Honlam Education and Research Association is organizing work camps in the Philippines that give Macau students first-hand experiences on how difficult life in depressed areas can be. We listened to stories of compassion and hope.
PEDRO DANIEL OLIVEIRA
From Dec 26-31, the Honlam Education and Research Association (HERA) is going to hold a work camp in the Philippines, aiming to help underprivileged people living in Quezon City, Metro Manila.
“There will be 7 professionals and 2 high school students from Yuet Wah College who will be participating in this program,” the HERA’s organizing member Joseph Sy-changco told O CLARIM.
The work camp consists of visiting depressed communities, where the participants from Macau will pay home visits to the poorest families, besides providing school supplies and giving lessons to about 100 children.
“Christmas gifts will be given to each visited family. And there will be a visit to the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, where Macau participants will have the chance to speak and play with sick children, and talk to their parents. The participants will also pay a visit to the Willing Hearts Orphanage for Street Children,” Mr Sy-changco said. He is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Macau.
Last August, Honlam organized the Summer Work Camp, allowing a few Macau-born Filipinos to see the Philippines from a new and refreshing perspective.
“Though this trip was to Manila and Cebu, I saw a whole new different side of my parents’ country. During the first 4 days in Manila, I’ve visited places such as Philippine Children’s Medical Center and the slum area of Bicutan,” University of Macau second year student Marco Lalicon said, adding, “It’s a mixed feeling being in a depressed area as we arrived there, because all I could see were countless children smiling to welcome us.”
Marco and his fellows also did a series of activities and gave some stationeries and daily supplies to them. “I will never forget all the smiling faces and the joy they brought to me,” he stressed.
“On the other side, we were divided into groups to visit several homes of urban poor families, most of them have been living there in a tiny space for a long time,” he continued. “Hearing their stories is as heart-breaking as seeing their unhygienic and cramped living conditions.”
In Cebu, they stayed for 5 days in Tindog, Medellin, where 10 of them shared a room and a toilet. “Sometimes there was no water supply in the morning. It’s not that ‘comfy’, but definitely an experience to remember.”
He also said, “We taught children in the elementary school in the morning. The students participated so actively that we could hardly control them. Teaching and making them smile gave us the energy and strength to continue on the construction work in the afternoon that was part of our project for the school, which was tough work under a burning sun.”
University of Saint Joseph student Joseph Keswani, accompanied by 25 other volunteers from Macau, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, said that 14 days in the Philippines “was a wonderful experience.”
“The Philippines is indeed a country of cultures (with diverse, tasty cuisines),” he said, adding that “three countries [came] here in the past 500 years. Spain came and colonized some Filipino islands, transforming them with their culture and Catholicism…. Then, came the US and Japan.”
Talking about Manila, Perpetual Help College (Chan Sui Kei) student Henry Choi said, “It’s a city rich in magnificent heritage and high-end shopping malls. It is also a city with high-income inequality, bad infrastructure and terrible car traffic.”
The visit to the slum area in Manila “nearly made me cry,” he stressed. “You could never imagine how poor the living conditions are without going there. We played with the kids and gave some food to the families. From my perspective, giving food is one of the ways, but not the best way to help them. There are at least 3 kids in each family, which means the food can be finished within 24 hours. We sympathize, at the same time we should try to think of a more sustainable way,” young Joseph told us.
“The following days in Cebu were amazing,” he said. “We gave lessons to children in Tindog Elementary School in the morning, and did construction work in the afternoon for 4 days.”
“To be honest, I was not so impressed with the teaching part in the beginning, as we were not able to teach them anything due to the language barrier,” Henry added. He also said they were expecting to talk to them in English, but the Cebuano kids cannot even understand Tagalog well. “Eventually, we managed to have some activities with the kids instead of talking for 2 hours. There are surely many unexpected things in daily life, and we have to learn how to deal with them,” he explained.
“One thing I need to mention is that the mobile phone signal in Tindog is extremely weak. It was good for all of us, because we are not too attached to the Internet, we need to stop for a while and enjoy life,” he pointed out.
Both work camps are sponsored by Galaxy Entertainment Group.