Thursday, July 10, 2014

It's not goodbye, just see you later!

After a slightly teary goodbye, and lots of hugs, we left Antique. But we ended our stay there with a wonderful celebration with the entire Sibolom community during our annual Cultural Exchange. We watched students and teachers from each school perform, we performed ourselves, and Aly even stunned us with a dance solo that everyone looooved! We played native Filipino games that everyone also enjoyed, which included climbing three 30 foot greased bamboo poles. We are now in the unbelievably beautiful Island of Boracay resting, recouping, and reflecting on the past 2 weeks.

Before we left Salt Lake City, 15 donors sponsored pigs for Filipino families. Because of this, we were able to award 15 baby piglets to families that we chose through an essay writing competition that Rhen had previously organized. Each of our three schools were awarded 5 pigs --3 to parents of students, and 2 to students. Each recipient was overwhelmed with gratitude for their pig. Even if they couldn't speak English, their eyes spoke to us with thankfulness. It was something we'll never forget. A pig to these people is a very life-changing gift. They will be able to now have a self-sustaining small business for their family.  They will raise the pigs to proper maturity, and be able to sell them to a butcher for a substantial amount of money, that they will then use to purchase more pigs to also raise and sell. This will assist them in paying for their children's education, something that not many families can afford.

At the Cultural Exchange, we also distributed 38 Black Diamond solar powered and rechargeable lanterns for selected families. These families were ones that do not have electricity, which makes it very difficult for children to keep up with their school work at home. It's pretty amazing to see how such a seemingly small item can make a person's life so much more resourceful. It was rewarding for us to see the joy on each of their faces!  

Here we also distributed over 100 books to our library that we have spent 10 days building at Igpanolong Elementary school. The community members were so grateful! These included recent children's books, as well as classic children books that we all grew up with. Books for adolescents and adults were also included, as we are encouraging both generations to pursue as much education as possible.  It was pretty incredible to watch them receive these books. We also distributed 100 newborn kits and 100 safe delivery kits, that were assembled by our ROW team and donors in the Garden Park neighborhood in Salt Lake City. It was delightful to provide these kits, as well as school kits filled with school supplies for each of our Filipino students.

Our time in Antique went by way too fast. We witnessed that people across the world live differently, but are the exact same. Worldwide, we all feel the same emotions, we all strive to be happy, and we ALL have the same capacity to love each other, even in 2 short weeks. If these ROW kids have learned one thing here, it's that they can love, truly love. And that people can be so very happy with very very little. 

The simple life is not one we are used to, but it's a good life.

I'm feeling very grateful that I have been able to become friends with these amazing Filipino people. As I left Antique for the third time, I was flooded with love for each child we taught, each teacher at our three schools - I'm telling you, these teachers are absolutely INCREDIBLE - and for each member of our team this year. Your kids are pretty remarkable. I wish you all could have been here to see them further blossom into loving, kind, and responsible young people. They have established close friendships that, I think, will last a very long time. You should be proud of this team, as I'm sure you already are. What a great adventure and learning experience this has been! Like last year, I'm  already looking forward to returning next year. This place is becoming like a home to me, and the people are becoming dear, dear friends. 

This world is a beautiful place, with beautiful people in it!

-Emily Connolly Graham

Beautiful nanay


Recieving a Black Diamond lantern

Some recipients of Black Diamond lanterns

Distributing 100 newborn kits and 100 safe delivery kits

Books for Salvacion!

Books for the new Igpanolong Library!

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Magic or Boondoogle?

It is raining hard today and we won't be able to leave our home today.

The picture of me teaching the combined 5th and 6th grade classes at Igpanolong Elementary School how to tie boondoogle is what inspired my title.  Just check out the faces of those beautiful kids.  I am the old wrinkled-up guy.

I am on our third expedition, and I find myself asking the question, is this expedition a magical experience or just a monumental boondoogle or sorts?  That question usually comes with force to my mind during the first night I spend in San Jose as I lay on a 3 inch layer of foam that separates me from the tile floor of the DepEd Building while pondering the thought, what in the "freak" am I doing here?  (I have picked up the term, freak, from these kids with us.  Thanks to Kellen and Chandler.)  It happened this year, and it will happen next year and beyond for all the years ROW draws young people to its magic.

The answer is, it is both magical and a boondoogle.  Mostly Magical and the daily magic makes the boon doogle seem very insignificant.

