Volunteering in The Philippines- Head Start Community

When we travel we strive to taste all of our host country’s popular food.

We typically explore the region on motorbikes and take hundreds of photos of the countryside and inhabitants.

We buy post cards or souvenirs or bracelets from each country we visit.

Consume. Take. Buy.

Typical tourist verbs.

This time we have added another aspect to our exploring: Our goal is to volunteer in every country we visit.

Starting fresh after our Philippines island stint, we contacted a few Manila organizations, asking if there was any work to be done during our time in the city. Our hostel’s owner, Ronald, pulled through, connecting us with the Good Shepherd organization in a suburb of Manila. This is a convent of women who reach out to the community in many ways. Meeting with Sister James, we were told that our efforts would best be spent at the Head Start Community for children, 15 minutes from the convent, located on the fringes of a community of scavengers. These residents are the poorest of the poor, who sort through garbage piles to find food and items for every day life. Parents often allow their children to join others at the Head Start Program instead of coming along to sort through trash.

Adopting a few ideas from Sister James, we agreed the next step would be to design a three-day program for the group. We had never met them so we didn’t know their English abilities, their ages or how many children would actually show up for the next 3 days. At our hostel late into the evening, we researched plays, skits and games we could teach them. Finally we decided to run a talent show. This would allow them to gain self-confidence, learn English and just be kids!

Over the next few days, the polluted commute took from 1 hour to 3 hours, depending on traffic, but when we’d arrive it always was worth it. Kids would run up to our van or cab, shouting in tagalog and surrounding us. Sometimes we were even greeted as respected elders, as they took our hands and raised the backs of them to their foreheads.

Sister James is greeted by the children upon arrival.

When 50 children scurry into a room to play, there are lots of toothy smiles, high-pitched screeches, and an overwhelming energetic commotion. But lying under all of these things, most of these children lack self-confidence due to their upbringing. This is a difficult characteristic to build in only 3 days but we decided to take a crack at it.

The older girls

When we announced we would be putting together a talent show, adults and children alike applauded. The girls sprung up and down and the teachers nodded their heads, grinning broadly. One group of teen-aged girls knew right away that they wanted to perform a dance routine, and some of the other groups needed suggestions. We taught card tricks, song lyrics, dance routines, soccer tricks, and photography skills along with taking breaks for recess games, basketball and snacks.

Jason teaches the photographers the basics.

On the day of the performance, we arrived in a utility van filled with other volunteers who made the commute specifically to watch and support the performance. Over 100 people gathered in the tiny, one room building, some sitting on plastic kiddie chairs, some sitting on a propped tree log and most on the cement floor. They were all ready for the show! The older girls were drawing the words “Talent Show” on the chalk board and the teachers were making sure their karaoke machine was set to blast tunes for the dance routines.

First Act: Singing

Singing Group at the Talent Show
This group was really talented. Because of the help of an older brother, Romel, they sang along to a guitar for a song in tagalog, the language of The Philippines. Their other performance was, “I’ve got the Joy” which they sang set to actions.

Second Act: Young Dance Girls

This group came to me the day before the show and said they wanted to dance with the big girls. Since i loved my dance classes in my younger years, I couldn’t resist, so I taught them an age-appropriate routine and they pulled it off so well! They chose the song, “Beautiful Girl.”

Third Act: Older Dance Girls

These 6 girls knew what they wanted to do from the second they heard the words TALENT SHOW! They even arrived in coordinated outfits on the day of the show, as a surprise to us all and took the competition very seriously. They grooved to “Shut up and Drive.”

Fourth Act: Photo Exhibit

There were a few children who didn’t know their talent. Jason worked with them to teach them how to use our 2 cameras and one iPhone (as a camera.) We were delighted with their attention to detail and the result was a whole album documenting the preparation for the talent show. Jason used these photos for a slideshow and entered it for the show in their names. We judged by group clapping, and these 3 boys won the show! See the video below or click here.

Just The Way You Are
(YouTube has blocked this song from playing with the video, so if you can play it while viewing, that was the original intent and the way that the video was shown at the talent show.)

Because we had supporters who designated their wedding gifts to us for “Teaching Street Children,” we were able to use a part of this fund for The Headstart Program. We still have more in the fund to use for another volunteer effort in another country, but this is what we were able to do for the Head Start Program with your contributions:

  • Spend 4 extra days in Manila
  • Transport to and from the children’s Head Start building for the directors and local volunteers
  • Prizes (pictured) for the talent show, opened by winner and shared by all
  • McDonald’s meals- they went CRAZY over this, chowing McSpaghetti and McChicken & rice.
  • Medical supplies for wrapping a young burned victim’s leg
Gifts for the Children at Head Start

Many thanks to Dennis and Donna Payne, Ryan van den Brand, Terry and Kevin Olsen, and Alliyah, Dawn and Nikki for their donations to this cause!

Anyone wishing to donate school supplies, recess games, or money to this cause, please designate them for “Head Start Program” and send to:

Good Shepherd Sisters c/o Sister James
1043 Aurora Blvd. 1108
Quezon City, Philippines

We are excited to have paved the way for other volunteers to participate with The Head Start Program. Please see the Volunteer page at the top of our site for those who want to work with these children. We were truly blessed by the experience and humbled by their love. Thank you, Good Shepherd Sisters and to the entire Head Start Program.

8 thoughts on “Volunteering in The Philippines- Head Start Community

  1. Pingback: Just A Buck: Nepal Notebook Campaign « Peanut Butter Nomads

  2. Terry olsen

    Kevin and I are truely honored to be a small part in the amazing things you are doing. Keep up the good work

  3. Mom

    I am moved to tears. You two are so loving and giving to mankind. Your efforts for these children melt my heart and make me proud that you are our children. A special thanks to your sponsors for allowing you this opportunity!
    Love, MamaMia

  4. POP "E"

    Looked like a blast with a bunch of very HAPPY children. That is some great stuff U2 are doing. Love watching the Video’s and reading up on your journey’s. POP “E” is going to take some time now and spread the word about these “PEANUT BUTTER” Nomads who are giving there time, energy, heart and souls to those less fortunate. Keep up the Great work.

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