DWC in The Philippines March 2024 March 5, 2024

Posted in on March 5, 2024


DWC team in Philippines March 2024

By Marcia Julian-DWC Team Leader

One of the most amazing gifts of returning to a country that you have worked in previously with Developing World Connections, is that of reconnecting with friends. When we arrived in Cebu on Saturday, we were delighted to have a brief visit with Nida and her family in the home that we built in 2016. Nita, her daughters, and mother proudly showed off their home and the refrigerator purchased by Cathy from our team eight years ago. We were also happy to spend time visiting with Abi, Elispet and Flemming and to purchase Recybags to bring home. Recybags are made locally from recycled plastic feed bags. Local women in Cebu are employed in this business, to design and make these beautiful, unique works of art for sale. I still have mine from eight years ago and it’s used almost daily!

Day 1 – March 4, 2024

By Marcia Julian-DWC Team Leader

It was so much fun to arrive on our first day at the worksite to the beautiful greetings of about 80 children and their teachers. We were greeted with songs, poems and dance and the waving of Canadian flags! It reminded us all of why we do this incredibly important work! …..and then we got to work!

The school had been heavily damaged by the most recent typhoon. Two teams had come before us, and had helped to repair the roof, windows, and other structures. it is now our job to continue those repairs with the building of soffits, facia, eaves, troughs, and downspouts. In addition, there will be work done on a gate and railings for the stairs.

The work today was painting the boards and digging and cementing the hole for the gate structure.

Day 2 – March 5, 2024

By Cameron

While having our 7am breakfast, I asked the servers if their language was Tagalog, because I felt it was time we had a better understanding of their culture. We were all surprised to learn that the language of this part of the Philippines is Cebuano, originating in Taiwan then Tagalog and Spanish colonization over 300 years. We learned a few conversational words such as “kitakits”, which means “see you later”, and “Kaloyan ka sa Dios”, which an older person (such as us) says when a younger person grabs the older person’s hand and places it, back of hand to the younger person’s forehead. We learned that it is a sign of deep respect for older people – there were many school children hat walked up to us to do this spontaneously. We were in awe, needless to say, and jolted by the discordance with our own culture. We asked and found out the following day, that “Kaloyan ka sa Dios” could be our response, which means ” God’s blessings to you”.

Chalkboard with Philippine language

This prompted me to forge ahead and find Cebuano phrases that it would be handy to learn. I then asked for some chalk and wrote the first few phrases on the storage room wall. I particularly loved “Walay Problema” which sounds a little like “no problemo” from the Movie, ‘The Terminator’ and amazingly, it means the same thing!

At 8am our trusty driver, Nake got us up to the school in about 30 minutes. The road ascends into the mountains from which we have views of jungled mountain peaks all around us. Houses dot the jungle and here and there are outcroppings of ancient coral beds that were pushed up long ago. John and I learned yesterday, when digging a hole for the new gate post, that just below the surface is ancient coral which has turned into limestone. So we chipped and pounded the hole with a heavy crowbar, barely chipping a handful of rock out of the hole each 10 minutes. Finally, at about noon, we had a hole that was about 15″ deep, and since it was surrounded by rock, the post would hold a gate very well once we made up some concrete to set the post in.

Today, we met our very dear friends Gabe (Rise above master builder) and his partner, Marie. We had not seen them since 2016, and they were hale and hardy, just as we remembered them. Gabe gave us all his overall plan for the work – Flemming asked the women if they would like to help with lunch preparation and was answered with a resounding “give us some work that DWC volunteers need!” He replied, “Good, you can work up on the scaffolding or do a lot of sanding of the boards you painted yesterday”. They chose sanding!

DWC volunteers riding in bus Philippines

John and I were tasked with helping Flemming and Gabe collect a refrigerator from on of the local people associated with the school. The reason being, during the two-week project, many vegetables etc. would be needed by the volunteers, hence the fridge. John and I felt uncomfortable to be taking someone’s fridge back to the school, but apparently, they insisted according to the Flemming, so we pushed the fridge along the beautiful clean tile floor, and tilted it to carry, and of course, the water condensate pan spilled water all over the floor! We carried the fridge up the van, shoved it onto a plastic box to keep it slightly tilted, jumped back in the van and took it to the school. John and I, being Canadian and hearing how a fridge can be wrecked if it is moved, and as to sit for three hours before it is plugged back in, were relieved to learn that the fridge was perfectly healthy and started right up after being set up in the storage room of the school, where we keep all the tools.

