My cousin Ana Cook and I recently returned from a humanitarian trip to the Philippines to teach kindergarten.
We spent three weeks on the island of Palawan, south of the city of Aborlan, in a place called Tigman Village.
We lived like locals. I didn’t know what to expect upon arrival but whatever it was, it wasn’t what we received.
We lived in small rooms with water and electricity that only worked half the time. My bed was a mattress pad that was an inch thick that had only a sheet.
Without a refrigerator or a stove, we cooked food with homemade grill racks over a fire and stored food in cupboards.
Even though we couldn’t swim due to jelly fish, being able to be on the beach was quite the treat; however, it also made us so we were never really clean. Bucket showers weren’t much help in cleaning us off, but the cold water felt refreshing in the heat and humidity.
It was a humbling and fulfilling experience.
Amidst all the poverty that we noticed, we were in a classroom with 5- and 6-year-old children who truly had a love for their way of life.
We had the opportunity to play games and do activities with them. The smiles that radiated on their faces are something that I will always remember.
They are genuine and sincere. We taught them songs such as “5 Little Monkeys” and “The Bumblebee Song.” In turn, they taught us a song called “Fruit Salad.”
The children grew to love us, and we loved them in return.
It was great to teach them Red Rover and then see them still playing it days later. We also built paper headbands with them and saw children wearing them all day around the village.
It was a great experience to be able to share, especially with my cousin.
We were able to reflect on what we have and the opportunities that this great nation and community have afforded us.
We are truly blessed, and I recognize it now more than ever. My weeks in the Philippines are ones that I will never forget.