A spirit of service and community in the Philippines

Lucy Chee, a second year Bachelor of Arts/Laws student at the University of Notre Dame Sydney and part time paralegal spent two weeks in January on a service project in the Philippines. Implementing a project of Reledev, Creston College partnered with Foundation for Professional Training, Inc and Banilad Center for Professional Development (BCPD).

Lucy worked on a medical and nutrition mission in Bohol with a group of thirteen young women from Australia. She shares with us valuable lessons learned like appreciating what a real community is based on common faith and how happiness can be found in community, despite poverty.

In all honesty, I signed up for the 2019 Creston Service Project to the Philippines on a bit of a whim, at the invitation and strong encouragement of my very good friend. Before leaving Sydney, I hadn’t really formed expectations of what we’d be encountering and experiencing during our time there. This was probably a good thing, as every preconceived idea would shortly be blown out of the water.

In terms of practical service, we spent our time visiting orphanages and hospitals, as well as working closely with a school in the local village we stayed in. We ran nutrition, hygiene, food safety and exercise lectures, and provided a medical service to check the general health of the school children, which, amongst other things, involved taking height and weight measurements, and flagging any obvious health issues. We also did some manual labour, which included constructing and painting a bathroom for a kindergarten classroom, and painting a local chapel. The overall experience and the service we provided to the communities was definitely enriched by the group I was so fortunate to be a part of. We worked fairly seamlessly together, in spite of (or perhaps because of) our diverse personalities and interests.

Undoubtedly, the main objective of the trip was to foster a spirit of service in order to hear and respond to the genuine needs of the various communities we interacted with.  I use the word ‘community’ in its truest sense, as these people were tangibly supportive of each other, and extended that abundant generosity to us visitors. This sense of real community was facilitated by the small size of the villages, in which everyone knows each other; where no one is anonymous or lost in the crowd. You couldn’t help but be affected by the smiles and daily greetings of all the villagers (and the children especially). When your norm is to avoid eye contact with that stranger on the train, where it’s more socially acceptable to maintain an individualistic silence, you realise just how much you can learn from other ways of living and being in the world.

If you’re somewhat prone to melancholy, in the quieter moments of a service project you can get disillusioned by the magnitude of the task at hand, at the amount of work required to make substantial change. But the truth is that there will always be work to do, no matter where you are in the world, and that every action towards the good of a community, is a step forward.

So, to anyone considering going on a service project, I can’t encourage you enough! Your primary aim is always to respond to the communities you are assisting, whether in Australia, or elsewhere in the world. But in doing so, you will inevitably experience personal enrichment, and hopefully, you will bring that little something back to your own home, to your little corner of the world, where you have the very real privilege to give back and serve.

Lucy Chee, 2nd Year Bachelor of Arts/Laws student

We need your support as so many others can benefit from Reledev’s projects. You can also volunteer overseas like Lucy on a service project locally or overeseas. You can help by donating to the Reledev cause. A little goes a long way. 

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