Tony & Denise Kidd and their son Gabriel spend 3 months in the Philippines working on policy developing in schools.
My wife Denise and I had some time available to us, and had always wanted to do some volunteer work, so we approached the Edmund Rice Network through my school, St Thomas of Canterbury College, and were offered the opportunity of working in Kabankalan, Negros occidental, the Philippines.
It was a life changing experience for our family, as our younger son Gabriel came with us (although he was disappointed to have to attend classes for two weeks of his school holidays!). Working with Brothers Rod and John, seeing fellow Catholics living out the Gospel values and witnessing the lives and struggles of ordinary Filipinos affirmed our faith and decision to become volunteers
When we arrived on New Years Eve fireworks kept us awake all night, and we expected things to quieten down at after that at night, but had not anticipated the 100’s of Fighting Roosters living around us!
Denise worked on developing Child Safety protocols for the Diocese Schools, a process that meant being involved not only with the schools, but hospitals, City Council, the Police and the Department of Social welfare. I observed the best practice of local teachers at Our Lady of the Snows in Himamaylan, Duncalan Catholic Academy and Kabankalan Catholic College to help develop ways of raising the achievement rate for those students who were struggling. The work of the local people and the Brothers in these areas was awe inspiring. The local people were extremely welcoming, and the fact that English is everyone’s second language made life easier for us than it would have been in other places.
We meet wonderful people like Lydio Mangao and Father Gore, of the Negros 9 Foundation and became involved in their struggle for sustainable farming, and against Human Trafficking in the Philippines, Girlie, a Doctor who regularly organizes free eye surgery on the Island of Palawan, Miladdie Chia a tireless advocate for homeless children and the deaf community, Father “Rolex ” who was in the process of organizing a ceasefire between the Army and the NPA, Sister Tericita and Carol Morano and many others working to ensure an education for all.
The corruption and casual violence was overwhelming and the grinding down of the poorest people by the system brought home to us the injustices of poverty in this rich nation As Corazon miller put it in The Common Good (no.56 Lent 2011) “This culture of impunit” in the Philippines is a decades old situation borne out of a dictatorship that had the power to generate a system which allowed elements of the ruling class to get away with corruption and violence against justice and human rights advocates, against the poor and middle class
Our experience was uplifting and we look forward to returning later in the year to continue the work we have started. Gabriel especially enjoyed the Sinulog Festival and the Negros 9 Foundation sustainable farm. He enjoyed our time in Negros Occidental and made many friends that he looks forward to seeing again and regularly talks to through Facebook.