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A Private International Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right



Becoming the Change They Want to See
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Fourteen students.

Three teachers.

One university volunteer.

One adult volunteer.

The numbers may not amount much, but for these 19 individuals, their journey to the Philippines spells C-H-A-N-G-E.


On Christmas Day 2015, the 19 individuals from the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) boarded the plane that took them to Manila, Philippines for a two-week mission trip as ANCOP volunteers. The group is the fifth batch of volunteers under the partnership between the school board and ANCOP.


In the group’s blog, faculty volunteer Michael Consul wrote, “While half way across the world, we will be helping in the construction of new homes for those less fortunate, assisting in a community clean up, visiting an orphanage, giving Christmas presents to five different villages, dancing, having fun, and most importantly, building relationships.”


On their first day, after settling in their hotel and hearing Mass, the group proceeded to pack the gifts they brought with them from Canada. All in all, the volunteers packed 53 bags, each containing 20 gift packs for the different orphanages and communities they would visit.


On Day 2, the students and adult chaperones headed for Tagaytay City for a brief sightseeing before going to the Canossian Sisters Convent for a teaching conducted by Sr. Haydee Librojo, FdBB. The time with her gave the volunteers a chance to prepare themselves spiritually before embarking on their work with the poor activities, like the visit to Tondo in Manila the following day.


In Tondo, they visited the street children being cared for by Centro Salvador St. Martin de Porres Mission. Afterwards, the group went off to Happyland, a barangay where the main means of livelihood was scavenging.


While there, the students came face to face with the harsh realities of the urban poor. In their day-to-day account, Consul wrote, “It was a lifestyle that we never imagined even existed.”


The verse “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much even more will be required.” from Luke 12:48 came alive for the volunteers as they spent an eventful day with the children of St. Martin and Happyland.


Consul added, “Now that we know what poverty exists beyond what we normally see, we can never ignore those less fortunate than ourselves.”


Before finally going into the spirit of ANCOP volunteerism, the ANCOP missionaries took the students to the Makati Business District where they came face to face with the opposite of poverty. In their website, the students expressed their reflections and reactions towards their experiences in Tondo and Makati. At this time, Consul led the students to the “gratitude rock” activity. He asked each person to pick a rock from the park, which from then on would become a physical reminder for them to be grateful every day for all the blessings they would receive, no matter how small.


On December 30, the volunteers interacted with the home partners from ANCOP AVANAI. New Year’s Eve was a day to get to know more about ANCOP and the work they do on education, shelter and community development. On New Year’s Day, the volunteers went to another ANCOP Community, the Our Lady of Banneux (OLB) Community in San Mateo, Rizal.


Interacting with the children and their families, sharing gifts and sharing their lives with the residents of the communities from AVANAI and OLB made the students realize how blessed they are, having been born in a first world country and able to enjoy luxuries that children their age in poor countries are not able to enjoy.


From January 2, the volunteers became almost mainstays in their official build site, the ANCOP Masagana Community in Quezon City. From morning till just before six in the evening, the volunteers cleared debris, unloaded trucks of construction materials, and helped build eight houses with the supervision of construction foremen.


On January 3, His Excellency Neil Reeder, Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines, with his wife Irene Hansen-Reeder, and the Hon. Senator Tobias C. Enverga Jr., the first Filipino-Canadian elected in the City of Toronto, who served as Trustee to TCDSB, visited the volunteers at the site. Together with CFC ANCOP President Jimmy Ilagan, the two distinguished gentlemen spent time working and having fun with the Canadian students and their adult chaperones. Ambassador Reeder and Senator Enverga affirmed the volunteers’ desire to reach out to the children and families from the various communities they visited. Furthermore, they also encouraged the young people to always be grateful for their blessings and to be blessings to others.


Like other volunteers before them, the students worked using their hands, enduring the heat of the sun during the four days they spent in Masagana. Like those who came before them, the volunteers worked tirelessly, happy to be doing something that will make a difference in the lives of others. But more than the physical work, what will remain with the volunteers for a long time is the experience of sharing their lives with the people they met during their two-week mission.


The volunteers’ time with the ANCOP community ended on January 13. In the evening of that day, they celebrated one last night of fellowship before returning to Toronto. And like those who came before them, they will be leaving not just a reminder of their hard work through the houses they helped build, but also a part of themselves in the hearts of the families in ANCOP Masagana. (A. Alvarez)





 

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