I find it somewhat of a paradox to write a testimonial for volunteers when usual procedures often require the reverse. However when we reflect on the times of Philippe and Isabelle, Volunteer for the Visayans (VFV) is filled with the fondest memories of two extremely dedicated individuals who far surpassed the expectations of each and every single member of staff.
Philippe, a computer engineer by trade and Isabelle, a licensed teacher, both chose to participate in our volunteer to teach in rural schools project for a period of one month starting in January 2011.
Each of them were assigned at Mohon Elementary School, a small and quaint rural school in the coastline town of Tanauan, Leyte where they would instruct grade five and six pupils during morning classes. Over the years, VFV has assigned a number of international volunteers to teach at the school in order to provide assistance in over-crowded classroom environments, to augment support to over tasked local teachers and most importantly, to provide native English speakers to enhance the pupil’s education. Without question, Philippe and Isabelle were happy and enthusiastic to begin their volunteer work, not even the heavy January rain and flooding seemed to dampen their spirits!
For many the story would have ended there, but for Philippe and Isabelle it continued. The duo decided to extend their services by choosing to participate with projects related to VFV’s Community and Child Sponsorship Program. These were additional activities undertaken outside of their regular commitment. As an organization, we do not necessarily demand such dedication; however the pair seemed more than happy to go that extra mile, completing all of their tasks with their usual bright and happy faces.
From the get go, Philippe put his expertise as a computer engineer to good use by repairing the second hand donated computers in our office so that they could be used for computer literacy classes with children enrolled on our Child Sponsorship Program. At the same time, Isabelle conducted after-school tutorials with our High School sponsored kids every day between 5.30 and 6.30pm, a task which is often described by former volunteers as one of the most difficult endeavors and by far the most challenging tutorial group to manage.
If that was not enough, Philippe and Isabelle also infused their passion for ballroom dancing with a wide range of demographics, dispelling the common misconception that the art form was only for old people. In particular the couple practiced successfully with members of our Mothers Club, homestays, Youth Clubs and Dumpsite Kids for the duration of their stay and are now sorely missed after their departure.
On Saturdays, the pair furthered their support by accompanying VFV staff and local volunteers into Tacloban City Dump Site to assist in monitoring and profiling the activity of children working there. Such work was conducted in order to assist VFV’s long term commitment to rehabilitating children from working in the site.
In closing, all of our staff were amazed by the initiative and dedication of both Philippe and Isabelle; a quality which is not always seen in every volunteer. Community Program Coordinator WimwimCanayong described the pair as a “power couple” and described their departure as a “heavy to the heart goodbye”. At the same time, a dedicated local volunteer searched his infamous book of proverbs to quote:-
“Always render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be” – OgMandino
It is reassuring at a time when international volunteering has been heavily scrutinized in the media to find such a ‘power couple’ who act as the embodiment of what can truly be achieved through the decision to volunteer abroad.
On behalf of everyone at Volunteer for the Visayans, we wish Philippe and Isabelle success and happiness in the future and hope that they will never forget the lives they touched on a little island called Leyte.
Amis Au Revoir!