The rest of the volunteers split into three groups. One group sanded the many narrow boards which will be placed in the overhead soffits to let air flow into the school,

DWC volunteer carrying wooden slats Philippines
DWC volunteers sanding beam Philippines

one group sanded the many light steel sheet metal lengths that will form the underlaying soffit structure that the rock boards are fastened to.

DWC volunteers sanding wooden slats Philippines

Then the zinc coated steel was primed with red rust resistant primer where the humidity had already begun to corrode the steel. Wood has to be painted here because of termites and cockroaches which eat coconut wood “like candy” Another team of Cathy and John was formed to cut and nail the long-painted pieces into what looks like a ladder, which will be used to give the soffit vents a frame to be attached to.

DWC volunteers assembling framework Philippines

Tata and Rommel mounted the scaffold, attached the steel facia braces and welded reinforcements to them. Rock board will be attached to the backing another day; as i said before, they use mineral based boards whenever possible because of termites and rot from humidity and heat.

For lunch some of us had canned tuna, lettuce, cucumber slices and tomatoes on bread and others just had everything wrapped in lettuce. Marie said lettuce and cucumbers are not commonly eaten here.

Local Filipino at project site

We did have a unique fruit, a pomelo, which seems to be a cross between a lemon and a grapefruit.

DWC volunteers with local fruit Philippines

It breaks into segments, and the segment is peeled, the large seeds removed, then the segment is opened into a fan like flower, salted lightly, then eaten. It has a lemony flavour, and is a real thirst quencher, especially when lightly salted – we perspired so much working in the blazing sun, we need salt supplementation along with frequent water.

DWC Team Leader holding frayed fruit

Rise Above made sure we had large ‘water fountain’ water bottles, mounted in a dispenser that cooled as well as heated potable water.

We wrapped up a very busy day at 3pm and Nake was ready to drive us into Toledo City since it was the nearest location with a bank, since Marcia as team leader, needed extra funds for our team. We arrived at the Ranch around 4:15 ready for showers, and a bit of well deserved relaxation before dinner at 6:30. Gayle was voted the best dressed post-project volunteer.

DWC volunteer in hotel lobby Philippines

Day 3 – March 6, 2024

By Cathy Green

DWC volunteer working on wood slats with children watching Philippines

Today was our third day on the site.  By the time we arrived at 8:30, the kids were already in their classes and the air was heating up under a strong sun and a cloudless blue sky.

John and I continued and finished the work we had been doing yesterday.  We measured and cut pieces of primed wood to create 10 ladder-like shapes that will, when painted again and with screen stapled on, create a strip of ventilation to run along the soffit of the roof.  Marcia and Gayle cut a roll of coarse screen into strips to act as a leaf guard in the new eavestroughs we will soon install.  Cam worked with Tatta and Romeo, two local welders, and eventually John, to add a strip of metal along the wall in order to fasten the ventilation and soffit to the building.

John and Cam working with Tatta on the brackets for the soffit.

DWC volunteers on scaffolding Philippines

It was what happened around recess time that I want to tell you about. This is my 10th DWC trip.  Besides liking adventure and helping to make dreams come true through projects in communities around the world, my favourite thing is to be part of meeting and interacting with our global family.

Hands rolling mesh Philippines

Today, the children of the school seemed to become very comfortable with us being there.  I was helping Marcia and Gayle cut screening and became aware of several children watching us carefully.  One little fellow placed his hand on the screen and then his little friend put his hands on to keep it from winding back up.  Soon we had all sorts of little hands working alongside us doing just what was needed.  They were helping and the smiles and then laughter showed  how good they felt to be part of the project.

Developing world connections through working together on a common task.- the best!

