Not surprisingly, my best-intentioned plan to blog weekly while in training failed. Surprisingly, however, I am not going to be placed in a mountainous area somewhere with no internet…but more on this in a bit.
Training here in the Philippines is coming to a close as we finish last minute community projects. The past several weeks have been abuzz with leading family development sessions, planning and facilitating an overnight youth camp for 190 teenagers, teaching youth how to lead smaller humans, teaching various life skills, and oh…learning a language. There are have been stressful and grumpy days from everyone involved, but training has overall been a pretty good experience. Before coming to the Philippines I questioned whether I would be competent enough, but now that training is almost over I actually feel somewhat prepared. In several weeks I may recount this sentiment, however I do not feel quite as lost at the moment. Not all projects have gone as planned and some have left us frustrated, but they have each been a learning experience for personal reasons and community challenges.
This past week has been a change in our normal training routine because on Monday (Sept 1st) all volunteers had to take a language test to see if they could move on to their second/local language. That same day we also found out where we will be placed for our following two years. The rest of the week has been in a new language cluster with the volunteers who will be around me in my new placement.
I thankfully was able to pass my language test on Monday and I have moved from learning Tagalog to learning Cebuano. My permanent placement will be located on the magical island of Cebu!
I actually have no idea if it is magical or not because I have not been able to Google it yet, but lets assume for this blog post that it is. I will be living one hour south of Cebu City, which is the second largest city in the Philippines – it is also why I will continue to have internet. I have truly been preparing my mindset for living on a rural mountaintop with no electricity so I was quite surprised that the opposite was true.
Now for the exciting bit.
I will be working with a ministry called My Refuge House which is an aftercare shelter for girls rescued from the sex industry. There are nine girls at the shelter and they range from 12-19 years old. The missions reads as: My Refuge House Ministry is a non-profit ministry that provides a safe home to empower and restore survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and abuse. Some of the programs they have at the shelter include life skills training, art therapy, home school classes, livelihood training, and a gardening project. Do the programs not sound wonderful? The other part of this is that the girls at the shelter have been rescued through International Justice Mission, which happens to be one of my favorite international organizations, because they are making incredible waves to combat human trafficking. I truly cannot express my excitement for this opportunity, it makes me jittery. I am trying to tamp it down a little so that I am not creating ridiculous expectations that can never be fulfilled. However, I am pretty, crazy excited. If anyone is interested apparently they have a website at www.myrefugehouse.org. I will also have to chance to volunteer at a nearby boys’ home, a health clinic, and a livelihood café that gives jobs to women getting out of prostitution.
It is very exhilarating to think about, but I am also realizing how much I am going to miss my fellow volunteers, especially those who have sat with me every day for eight hours through language and technical training. I miss them already now that we are in separate language classes and I am beginning to comprehend how much they mean to me even after such a short period of time. It will be wonderful if we are able to go and visit one another throughout our service to see our closest friends and also see more of the islands. I am also going to miss my dear host family who has been wonderful to me. I leave them next week when all of the volunteers travel back to Manila on September 10th to finish training. Our swearing in ceremony will be on September 17th and will be streamed live if anyone is crazy enough to wake up in the middle of the night to watch it. The next day we travel with our new supervisors to our new homes.
I will try to post again as the events unroll in the next two weeks but set low expectations. The next time you might hear from me could be from the magical island of Cebu!