The Philippines was one of our most favourite countries, with much of our time spent in the city of Manila. The Filipino capital is a wonderful city full of sky scrapers and mega malls but behind the mask of wealth is also a city draped with poverty and struggle.
We volunteered with Hands on Manila (HOM), a non-profit organisation that envisions “a community where people contribute their time, talent, and resources for sustainable development.”
Before we arrived in the Philippines we made contact with the Executive Director of HOM; Rox. From then we immediately learnt what a fantastic organisation this was as Rox greeted us with a host of information and incredible enthusiasm.
We were working towards the Brigada Eskwela project partnered with TELUS. This project was a huge event in which more than 2000 Filipino and International volunteers would come together to completely renovate an old school in one of the poorest communities in Manila. The aim was to make it a safer, cleaner and more enjoyable environment for the children to learn in.
Upon first visiting the school, we found a dusty, dirty and almost derelict site that looked like it hadn’t been used in years. In reality, this was just an end of term break from school and what you saw was what you got. Any Western government would have immediately deemed this school unfit for purpose with the classrooms filled with broken chairs and worn chalkboards and corridors lined with years of dust build up. There were also numerous hazards such as broken glass and nails protruding from cupboards and other furniture. We could not believe this was an active school just days from the start of a new term.
Leading up to the event we spent our time preparing for this huge day by readying classrooms and sorting materials. With a small team of around 5-10 people on site, we managed to successfully organise all materials and maps for the upcoming volunteering event. Rox’s meticulous planning ensured all went smoothly, alongside the rest of the HOM team. It was a great week but we can’t pretend we didn’t find it a struggle. After over two months of not working the 5am starts were certainly a shock to the system!
On the day as volunteer leaders we were oversaw various projects in different areas of the school as well as participating in the manual labour too. The day consisted of mural painting, gardening, cleaning, painting furniture, and so much more. To see the school completely transform throughout the course of the day was fascinating, and there was something special about so many people joining forces for this small community.
This was our first volunteering experience on our travels and we really did love loved every minute. We are now registered volunteers and when we return to Manila in the future we will not hesitate but to work with HOM again!
To find out more about Hands on Manila or to register as a volunteer for this great charity please click here.