Meanwhile, over in another part of the school yard, John was drilling and hammering.  As I went over to see his progress, I saw that he, too, was surrounded by an intent group of kids watching and absorbing.  John invited the kids to try pushing the drill to make it go, and several tried it.  A couple of kids moved right in, and following John’s every move, anticipated his next steps by handing him nails, and the little sticks he was hammering in to make the frame.

DWC volunteer with electric drill

When John invited little Isla to try making the drill run, she shied away at first, but after she tried it, she stayed at his elbow for the rest of the project, and then never left the area until she had to go to class.  At the end of the day, she and her little friend, Divine, came back to hang around us, and they were the last to say “see you tomorrow” as we left in the van.

That’s Isla in the pink pants.

Young girl sweeping up construction debris Philippines

There she is again .  It shows the power of encouraging a little girl.

Then Gayle was sitting by herself relaxing when one by one, little ones started to come closer and closer.  They just wanted to see if they might interact with her.  The answer was ”of course”. Gayle has a special time with the kids.

Isla and Divine, but Isla is still checking out where John is.

Philippine children faces

These special moments that played out today are the tapestry of wonderful trips.  We have been warmly welcomed by this school and community, and we are eager to see what tomorrow brings.

Day 4 – March 7, 2024

By Gayle Hampton

Today started out much like the others except we did get a little reprieve from the heat. There were a few clouds in the sky but it never rained. It’s a good thing as we still had a little of painting to do and needed to lay everything in the sun to dry. We were able to cut screening for the soffits. The “boys” worked on something requiring their climbing on a scaffolding making their spouses a little on the nervous side.

Us “girls” were working on paint jobs, always being so careful, but today managed to turn over a bucket of paint! Gabriel picked up as much as he could with two pieces of cardboard and put dirt on what was left.

A mother picking up her child joined us to help lay out our finished jobs.

The children have warmed to us a little more each day. They have been a great help holding screening that wanted to roll back the way it was when we were trying to get it to go our way

Work was started today on an iron gate for the entrance to the school. Watching Romero fashion a lock mechanism had John in awe.

The children have become more comfortable with us every day. At lunchtime today some children sang an impromptu song for us. They are a bright and beautiful lot. It’s fun to see the classroom that has been emptied of students to make room for all the materials needed, suddenly seem a little emptier.

We are all hot but happy and nothing seems to dampen anyone’s spirit.

Schoolchildren Philippines

Day 5 – March 8, 2024 – Friday

By John Greven

DWC volunteer painting soffit Philippines

Morning arrived early as usual, up at 6:30 am, breakfast at seven, leave for site at 8 and hard at it by 9.

It’s warm but not hot as Cam & John continue to do metal work to support the soffit boards. They worked the entire day on this with smiles of a job well done by the end of the day. Cathy, Marcia & Gayle have been painting and stapling screening to the frames that will allow air movement through the attic of the building housing the classrooms. Once completed they continued priming and painting metal work for the gables of the school. They spent the entire day in the hot sun. It is amazing to see how well our team works together. Laughter & conversation reigned supreme over work that was very tiring and repetitive.

DWC volunteers in Philippines painting soffit covers

The two workers who have been constructing a hinged security gate and fencing for the past 3 days received congratulations from our team for another job well done.

It was decided to stop earlier than usual today as it is Friday and the suggestion of a hike to a nearby waterfall called out to our group as a great way to begin the weekend. After a long, hard, hot day Cam and John decided on an alternate plan involving a swimming pool and a cold beverage. It’s the beginning of weekend, we’re half way through the project & on schedule. We are looking forward to meeting the 4 Sales Force volunteers who will join us on site next Monday for the remainder of the project.

DWC volunteers in Philippines working on security fence

All is well, thanks to all of you who are reading this blog. Most of you are our friends and relatives who vicariously support us on our DWC adventures.

Weekend Blog

By Marcia

The weekend started on Friday afternoon at the end of work. While Cam and John travelled back to the hotel Cathy, Gayle and I took up Jessa’s offer of a hike to the nearby Busay falls. It was a 3 km hike up and down (mostly up!! 🤣) jungle trails past the children’s homes to a beautiful falls and swimming hole known mostly to the locals. We went with a mother and a teacher from the school and two unstoppable little boys. It was magic!

