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Natalie in Tacloban

Volunteer Natalie has been keeping a blog since she arrived in the Philippines. Here’s one of our favorite entries. 

“I’ve been living volunteering in the Philippines for 16 days now, however it already feels like home. Funnily enough I haven’t missed much in the way of luxuries and as always after visiting developing countries I truly realise how blessed, lucky, spoilt and somewhat greedy we are back home.

From a young age I spoke about wishing I grew up in the ‘olden days’ where things were simple, technology didn’t exist and there was a true sense of community. In many ways I feel like I’m fulfilling that wish. I actually enjoy hand washing my clothes here, life is simplified, there is such a strong sense of community, people have to work hard for their money and if it’s not for money it’s for their family or just to help. I get the feeling there isn’t much greed and people are genuinely happy even after the disaster they have been put through and the aftermath.

Today the barangay (suburb) we are currently working in, providing aid at San Agustin elementary school celebrated their fiesta. The celebration takes place on the 23rd may every year where they come together and eat, drink and be festive in celebration of their saint (San Agustin). We were invited over to a family’s home by some of the kids who we have been working along side daily.

We went over and on the walk to their house the little girl turned to me and said ‘please be patient, we are poor.’ I could tell by the look on her face she was embarrassed yet so excited to be walking us to her home to eat the food they had made us.

When we arrived the family was sitting inside their home. The roof damaged and awaiting a new house to be built. The food provided was beautiful, the family beautiful and the whole experience humbling. After work we were invited to another house where we sat and drank tuba (an alcoholic drink created from the sap from Palm trees) with over 30 people from the village sat staring at us, all with grins from ear to ear.

One of the men explained to us that everyone was staring because they were so happy and felt privileged to have us there. He went on to say it’s a privilege as we are better than them. We explained that we are not, we are equal. It has been a little difficult hearing so many people in these little towns we visit who aren’t used to foreigners say things like this.

If only they knew how strong willed, friendly, cultured and courageous they really are compared to many of us who unfortunately do take things for granted and have become used to want verses need. It was a privilege to be included at both of these houses today. The men from the second house have decided they will come over and help us at the school on Monday which will be great, again a sense of community.

This week has gone quite quickly as we have been working really hard at the school in order to finish off projects before school starts back up again. We have pretty much finished painting a Mural on the wall of the toilets [and have also] been cleaning all the classrooms up and repainting them…

The days at the school can be long and exhausting, it really is tough work and there has not been one day where any of us volunteers have returned home without paint covering us or dust from head to toe. We have been starting work early and leaving late just to get things done and there is talk of sleeping at the school next week in order to really push through all the work so the class rooms are ready for the kids.

With the amount of hard work we are doing… [everyone]… needs down time! Some of the boys have made a beer shed/bar in our front garden named the ‘Crazy Horse’. It’s actually amazing. All made from coconut lumber, including the tables, chairs, candle holders and cup holders. It’s all set up nicely with a fire near by, hammocks hanging around and a new BBQ just put together yesterday.

I admire some of the volunteers here ability to just make things so easily it’s makes me feel like I stopped using parts of my brain awhile ago in being imaginative and need to get back to it! Whether it’s making your own hammock, watching an outside screening of a movie, having a relaxing drink in the crazy horse, heading away or to a near by beach or even going and chatting to the locals or watching /playing a game of basketball down the road there is always something to do.

That reminds me, I went for a run the other morning at 5.40 (yes I wake really early cause of the heat) and ran past a heap of ladies doing Zumba outside. They all were calling me to join, it was literally the end of my run and I was exhausted so I said next time, but I AM going to join them next time! After all, you have to emerge yourself in the local cultures ;)”

Natalie’s post is a great example of the rich, varied experience our volunteers have when they join us – and of all the great work our volunteers carry out! We’d like to thank Natalie and all of our volunteers for their fantastic work.”

You can read more about Nat’s experiences on her blog