The expedition can be a boondoogle at times: the unpredictable nature of travel including air sickness, lost luggage, destroyed luggage, delays, over-weight luggage and sleeping in third-world airports; housing arrangements that change, bugs, dirty CR's (comfort stations) that do not flush, outdoor temporary showers; new and interesting food including filipino tuna sandwiches that are not what mother makes, food served at school that is cooked over an open fire and you wonder where the meat came from; upset stomach's, colds, fever's the run's, cuts and bruises, nail in foot and road rash when body leaves Jeepney and meets the road; rain, rain and more rain; changing daily schedules; heat and humidity never felt before.  You add these all together and it can tie you up if you let it.

But, that is when the magic comes in, and the magic of this experience loosens the boon doogle and makes it feel very insignificant.  The magic starts with these 12 wonderful and exceptional kids that are the heart and soul of this team.  Hans, Paul, Sadi, Tori, David, Kellen, Sarah, Brooke, Chandler, McKenna, Victoria and Ally.  Then the leaders; Ben and Maddy, Olivia and Tom who are attentive, supportive, patient and just darn fun.  Then there is Emily and Dewey who are the masters of organization patience and fun, and my rock and team foundation.  The magic continues when you meet the kids at school, their leaders and their families.  You feel their love and appreciation; it comes through quick and true.  You see this happy and humble community of people that have very little, but have it all.  We go to serve them and we leave feeling like they have served us and given us much more in return.  This connection to the kids is an incredible dynamic that touches our hearts and mind in a real and loving way.  It is impossible to not connect to them.  Then you see the magic in the change that takes place in the hearts, attitude and behavior of the team.  These kids, your kids, change in real ways and they will never be the same again.  They come to the Philippines as wonderful kids and return home exceptional kids with changed hearts and minds.

Back to the picture.  I introduced the kids to Boondoogle. We made friendship bracelet's together.  I found that the kids knew how to weave better than us.  They loved the personal connection.  Tom did the same lesson in Salvacion Elementary School.  Boondoogle is a new found family trait.

Now back to the boondoogle.  I mentioned all the challenges, but please don't let them worry you.  We have all survived and are in good shape; really good shape.  I have found that no fever, case of run's or even road rash put's these kids down.  As I said, they are amazing to be with.

I love this team.  Every high school student that is a friend, family member or just and interested reader should consider this experience.  ROW invites you all.  Come see how a boondoogle can be untied with magic.

Parents, thanks to you for raising wonderful and talented kids.

Cathy, Beth, Sara, Joe and Sadie and Lucy, I miss you and love you.

Rick Graham

A Sick Day in the Phillipines

Yesterday I woke up with a fever, sore throat, and an upset stomach. So naturally I got up, ate breakfast, and got on the top of a car to travel up a bumpy dirt road into a mountain in the middle of nowhere. Once we got to the point where we couldn't travel any farther we hopped off and went on a hike with our school (Igpanolong) to a thin green peak of a local mountain. At first my natural instinct as a teenage boy made me want to whine but the hike soon became too beautiful to complain about. The entire way up I was surrounded by the greenest plants I had ever seen. I apologize for not having the ability to describe it but I don't think anyone has the vocabulary to do justice to the beauty of this trek. Once we hit the the peak the whole world opened up to us. Mountains, jungles, and rice fields spread out as far as I could see and clouds rolled by our heads and over the mountains. Everything was bright and green except for a little village below with red roofs poking through the dense forest. The peak was a thin long line with drop offs into a thick patch of jungle on either side. The "line" was approximately the width of a small car and to have more than 2 people standing next to each other seemed risky. I have never felt so high up on any Utah mountain. After eating a brief lunch of some sticky rice and some sauce that tasted like sweet barbecue we tumbled down the mountain and walked to our school. I will never forget that hike or that view and how amazingly happy it made me feel. All in all it felt pretty great for a sick day.

-David Macey


Friday was the last day of teaching the 5th and 6th graders at Igpanolong. It was heartbreaking because I've grown so close to the kids. They make you feel like you've known them forever. The Filipinos are the nicest and most warm hearted people in the world. The children entertain themselves so amazingly. They have wheels from the scooters that they push with a wooden stick. Its hard to do it! but the kids are so good at it! They also go run around and catch snakes and spiders. When I came here I had a high fear of spiders. The leaders told us that when the kids bring out spiders to not act like you are scared. Just say "oh, how awesome!" and then the kids find that kinda boring and walk away. If you show you're scared they will keep chasing you with the insects! I've seen probably 12 spider fights and they are the coolest. The kids carry spiders in a small empty match box and carry a thin stick. They set two spiders on the stick and they fight till one of the spiders die. Its crazy, but I love watching it! The kids will also have the spiders crawl on their hands and arms and if the spider crawls faster and faster all they do is blow a little on the spider and the spider completely stops. You would think the spiders would bite them but they don't! So now I can say my fear of spiders has lessened a ton.
Today we also had the chance to go pick out some pigs to give to the school with the best essay that the kids have written. We saw some really cute small piggies, but then there was the huuuuge pigs... The pigs were bigger than me. The pigs heads were about the size of my whole torso. This country is seriously amazing. We went on a small hike to the top of a mountain above my groups school and it was jaw dropping once we reached the top.  The best 4th of July i've ever had. The most amazing view i've ever seen..