March 11, 2024 – Monday

By Girish

DWC volunteer and Philippine Schoolchildren

Our volunteer group embarked on an inspiring journey today as soon as we arrived at the school. The day unfolded with a warm welcome from the school children, teachers and staff. The children greeted us with several songs and the national anthem, setting the stage for a day of collaboration, creativity, and community spirit. For the last item of the Welcome agenda the children invited us to dance along to the  “Rivers of Babylon” – no better way to start moving and get the day going!

Before diving into our tasks, we had the privilege of mingling with the students. Laughter and conversations created an instant connection, making us feel a part of something special. The positive energy among the children set the tone for the day ahead.

DWC volunteer and Philippine Schoolchildren

It was now time for the group to start working! First up was a meeting with the construction lead Gabe and his crew. We were then roughly organized into 3 teams.

Floor drawing board Philippines

The first team took charge of painting the soffits in preparation for installing the metal supports required for mounting the screen vents. Much discussion occurred including sketching on a “drawing board” (aka floor) to evaluate the options prior to identifying a go ahead solution. Some of the team members then broke off to pick up and transport metal pipes needed to construct a scaffolding, and they moved on to help with the other painting tasks.The rest of the team continued with installation of the supports and the vents.

The second team embraced the task of adding some color to the school’s fence with enthusiasm. The green color transformed the fence into a vibrant boundary!

The third team, armed with sandpaper and paint brushes, worked diligently on sanding and priming the front gate. The plan is to apply the same green paint to the gate during the rest of the week to add uniformity across the entire school.

As the day drew to a close, a sense of accomplishment filled the air. Lot of progress was made and much fun was had by the entire group. This can be seen in some of the “before” and “after” pictures below. Beyond the physical improvements, the connections formed with the children, teachers and the volunteer organization as well as their local partner group, and the shared sense of purpose made this day of volunteering truly special. Huge thanks to Marie and Jessa for keeping the group well hydrated and fed throughout the day!

March 12, 2024 – Tuesday 

By Sarah

This was the second day on site for the Salesforce folks and we, along with our DWC friends, were ready to venture back out into the sun for an early 8:30 start. There was lots of work waiting for us as we split off again into smaller groups whilst the children would come and visit us between their break times. Now as someone who was born and raised in Canada with a Filipino heritage, I felt a sense of belonging visiting the Philippines again. Though I wasn’t raised to be fluent in the language, this trip has made me realize the power of human connection and non-verbal communication. And I’m glad to have finally come back home after almost 2 decades. 

Painting back fence at school Philippines

Diving into the day, Girish and I started to paint the back side of the school fence in this vibrant green that would face the road. With the help of our trusty paint roller and strategic ladder maneuvering, we were able to get some good coverage. We even had some little helpers stop by and help us paint for a bit as well!  

Cam, John, and Tony went on to install the supports for the vents, diligently moving their scaffold from one side of the school to the other. Also a big shout-out to Tony, who transitioned from an entry-level construction worker to a senior-level position by the end of the day! Nearing the end of the day we also were able to paint the fascia white with the help of our paint rollers. 

Then continuing from the work done yesterday to the gate, Gayle, Cathy, and Morgan began painting the first coat of green which really made a huge difference in appearance. I could hear the echoes from the children running up and down the stairs reading the “Basa Pinta” signs, warning their friends not to touch the Wet Paint. Gabe also began teaching us how to cut and install the small glass panes to the windows in the classroom and Morgan became an expert at that by the end of the day as well!  

Do not touch wet paint signs Philippines

We broke for lunch and had some nice fresh fruits and vegetables waiting for us thanks to Jessa and Marie. The sweet mangoes were definitely a staple that kept spirits high to end the rest of the day strong! 

Another day drawing to a close, and it’s nice to see the amount of work and skill you’re able to take back home with you on trips like these. I’m excited to see what else we have in store for the week ahead! 

