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Toronto Catholic students Immerse in ANCOP
Friday, January 13, 2017

On December  27,  2016, student  leaders  from  the Toronto Catholic  District School  Board  embarked on a life-changing journey.


The group, composed of 23 students, four teachers and  one  adult volunteer from the Toronto Catholic District School Board, and who call themselves Team #PH2016,  left  their  families  and  boarded  a plane to Manila to put their faith into action by serving the poor through CFC ANCOP.


Aside from their personal effects, each member of the group carried a second luggage filled with as many donated goods as they were able  to  accumulate.   The goods  were  to  be  distributed  to the  five  AnCOP villages,  one  orphanage and one elementary school they  were  scheduled  to visit. 


The  first  stop  after  the airport was a visit to Barangay Don Galo elementary School to play with the kids and drop off donations in the form of school supplies. Then they were off to last year’s build site, Sitio Masagana in Quezon City. 


Their  next  few  days were  filled  with  visits  to other  sites, including  to the  mountainous  area  of San Mateo to visit AnCOP village – Our Lady of Banneux,  the  2013-14  build site of AKC – ANCOP Kapatid Community, a feeding center in Payatas, Quezon City, the ANCOP AVANAI community in Visayas Avenue in Quezon City, and an ANCOP community in Tarlac.


But  it  wasn’t  all  immersion  work  for Team#PH2016.   On new Year’s eve,  the  students took  a  tour  of  the  capital city  of Manila  and celebrated the countdown to the new  Year  at  the Mall of Asia.


They  also  appeared  on the  Good  Morning  Pilipinas morning show, sharing with the hosts their joy and excitement at being part of this mission team.


They  had  the  opportunity  to  visit  the  homes of  some  of  the kids  they played with at the feeding center in Payatas. The team was  amazed  that  despite the  living  conditions  of the children,  which  is  a far  cry  from  their  experience back home in Canada, the students realized  that the  people  are  happy. As some of them later shared, they realized that it is not material things that make people  happy,  but  rather family,  relationships, and community. 


To  show  that  the  Philippines  has  another  face, the hosts took the student volunteers to visit the city of Makati. They marveled that Payatas  and  Makati are  drastically  different. The  highlight  of their Makati visit was a tour of the American War Heroes Memorial, where they had a debriefing and discussed the  contrast  between the haves and have-nots. 


As  of  this  writing,  the volunteers  are  preparing to  leave.   But for  all  of them,  parting  is  indeed such  sweet  sorrow. Tears were  already  shed  each time  they  had  to  leave  a site.


According  to  the  students, the mission trip allowed them to experience a whole gamut of emotions from happiness at playing with the kids at the feeding center,  to  sadness  at  leaving them behind knowing that  they  would  probably never  see  them again,  to joy  at  reconnecting  with them in their community, to depression at seeing the living  conditions  in  the surround areas, to motivation as they became aware of poverty outside of their normal lives, and desire to help and give back.


All of the students agreed that  now  that  they  know what poverty exists beyond what  they  normally  see, they will never be able to ignore those less fortunate than  themselves.  And  as with  the previous  batches of students who have come to Manila for this unique experience, the lives of the students of Team #PH2016 will never be the same. (Michael Consul)





 

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