Bohol, Philippines: Meeting like-minded individuals
"We started as a group of strangers from different backgrounds embarking on a five-day trip to a foreign place, but through the 5 days, we bonded by experiencing the tangible, positive and powerful impact that the perseverance and support for this sponsorship programme have yielded."
For some, it was to visit sponsored children for the first time, some were eager to see how their sponsored children have grown through the years, and most of all, we all experienced the good that this sponsorship programme has brought to the communities in Bohol.
Our team also witnessed the connection that Dawn, one of our sponsors enjoys with her sponsored child of many years.
Having been Hazel’s sponsor for a long time and visited a couple of times, Dawn has watched Hazel grow from a toddler to the fine young lady that she is now. Hazel is 17 years old this year, and will be pursuing her higher education in Information Technology with Dawn’s continued support.
The Philippines is a typhoon and earthquake prone region. Damages from the 2013 earthquake that measured 7.2 in magnitude put the island of Bohol in a dire situation for which full recovery has not been reached. World Vision’s efforts from both local and international teams in response to these disasters as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible have helped to rebuild the towns. Their partnerships with the Barangay councils have also been critical to their ability to address to the residents’ needs.
World Vision Philippines also engages in developing a sustainable economic platform for the community. It is in World Vision’s mandate that they partner with the locals in these projects. From organic farming, to meat processing and other family pass on projects, World Vision gives the locals the tools to help ensure the sustainability of their livelihood. Participants in these programmes are not only recipients of aid, but partners in each programme and held responsible for their own success through. This ensures that the economic responsibility of the residents lies with themselves, so as to establish growth and long-term socio-economic sustainability of the province.
Education plays a big part in both advocacy and community development. It is through continual education that we are able to raise awareness in people of the change they can achieve. A large part of the sponsorship programme focuses on children empowerment, and education to teens. A group of teens in the child sponsor programme hosted us at the meeting as well. They enacted a skit about how they combat bullying in school, prevent the influence of drug addiction for themselves and their peers, and participate in school programmes that help to mold their psychological development.
Peter, one of the youth who has risen to become a leader amongst his peers shared with us how being a sponsored child sculpted his life, and what it means for him to be a youth leader and mentor to his juniors.
These children were also one of the selected few to present their ideas on savings and community development to the Barangay chief! It is indeed very heartening to see a group of young people that is so passionate about their lives and the positive change that they can bring to their community.
Highlights of the trip include: Joining a Community Managed Savings and Credit Association (COMSCA) Meeting
The idea behind COMSCA likens to micro financing or a small-scale bank loan system where members of the village pool their own money as savings for a community “emergency” fund. A committee consists of strictly 20 people. On a weekly basis, they vote and prioritize the funding needs of their fellow comrades. Each week, the committee is encouraged to put in a maximum of 200 pesos (which is divided into units of 10) as savings, and this money is validated and recorded in a notebook. Each week, they will be able to collectively save up a sum of money that can be used for various requests and needs of the community. The money would then be repaid back in 3 months with minimal interest, and at the end of each year; the interest collected is then shared among the committee members.
When we interviewed this committee, we realized how strong their community ties are, as almost all of them contributed the weekly maximum amount agreed, and no one was ever late in re-paying the borrowed amount.
For that week, they approved a loan of 1500 pesos to fix one committee member’s motorcycle, enabling her to get to the market to sell her produce.
Harvesting Produce at the BCCAP Farm
We shared many laughs planting and harvesting organic vegetables and fruits in the BCCAP farm in Sikatuna, Bohol. BCCAP stands for Bohol Concerned Citizens Actions for Progress, a registered body that helps the community by taking care of the registered families in the ADP, giving these families economic development support. All the fruits and vegetables are grown organically in the farm, using a self-made fertilizer of fermented fruit and vegetables. Proceeds from sale of the produces goes into the registered families’ income, and back into the funding of seeds and raw materials. We had a lot of fun harvesting squash, pumpkins and pineapples. It was eye opening for some of us city dwellers to harvest a squash still buried in the ground!
Basket Weaving with the Local Women
We spent a few hours learning how to weave reeds from a group of women artisans who sell their handicrafts for income. They use tall grass and reeds to make beautiful baskets, chain-link decorative curtains, bowls and charger plates to help support their families. It is an intricate art that requires good eyes and strong hands. All of us gained new respect for the gentle ladies who churn these beautiful crafts out at impressive speeds.
Meeting with a Barangay Chief
In a meeting with the Barangay chief, and enjoyed the luxury of asking him questions about the government’s ongoing partnership with World Vision. He also accompanied us to the local kindergarten, where a very gracious teacher allowed us to interrupt a lesson to give them backpacks, toys and sweet treats. They were absolutely adorable.
Visiting a Pig Farm in the Pay It Forward Programme
Preceding an eventful hour of navigating a slight transportation crisis, we made our way across the river in a construction boat with the help of two very helpful and fit laborers, we visited a delightful woman at her pig farm. She shared her love for the pigs she rears and relayed a shocking account of how she gave one of her piglets mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after she found it squashed underneath its mother after being trapped in a flood. She rears livestock as part of the pass-on programme run by World Vision that teaches farmers to raise animals for trade and sale.
Meeting the Sponsored Children and Their Families
Armed with bags of gifts and goodies, we set out on the last morning to meet our sponsored children. Everyone was shy in the beginning, and both sponsors and children took a while to warm up to each other. However, after a few games to lighten the mood, each sponsor spent time with their sponsored children and their families presenting gifts and engaging in conversation to learn more about each other. There were hugs, giggles, and tears as each group bonded in their own special ways.
Parting was sweet sorrow, and our one of the major takeaways for us sponsors was the importance of writing to the children and their parents to encourage, uplift and remind them that they are loved and not forgotten.
We concluded our trip with a heartwarming dinner hosted by the Bohol World Vision ADP Staff and team. It was an evening of many laughs, some tears shed in love, and a great meal of Filipino food we’d all grown to enjoy. The ADP team and some of the youth sang and danced in beautiful traditional dress, and our team sang one of our Singaporean national day songs to share some of our home country with our new friends.
It was refreshing to have met like-minded individuals who wanted to find out firsthand how World Vision’s sponsorship programme partners with communities in need to benefit the young and at-risk. We started as a group of strangers from different backgrounds embarking on a five-day trip to a foreign place, but through the 5 days, we bonded by experiencing the tangible, positive and powerful impact that the perseverance and support for this sponsorship programme have yielded.
Spending that week in Bohol not only strengthened and validated the commitment of existing sponsors to our sponsored children, but also inspired a couple of members on our team to seriously consider engaging in sponsorship. All in all, it was a rewarding and memorable trip thanks not only to Marc and his World Vision Bohol team, but our gracious leader and host, Ethel. Koh Sher Lynn Liane and Lim Wan Wei, Alice Child Sponsors and Trippers to Bohol ADP