Volunteering in the Philippines

 

I want to share with you, a place and some people who have held a piece of my heart from the moment I stepped onshore a Filipino island.

This experienced changed the way I look at the world, and associate with society. I believe this was the desired outcome of my visit, something I can attribute to a small Filipino woman who has the heart, mind and soul of an angel. Rizsa Albarracin (who very much deserves thousands of blogs to be written about her) is my very close friend, and the catalyst for this visit to the remote area of the Philippines.

Rizsa is an acclaimed and awarded scholar, an ANU PhD recipient and extremely kind and generous friend. She grew up in the jungle of the Philippines, selling dried fish at the markets and teaching herself to read English through small snippets of newspaper. Rizsa has worked her entire life to better humanity, and would never allow me to say these things aloud on her presence due to her humble nature.  However, I will happily write thousands of articles dedicated to this woman.

Since becoming a successful scientist, Rizsa has continuously worked to support those back home in her home country. The Shepherd’s Arms Children’s Home in Bohol, is one of many humanitarian projects Rizsa has worked towards. This children’s home houses around 30 desolate and orphaned Filipino kids from around the country. The home provides these kids with food, beds, education and a caring, loving environment.

I arrived to Bohol in September 2015. I had heard about Rizsa’s involvement with the home and had expressed my interest and desire to travel and support humanitarian causes.

Meeting the kids for the first time was a warming and surprising moment, as they boarded the school bus they welcomed us with warm smiles, hugs, and placing our hands against their foreheads (a sign of respect). We spent a week with the kids at the home, helping out where we could and spending time with the young women talking about health. The carers at this home are nothing short of angels on earth. They devote all time and energy the betterment of every child in their care, attentive and gentle, even with the most difficult and trying cases.

The children bonded with us quickly, eager to love and be loved. They cherished cuddles and enjoyed playing with hair, reading, singing, and showing us their pet lizards.

I now work with Rizsa on fundraising projects and sponsor a child at the children’s home in Bohol. I have found this one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Not for the righteousness or goodwill of the act but the enlightenment of purpose and being. If our main priority on earth is not to better the lives of others, I feel our purpose is wasted. Being involved in improving a small group of lives, just one of the 700 million people living below the poverty line, gives a new sense of purpose and a firmer grasp on humanity.

“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”
Abraham Lincoln

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