Leader, thought that the “exercise would take hours”, but was pleasantly surprised when many locals unexpectedly joined in and helped them finish early. This left time to clean up a local spring, where water tumbles down through the valley, ending in a scenic 20-foot waterfall.
The trip was a nonstop blur of long hot days, early mornings, and “really challenging” activities. Human Resources Administrator Abbie Santillan said, “the feeling that you’ve made a difference and helped the people of Sogod was a powerful antidote.”
By the end of five memorable days, Team IB had contributed to the following achievements:
• 450 kids served at Paraisong Pambata
• 53 classrooms and 11 school fences painted
• 5,500 mangrove planted
• 15 kilometer stretch street clean-up
• 1 kilometer riverbank clean-up in two areas
• 1 kilometer spring trail clean-up
DP Associate Regional Manager Avalokita Nanda believes that the trip aligned closely with the IB’s mission:
A core component of all four IB programmes is the ‘intent and will to act responsibly for their own needs and the needs of others’, and our experience during the Bayani challenge definitely met that expectation. We experienced the power of collaborative action, the importance of building intercultural understanding, and the satisfaction of community building during those five days and beyond. More importantly, service learning supports our own personal growth.”
– Avalokita Nanda
The Singapore Global Centre is looking forward to expanding its new connection with Sogod Central School and hopes their trip will inspire others to interweave social responsibility throughout their work.