On Saturday 24 November, 16 Year 11 students and 3 accompanying staff members embarked on the 2018 Year 11 Philippines Immersion. This includes two students from our sister school, St Joseph’s College in Northam.
Our first experience on this life changing journey was meeting Fr Shay Cullen from the Columban Fathers at the PREDA foundation. Father Shay exemplifies the importance of faith in action and is a living example of Jesus message ‘let the little children come to me’ Matthew 9:14. During our time at PREDA we gained an understanding of the, realities and political complexities that enable the erosion of child rights across the Philippines. The PREDA Foundation is comprised of a Home for Girls, which helps to grow advocates for the rights of young women who have been victims of human trafficking and exploitation. PREDA also seeks to support young men who have been incarcerated in their Home for Boys and supports the Indigenous population which was our next experience.
We had the privilege of living in harmony and collaboration with the Aeita Indigenous Village of Alibang, where PREDA develops organic, free trade and sustainable practices for preserving indigenous Filipino culture. Here we experienced the real implications of climate change and the impact this has had on the mango harvest- a significant source of income for these Indigenous peoples. We then visited the PREDA Boys Home, which helps to grow awareness for children who have been held in jails and detention centres before visiting a youth detention centre in the city of Manila. At the detention centre we were able to see PREDA in action as PREDA social workers conducted a parenting seminar in the hopes of building strong families and communities.
Other key experiences we were fortunate to encounter were: The Fatima centre, Smokey mountain in the Tondo community, ERDA and the Kuya Centre for Street Children. Each one of these organisations provided us with an opportunity to encounter and engage with some of the most disadvantaged people of the Philippines. Each organisation gave us a deep insight into the many social justice issues facing the people of the Philippines as we walked together in solidarity. The experience left us with a desire to do and be better, we gained so much from these relationships and learnt many important lessons from all those we walked with. As a group we have left this experience inspired to be advocates for change in our own lives, in our school community and in our wider society.
All of the people we walked with truly showed us what it means to put faith in action and we feel inspired to do the same. The overwhelming take away or message of this experience can be summarised by our group motto ‘different circumstances, same dream’. We hope that we can share our experiences with others and now feel empowered to truly make a difference in the world.