Archive for January, 2010
Today on my final day here in the Philippines I will spend it as I usually do on my last day and try to say goodbye to everyone. This is always the most difficult part of traveling…..mahirap talaga! Not only am I saying goodbye to friends I’ve had for the last 20 years, but each time I come there are new friends and relationships that have been established. The good news is I know I will be coming back. I have had people say to me, “I could never do what you do, I couldn’t go there”. I know that’s true for a lot of people. The fact is, it is difficult here, especially for us in the west. The weather, food, culture……so much is different. I have faced some situations here and thought to myself that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I’ve seen the pain and suffering that poverty brings, but there is a grace that goes beyond ourselves when we reach out to others. My life has been so enriched from traveling here. I have received much more than I will ever be able to give. The love and hospitality shown to me here can never be measured. That’s why I will continue to come here as long as I am able, to me what I give is so little compared to what I receive. Can I challenge you to join us in bringing hope AND change to those in need……
MABUHAY NG PILIPINAS
AKO AY BUMALIK SA LALONG MADALING PANAHON!
Because I have spent so much time here in Balut, Tondo Manila over the last 20 years, these past couple of days I have been trying to pay attention to the different dynamics that come into play on a daily basis. This place is non-stop in activities, emotions, struggles, sorrows and laughter. I am able to experience the worst of situations in one place and in the next hour be laughing and enjoying close friendships. Yesterday I had the joyful experience of video taping some of the sponsored college students who will be graduating this year. They shared their experiences and struggles, real stories of success in the midst of great hardship. Then today I was at the garbage dump helping feed almost 100 children living in the dump. For some it’s the only meal they will receive today. They laughed and sang as they ate. Just a few yards away sat a family in front of a coffin holding their 14 year old son who died inside a garbage truck while trying to get a head start on the scavenging, not realizing the compactor was on. They don’t have enough money to bury him yet so they are trying to raise the money…dynamics! Sometimes I feel like no matter how much you do, it’s never enough. But listening to those college students talk about how excited they are for their future I know that doing nothing is never an option and I will gladly accept the tears to be able to share in the joy and laughter.
A few days ago we went to the Taytay region of Manila to deliver relief goods to people who suffered during the major flooding from the multiple typhoons that hit the Philippines a few months ago. Believe it or not there are still some areas that are flooded even now. I was asked to be the one to present the items and share a few words of encouragement. I have to say I struggled with what to say to these people who had lost everything. What could I possibly say to them? I have a nice house in upstate NY, I drive a nice car that works and I have food in my refrigerator. I was honest with them about that, but I was able to tell them that back in the States we saw their plight on the news everyday. I wanted them to know that they were not alone in their suffering. Even though we could not relate to their loss, we could come and try to help ease their burden. It was a joy to watch them receive the items, that to us in the west may seem so minimal but to them is a huge blessing. Just 24 hours later we would hear of the devestating earthquake in Haiti. Here in this nation of the Philippines where they are no stranger to major tragedies, they were trying to find ways to help the people of Haiti. The hearts of people all over the world are hurting for the suffering Haitians. May we who have so much, do whatever we can to reach out and help those who have lost everything.
This morning before we left to go to the Smokey Mountain dumpsite, I was asked by Leah who is traveling with me if, in the last 20 years since my first visit, anything had changed. I was able to tell her that for the residents of the former Smokey Mountain a lot had changed for them. In 1995, then President Ramos designed a project to be rid of Smokey Mountain and move the people into temporary housing and eventually into permanent housing. After many delays and changes in administrations, the people eventually moved into permanent housing. While it’s not what we in the west would consider “a nice place to live”, for them, having water and a bathroom of their own is a major change. However, some things remain the same. There is now a new version of Smokey Mountain just a stones throw from the former site. People have erected their shanty homes and scavenge through the garbage for their daily survival. It seems to be a vicious cycle that is hard to stop. What I learned many years ago and what I tell people who ask me how to make a change is……you make it one life at a time. When you change one person’s life, that life goes on to impact others. The smallest effort is huge to someone who has nothing. Helping with a child’s education can transform their life. Thank you for reading. Please consider reaching out to transform one life today so many can be transformed tomorrow. More updates to follow!
I’m writing from my room here at the Youth With A Mission staff house in Tondo, Manila. It was quite a trip to get here this time. I arrived early at Newark Airport with my two traveling companions; my niece Kristen Grimsland and her friend from college Leah Hirsch-Cotter. Upon our arrival we noticed our flight was delayed over an hour. That turned into a 2 hour delay before we finally took off. Since our layover in Hong Kong was only an hour and a half, I knew we were in trouble. So off we flew on our 15 1/2 hour journey with a screaming baby behind us and the entertainment features not working….yes the axis of travel evil! I was very thankful for my mp3 player and noise-cancelling headphones.
We arrived in Hong Kong and, of course, missed our connection. Before I could start my rant against the airline they put us up in the beautiful airport hotel and provided us a free breakfast.
After a very smooth non-eventful flight the next morning (actually about 5 hours later) we were in Manila. For me it was like what I’ve heard women say about childbirth, they forget about the pain of labor. Everytime I exit the airport in Manila I feel like I’m right where I’m suppose to be, and I’m ready to get to work.
We hit the road running and stopped at an ongoing medical outreach happening at the permanent housing area in Smokey Mountain before we even unloaded our luggage. A few hours later we were back there helping some friends hand out gifts to elementary school children. For Kristen and Leah’s first visit to the Philippines, they are getting an early start.
I’m looking forward to the next three weeks and I will do my best to keep you all updated!