Michael Fanning, GFF Representative 2018, Philippines

I have learned that sharing and giving can be just as rewarding as receiving. There is a big hospitality culture in the Philippines and people will try make you feel at home whenever they can. If you find yourself at a Filipino home, they will more than likely offer you food and drink and to join in with the whole family. I am blessed to come from Ireland, which has relatively low poverty, a great education system, low crime and plenty of jobs on offer. I should not take my education and the morals I have learned for granted and I should share with those who have not yet had the same opportunity.

I have learned to care for the environment even more so than before. The environment is lush and abundant in greenery and wildlife here. I have found that a lot of people here don’t respect the environment enough and throw so much rubbish on the ground, burn all types of rubbish including plastic and recycling simply doesn’t exist.

A good few of my highlights and enjoyable times so far working with YARP and GFF have been going out on the truck, because I’ve always been sitting in the back I mostly attributed this to seeing the beautiful landscape and being able to soak up some nice sun on the way, along with chatting with the local workers, even if some of it was very basic due to the language barriers.

Naturally I have enjoyed teaching the kids here too and seeing their smiles and faces of understanding when they understand what we are teaching. I’m looking forward to plenty more classes in 2019.

Emily RobertsonMichael Fanning, GFF Representative 2018, Philippines
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Willyn Carrascal, GFF Representative 2018, Philippines

Despite spending half of my life in the Philippines, I have found myself being culture shocked by the hierarchy system in all parts of the Filipino society. From government to organisations, leaders or bosses must be obeyed or informed of any actions that the employees are doing. This is one of the reasons why it took a while for them to give us clearance to conduct our GFF projects.

Nevertheless, the school children’s obedience during our School Projects reminded me of how being polite and well-mannered was taught in Philippine schools and that I should carry this with me wherever I may be. People here are so polite that they never fail to address someone as ‘Ma’am’ or ‘Sir’. Formal language is used with one word ‘po’ to anyone older than yourself. They will excuse themselves when they walk passed two people having a conversation. These are just some simple things that reminded me of what it takes to be a Filipino.

This experience has given me the opportunity to connect with communities in rural areas and allowed me to learn more about my own culture. Though I have been exposed to disadvantaged areas in the Philippines when I was young, this was the first time I have been able to understand the difficulty of living situations in some areas. Most families we have met and encountered do not have a consistent source of income that they can rely on. Some have alcoholic problems within their households and some are going through issues that have been a result of broken marriages. Despite this, they still manage to smile and try to cope each day, living their lives with what they have.

Another thing I have noticed in these communities is that even though life has been financially challenging, they seem to more content. They are even happy with just a simple visit in their houses. There’s also been instances where beneficiaries offer us something to eat despite not having much themselves. Those things reminded me that I should be content and grateful not for the materialistic things but rather the people whom I value and values me.

Emily RobertsonWillyn Carrascal, GFF Representative 2018, Philippines
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Joe Fisher, GFF Representative, India and Nepal, 2018

I learnt to appreciate that on the whole people are generally good and want to do what they can to help others. Almost every person I met during our stay was incredibly welcoming and couldn’t do enough to help us be comfortable in their country. Whenever I did something to help someone such as running a football training session, they couldn’t be more appreciative of me giving up my time. It can be easy to forget that most people are good people that want to make the best of themselves and others around them, no matter what their background may be.

My personal highlight was doing morning football coaching in Chibbo village. Many of the people that I coached had never had the opportunity to receive formal coaching in the past, despite being incredibly passionate about the sport. So, it was incredibly rewarding to provide this for them and see their smiles as they arrived for the sessions each day. Football is something I am very passionate about, so it was fantastic to share something that I love with people in a totally different part of the world.  It was also awesome to see the group grow from only two people for my first session to over thirty by the time that I left, making me feel as though it was doing a good job and adding something beneficial to the community.

Emily RobertsonJoe Fisher, GFF Representative, India and Nepal, 2018
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Sophie Jones-Williams, GFF Representative, India and Nepal, 2018

One of the things that working with the beneficiaries of Bal Suraksha Abhiyan Trust taught me was that children have more resilience than most people believe or give them credit for and can endure a number of horrific hardships and still maintain a smile and pure enjoyment. They can make many decisions on their own about their wellbeing and we should listen to what they have to say. They deserve the ability to make decisions about their own lives and we can provide good guidance, support and positive learning environments for them.

From my experience in Kavre, Nepal, I learnt the value of community support for individuals and how critical it is. Working in these communities it is clear to see that without the network and social support of their neighbours and family, individuals would suffer a great deal more. From the perspective of working in these environments, it is integral to have community support for projects, not just individual interest, and to be able to see the needs of the community as a whole. The relationship is often reciprocal – what benefits and empowers an individual will benefit the community and vice versa, and knowing and working with that in mind you can create a greater difference. This has also given me cause to reflect on my sense of community in New Zealand, and how I can foster change and growth in the people and community around me.

Emily RobertsonSophie Jones-Williams, GFF Representative, India and Nepal, 2018
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