Hosting the helpers

Nanay Virgie

Whether volunteers are getting their fill of food during their stay in Tacloban is the biggest concern of their host families, says host mother Nanay Virgie.

Nanay Virgie has been hosting volunteers since 2005. She has had 100 helpers from across the globe stay at her home in Bliss and some of them love it so much they have been back to stay with her up to five times.

“My biggest concern when I first started being a host was what food to serve them,” she said. “I asked VFV and they told me to prepare whatever Filipino food I normally serve and the volunteers will adapt to the culture.

“Sometimes volunteers are picky about what they eat but little by little I adjust. I will also make some things they are familiar with in their home country.”

For example, Nanay Virgie will serve up pancakes and French toast for breakfasts along with trying out more traditional Filipino dishes like Ibus on her guests. All volunteers with VFV stay in the Bliss community with a family and have their breakfast and dinner provided to them each day by their host family.

“There are 17 host mothers now and we will get together and talk about whether our volunteers are eating. It’s a big concern for us,” she said.

The majority of her volunteers have been from Canada, the US or UK. She said that generally she has no problems with her guests however one Canadian volunteer sticks firmly in her mind as he enjoyed a few too many beers and she found him vomiting outside her home. “There are no problems with the girls if they drink but the boys sometimes have too much,” she said smiling.

Nanay Virgie, who has five children of her own and 14 grandchildren, said she loves opening up her home to guests. “I enjoy meeting different kinds of volunteers and enjoy speaking English with them and improving my English. When I first started hosting I was shy to speak English but it has improved,” she said.

She also likes to give her volunteers a good send-off on the last night of their placement and will cook a special farewell dinner.

During Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) Nanay Virgie fled her home as the water rose and sought safety in a neighbour’s house that was more than

She had a volunteer who had been staying with her but went to Cebu for the weekend when the typhoon hit. Nanay Virgie said she was thankful that her volunteer was away as he would often lock his door and she was not sure he would have woken up even if she had been banging hard on the door.

Although Nanay Virgie and her family survived the disaster, her home was flooded by the typhoon and in the aftermath of the storm she was unable to accommodate volunteers in her home for six weeks as she and her family worked to clean up the mud and debris and make it liveable again.

She received her first volunteer after the typhoon on Christmas Day however electricity to her property was not restored until April.

During the blackout period torches, solar lights and candles were used in her home. “It was quite an experience for the volunteers. Always using torches and candles,” she said.

And so does she have a favourite volunteer? “I have no favourite because all my volunteers are so kind and beautiful.”

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer visit

*Written by volunteer Michelle Curran, journalist and editor from the UK

Leave Comment