-Victoria Weight

Jeepney Adventures

So July 4th, 2014 is a day I won't soon forget. Not just because it's our Independence Day, but because of what happened to me; it was definitely the highlight of my trip. Basically here's how it goes. "The itsy-bitsy spider climbed down onto my face, off the jeep I go!" So it was the last day that we got to teach at our schools to all the little 5th and 6th graders and I tried so hard not to cry. I will truly never forget these kids. Anyways we were leaving and went down to another school and when we left that school that's when it happened. First, I have a deathly fear of spiders so you can kinda tell where this is going. I was riding on the back of the jeepney and one of the kids next to me pulls a spider off his leg and turns to show me; as soon as he turned, the spider dropped down onto my face. So I freaked out and jumped off the moving jeepney because I was so scared. I thought we were going slow enough that I could just jump off but next thing I knew, I was on the ground and the jeepney was driving faster than I realized! Dewey had grabbed me and held my hand, but soon let go because he knew that if he didn't, I would just drag. I stood up and I saw Rick sprinting towards me and everyone silent and staring at me. I looked down and my hand, leg and foot were bleeding a little.  I noticed my back was hurting so I turned to look and I had a little road rash. With everybody staring at me, it took every ounce of energy not to cry. Some of the leaders immediately started washing off my cuts and put some Neosporin on them. Then I got to lay down in the van the rest of the way home. Honestly, my life kind of flashed before my eyes and I thought I was going to die for a split second. It was also one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I'll never forget it though so you could say it was a pretty eventful day. After we got back, my cuts were cleaned and bandaged. I was exhausted and slept well that night!

-Tori Boyer

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Adventures in the Philippines

It's crazy how fast this week has gone by. I have loved every second and completely fallen in love with these kids. I have surprised myself  with all the food I have been so willing to eat and it has made my experience that much better! The food is amazing though and I think I might actually miss it, but not as much as the kids. Teaching was sort of a struggle, but all the notes I got from each student told me other wise. They loved all the lessons and hopefully got a little something out of each one. its absolutely shocking to me how something so little can make these kids glow. Like when we handed out their school supply kits, the smiles on their faces were priceless and they kept asking "For me?". It makes me appreciate all the things we are given back at home (like a working toilet) a thousand times more. We take so much for granted, I wish everyone could experience this to know the feeling and be more appreciative. Working on the buildings has been another experience that has changed my outlook on how we live. One of the days, all we had to do was move cement bricks from point A to point B and in a matter of seconds, every single kid was helping us, at least 20 of them carrying bricks to point B and running back to grab another. It seemed like a game to them or something and I kept asking if they wanted a break and they would just shake their heads and ask for another brick. The whole time I was just thinking how at home,  no kid would want to do that. They would probably just be playing games on their iPhones and iPads. So I loved seeing how willing they were to help. Another thing that I think is so crazy that just made my day was driving to and from the schools on top of the Jeepneys and seeing hundreds of faces light up when they saw us smile and wave at them. Everything here is so beautiful, especially the people. Saying goodbye is going to be hard but I just hope that this short week has made a difference to someone because I have been changed for sure. Mahal Kita!!

McKenna and I helping at Igpanolong 

Kids helping move bricks

The kids at my school (Salvacion)

The Magic of Maasin!

I can't believe how fast this week has gone by! Teaching was definitely a learning experience but was so much fun. My favorite part so far has been the people. They are so grateful that we are here to help them. The kids at my school don't speak much English but you can still tell that they are so excited for us to be there. Even though we are here to help them, they have done so much for us. I was so touched when I found out that the flowers lining the street up to the school were just for us. These Filipino people are amazing, literally wiping dirt from my hands and feet, feeding me more than I could ask for, and still asking what more they can do for me. I absolutely love it here and especially love these children. They are all so unique and have a special place in my heart. I love them so much and I can't imagine having to say goodbye.

-McKenna Morrison