Oktober 2017 – the poorest of the poor

Another month filled with amazing experiences is over and I wish I could go back to the beginning just so I could live through all of them once again. 
I left Fatima Center in Iriga on the first of October and now moved to Naga City for good.
 My new work here is at the Joseph Gualandi school for hearing impared children together with another volunteer, who arrived in here October 3rd . Working with her and working itself fills me with so much joy every single day. Getting up early in the morning is so much easier knowing that I will get to go to work at this amazing place and actually do something that will change lives for the good.
 Our task at Gualandi is helping the sisters cook snacks and lunch for the approx. 45 children. We also help them when it comes to eating since a lot of the children are still very young or just simply don’t know how to use spoon and fork for eating. It is not that their parents never taught them how to use spoon and fork because they are savages, which one might think just by looking at them behaving, but rather because they just can’t afford buying silverwear. I was wondering why the children don’t know simple tasks like that but once the sisters shared with me how poor most of the families are a lot of things became clear to me. They also offered both of us to join them for house visits to the poorest of the poorest families. The sisters at Gualandi try to visit the families of the students as regular as possible. When doing so, they bring them groceries and look at the current situation that the family is in. They help as much as they can and even if they only have very little themselves, they share it. 
Another task that we are sharing at Gualandi is teaching 3 students who need special attention when it comes to lipreading, speaking, writing and solving simple math problems. I really enjoy teaching those children. They are full of joy and appriciate everything we do for them. When we noticed that they have small problems with their short term memory we decided to make a memory-game for them. We went to a bookstore, bought old books and crafted a game by cutting out pictures from the books and sticking them on cardboard. Both, the kids as well as the sisters, loved our idea and enjoyed playing the game. By now we can already see them advancing at playing the game.
It was also 2 of our 3 students that we got to visit when we went out for the house visits. All in all we visited 8 families. 5 of them are living in the Naga area, 1 in Pili and for the other 3 we had to drive further into the middle of nowhere. Visiting them, we volunteers brought them homemade cookies and the Gualandi sisters shared some groceries and rice with them. 
It is very hard to find the right words to describe the feelings I had while visiting the families. The poorest of them lived in Balatas, right by the dumpside. The student is in 4th grade and her parents are collecting trash and selling it for a living. The mother is currently pregnant with their 8th child and their house is just a hut build out of cardboard boxes and trash, not bigger than our pantry back home in Germany. I did not feel bad seeing them and I was not scared of being there as some people might would have been. I took everything in and tried to understand that these people might be very poor and live in bad conditions but they are still happy. The kids eyes where still bright and even the pregnant mother had a big smile on her face when we gave her our homemade cookies. 
Other families that we visited invited us inside of their house. With two sisters and us two volunteers, the house was already crowded. Most of them had only one bed for the whole family, usually a big bamboo plank that is used for sitting on during the day, eating on for breakfast, lunch and dinner and sleeping at night. The houses where build out of bamboo, wood, leaves and cardboard. When entering, almost everyone appologized for not having chairs for us to sit on and everytime it seemed so totally out of places for them to worry about us not sitting. I felt very welcomed at every family and instead of feeling ashamed for being poor and needing help from us, they openly showed their appriciation for our help and that felt amazing. 
Some of the families shared their stories with the sisters, who then translated those stories into english for us. One of our student’s father is a fisherman. On a good day he catches one kilogram of fish, which he then gets to sell for 100 pesos at the market. 100 pesos are not even 2 Euros. 2 Euros a day for a family of 4, on a good day, is not enough by far. 
The sister shared with us that most of the families don’t pay for their childrens tuition just because they can’t afford it, yet the sisters believe that everybody deserves and needs education and therefor still make sure that the children are able to visit Gualandi.
It was really an amazing opportunity for us to visit those families, see their homes, their way of living and get to know the mentallity. Poverty is always present in this country and we see it whenever we leave the apartment but actually being invited into the houses and learning more about the stories of the families really hit me in a deep way. I am glad that I am able to do my best to help those children learn, help educate them and therefor help them secure a better future for themselves and their children.

Attached are pictures of giving out snacks and drinks to deaf and mute children in Tigaon where we taught sign language as well as a picture of me trying to figure out their names by having them write it on the blackboard, of cooking at Gualandi and with a student of ours .


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