March 13, 2024 – Wednesday

By Morgan

Waterfalls Philippines

Midweek and the team has gotten in the grove. When we first arrive to the site we take off right away continuing on the projects we have started to get a quick start to the morning. John, Cam & Tony skillfully tackled the soffits (constructing, cutting, installing, and painting). A labor of love as this task will help keep the roof protected and help with air circulation for the kids. Gayle, Sarah & Girish tackled some additional painting including the center poles on the stage and repainting the front gate since it’s a high traffic point. The difference is absolutely awesome!

I, myself, finished up cutting and inserting glass into the windows for the classrooms, while enjoying breaks to hang out with the kids! Last but most certainly not least, Cathy & Marcia got started on their glasses project and had an amazing turnout! Many local women (mothers of the children) showed up for an education session by the dental hygienists and they are able to get many women fitted with reading glasses and sunglasses. Cathy shared they had many laughs as some women confident they have amazing eyesight were in awe of how great their eyesight could actually be with the help of some readers!

Very productive work day but the fun didn’t end there! Most the team took a slight early finish to hike to the waterfall with two local teachers! We were SHOCKED by how strenuous it was and that the kids do this regularly on their way to school. We were honored to get the opportunity to see where the kids live. The trek was no joke and even included some bouldering to pull ourselves up back to land. Worth it for the stunning views and local treasure!

Great day here in Toledo City and we are looking forward to another one tomorrow!

Hiking into waterfalls Philippines

March 14, 2024 – Thursday

By Tony Tao

Volunteers with schoolchildren Philippines

Reflecting on my recent volunteer experience in the Philippines, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and fulfillment. Working to restore an elementary school in a rural area was transformative, leaving lasting mark on my heart. From the warm welcome of the Filipino community, contagiousness smiles from the kids to the various working projects, every moment was significant.

On day 4/5 (for Salesforce Employees) of our volunteer project, we started with a quick breakfast, marveling at how swiftly the week had passed. Despite a slightly later departure, our group dove straight into our work at Caba Asan Elementary School. Throughout the day, we tackled labor-intensive tasks like drilling, sawing, and precise measuring. Despite the sunny weather, our teamwork prevailed, keeping us motivated and on track.

Tasks ranged from drilling holes in gutters to attaching gutter edges and replacing doorknobs. Cam & I made good progress on installing the soffits. Morgan skillfully plastered the roofing soffits, while Girish and Sarah worked on installing pipes on the gutters. Cathy led a workshop on eye protection for 50 local community members with help from Gayle & Marcia, educating on the importance of eye health.

Amidst our work, Marie and Jessa provided delicious culinary delights, including traditional Filipino fried bananas (Turon) and refreshing coffee with vanilla ice cream. Lunch was a treat with egg salad, coleslaw, and cassava chips, accompanied by various juices. Additionally, Sarah’s thoughtful gesture of bringing Nutella jars from Canada brought joy to the kindergarteners. We ended the afternoon with much needed fresh coconut water in the late afternoon.

Lunch break at project site Philippines

In reflecting, volunteering to restore the school was more than a service project; it was a journey of self-discovery and solidarity. The experience reminded me of our shared humanity and the power of compassion. Though our journey is coming to a close, the memories and lessons will stay with me, serving as a reminder of the difference we can make when we come together as a global community. I am forever grateful for this experience.

March 15, 2024 – Friday

By Marcia

Schoolchildren at end-of-project celebration

What a roller coaster of emotions today!

We started with jumping right into work, knowing that we only had a half day of work ahead of us and wanting to complete our tasks as much as possible.

Cam and Tony immediately got onto cutting and riveting the boards for the soffits. Morgan and John followed up with filling the cracks in the soffits to be ready for painting. Sarah and Girish got buy with the “riveting” job of joining the gutter pipes that they had put together yesterday. Cathy and Gayle had a line up of local people looking for reading and sun glasses. Gabe flew from group to group keeping us on track with the jobs and Marie and Jessa continued to prepare delicious epicurean delights for our consumption.

Posted in on March 5, 2024