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From the Field

Rural school goes from strength to strength

Sir Jonah and his class

Mahon Elementary School has become one of the most desirable schools in Leyte thanks to a strong relationship with VFV.

The Tanauan school, about 45 minutes from Tacloban, was the recipient of VFV’s Adopt-A-School Project — delivering much-needed school supplies to underfunded rural schools — for five years.

The children at Mahon Elementary also benefit from the presence of VFV volunteer teachers.

“The volunteers help pupils a lot academically — their English is also strengthened as they learn correct pronunciation from listening to them,” said senior teacher Artemia Castillo who has taught at the school for 22 years.

“The volunteers have also donated resources; they donated materials especially after the typhoon.”

Typhoon Yolanda devastated the community killing 27 of Mahon Elementary’s pupils and leaving the surviving students severely traumatised.

Sir Michael and his fourth grade pupils

US volunteer Jonah Konop, who is teaching fifth grade at the school, said his time at the blackboard is shaping him as much as his pupils.

“I am a teacher but I am the one that is learning,” said the 18-year-old.

“I am learning what it is like to work in a community that is rebuilding after what felt like the apocalypse to them.

“I have a little girl who lost both her parents in the typhoon and yet she still comes to school to learn.”

Norwegian volunteer, Michael Stocker is teaching fourth grade for seven weeks. He too is impressed with his students’ resilience.

“This school was hit pretty hard; the students lost a lot of their friends,” he said.

Sir Jonah proving teachers can flip it as expertly as the kids

“My class is so polite and friendly and eager to learn — if I had a fourth grade class back in Norway it would be chaotic.”

Despite the heartache Yolanda brought to Mahon Elementary, the school’s reputation continues to grow.

“I asked a little girl, who moved from Manila to Tacloban, why she enrolled at Mahon,” said Jonah.

“She said it is the most put together school in Leyte.”

Would you like spend time helping children in underfunded schools? Click here to learn more about volunteering with VFV!

*Written by volunteer Emma Bailie, journalist from Australia


Posted in Education, News, Volunteer Abroad in the Philippines, Volunteer Program | Leave a comment

Making a difference around the globe

NZ volunteer Hugh Johnstone

There are a growing number of ‘volunteer travellers’ — globetrotters taking the opportunity to share their skills and knowledge and help a community in need while abroad.

For New Zealand volunteer, Hugh Johnstone, his time with VFV is the second stop on a 13-month-long trip volunteering around the world.

Hugh’s desire to see the world while also ‘giving something back’ took him to Jordan in the Middle East before his three-month stint working on VFV’s construction project. Next he will do farm work through WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms) in France before heading to China to teach English.

“I wanted to mix up my surroundings and experience somewhere other than New Zealand while at the same time making a difference in a country that needs help,” explained the 18-year-old.

Hugh is working alongside volunteers from Canadian non-profit organisation, Global Medic to build houses in rural Salvacion for families left homeless by Typhoon Yolanda.

Hugh and the site crew lay foundations

“I like the social aspect of this project and the sense that the work I am doing is having a direct impact on the area in need — instead of just the funding,” he said.

VFV construction volunteers can spend time working on the Build-A-Home or Build-A-School projects or they can be sent to aid larger construction projects in partnership with other NGOs.

Hugh painted on VFV’s last Build-A-Home project but said he has had the most fun working with the large local workforce at Salvacion.

“Meeting and spending time with the local guys is the best part of this experience,” said Hugh.

“They never run out of energy or humour; they always have reserves.

“It’s very energising for me!”

Hugh, Global Medic volunteers and local Salvacion workforce

“Hugh is hardworking and it has been great to get to know him,” said Neo, one of the local workers on site.

“We have taught him a little Waray; he will speak it well with a little more practise!”

Would you like to get your hands dirty and make a difference? Click here to learn more about volunteering with VFV!

*Written by volunteer Emma Bailie, journalist from Australia


Posted in Build-A-Home, Build-A-School, Disaster Relief, News, Volunteer Abroad in the Philippines, Volunteer Program | Leave a comment

Planting seeds of hope

VFV volunteer Daria Hammerschmidt in her community garden

Families in the rural village of Cangumbang, Palo now have their own community garden thanks to VFV volunteer Daria Hammerschmidt.

During her five months volunteering with VFV, Daria was inspired to create a project that would help move the people of Cangumbang towards self-sustainability.

The 20-year-old from Freiburg, Germany who plans to study medicine began her volunteer experience in a VFV-affiliated health clinic.

“I got the idea for creating my own project when I was fundraising for the clinic,” explained Daria.

“I raised more than $500 after sending just one mail to my family and friends — everyone at home said I could raise even more.”

After work at the clinic dried up Daria set her sights on developing her own project — one that would leave a lasting impact on a struggling community.

A local mother hard at work planting seeds

“I decided to start a project that would provide Cangumbang with a source of income.”

Funds raised in Germany were used to purchase tools and seeds and Daria and VFV negotiated a land deal for the garden.

From May to September Daria worked closely with the local families planting a variety of fruits and vegetables including: tomato, bittern melon, cucumber, pineapple, corn, banana and roots crops like cassava.

The mothers and children harvest the crops and sell them with 50% of the profits paid to the mothers for their work and 50% going back into the garden.

“This community garden is a powerful way to help the people of Cangumbang,” said VFV Sponsorship Program Coordinator Maila Lesterio.

Cangumbang Community Garden

“It is much more effective to educate a local community on how they can help themselves rather than only giving them what they need.”

Would you like to make a difference in the lives of a community in need? Click here to find out more about volunteering with VFV!

*Written by volunteer Emma Bailie, journalist from Australia

Posted in Education, News, Volunteer Abroad in the Philippines, Volunteer Program | Leave a comment
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