Staying in a home stay is an essential component of any VFV volunteer program, a support system for volunteers throughout their project and length of stay here in Bliss. It enables the volunteers to connect with members of the community much quicker and easier, by learning from the inside out, how members of the community live their lives. The journey from a volunteer’s home to a local family’s home makes the transition from one country to another, much smoother. With the introduction of everyday routine and values which volunteers may find in their own home, volunteers can quickly adapt to their new environment, avoiding culture shock, and socializing with members of the community. Staying with a family means that not only does the volunteer learn from the family, but the family learns from the volunteer, benefiting both parties. I spoke to a number of “Nanays” here in Bliss on the main reasons behind them being “Nanay’s”.
What a “Nanay” means varies from one household to another. Some Nanays see it as a role to “serve”, to “accept their volunteer” and to “only prepare foods to take care of my volunteer”, according to Nanay Nene, Nanay Virgie and Nanay Cudiang. Whilst other Nanay’s see their role as a “second mother” to the volunteers, such as Nanay Rosemarie, who “gives them advice what to expect here, to make themselves comfortable, and to be a friend to them also.” Whilst Nanay Vilma highlights her role as a second mother by giving house rules for their own protection, “after Yolanda we feel Tacloban is less safe. I don’t wan’t you to get hurt. Protection wise, we look into your needs as a second mother, I am thankful they abide.”
Each Nanay is a Nanay for a number of reasons, however the the main drive behind each home stay is the enjoyment of meeting and talking to the volunteers. Nanay Rosemarie speaks of how “it gives me pleasure to meet other cultures and experience different cultures from all over the world” as well as improving her English, which is also mirrored with Ate Tess and how being a home stay has improved her ability in speaking English, which has in turn, benefited her job as a sales lady. This is also prevalent in Nanay Josefina, as “my son learns more” through improving his English, but also meeting different nationalities whom being different cultures with them to Bliss. Whilst some Nanay’s appreciate the extra income that being a home stay brings, helping out with their finances.
The Nanay’s have hosted a number of different types of volunteers from places all over the world such as: Norway, Canada, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, UK, Switzerland, Holland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Japan and Italy. However all share the same desires of type of volunteer who would stay at their house; someone who obeys, and when facing a problem will “always talk to me” says Nanay Nene, someone “who is not picky with their food” says Nanay Virgie, as “if they have a stomach problem, then it is your burden as they are under your care” furthers Nanay Rosemarie. Nanay Vilma expects volunteers to “understand our place and our conditions”, that they have come to make a difference, taking volunteering seriously, that they “are really here for volunteering” Nanay Rosemarie comments, as Ate Tess explains, “I can see their attitude”. All of the Nanay’s hope for “quiet, helpful and happy volunteers” but also “loving, sweet, thoughtful, caring, generous and kind” volunteers, according to both Nanay Cudiang and Ate Tess.
But it can be hard for some Nanay’s and their volunteers to communicate in English to one another, addressing their concerns or welfare. Although all Nanay’s have had more than their fair share of good volunteers, “sometimes they are good, sometimes they are not”, as Nanay Cudiang kindly puts whilst laughing a hearty chuckle to me. Recollections of volunteers being terrified by insects, animal noises, even enforcing their own strict rules, as well as communication faults and disliking traditional meals, are the drawbacks of being a Nanay. Ate Tess speaks of her biggest challenge of attending on a volunteer who was both mute and deaf, whom she helped continuously throughout her stay, and she found “a little bit hard”. This act of kindness by Ate Tess, as well as the strength and resolution the volunteer had in coming here, is inspiring and makes Ate Tess’s role as a Nanay even more rewarding.
Each Nanay is forever thankful for VFV and the volunteers they bring. Some Nanays speak of instances when volunteers help out their families, as well as the financial help which is implemented through the home stay program. Nanay Vilma describes the Nanays as “fortunate”, that they are “privileged” to have VFV, because of the amount of children that are being sponsored and whom are given the opportunity to further their education. Also that “there are no fights between mums as mothers club” is in place, and that it has “changed the lands and the people” by being a big help to Nanays and the community. Ate Tess comments, “I really like to be a home stay til VFV still functions”. Their obvious immense satisfaction with the volunteers, as well as the other positive attributes and effects that being a home stay brings to each Nanay as well as the community, is highlighted through their eagerness to host more and more volunteers every year.
Written by Vicky Carter