Someone once said to me that ‘we are always doing a number of things at the same time’. This is particularly true of the programme we describe as the Philippines Project.
A number of years ago I thought that it might be useful to investigate the possibility of pupils going to the Marist missions in the Philippines and being exposed to the work that the Marists were doing and that community activists were doing, as well as being exposed to the culture there. Initially I asked two teachers to go over and check what was possible. Following that a group went over in October 2007. The enthusiasm both of teachers, a parent who accompanied them and of the pupils gave great encouragement to all of us when they returned.
On going to the Philippines they are normally allocated to one of a number of projects, usually school based projects,
in which they work for two weeks. Last year we took on a new project – the Badjao centre – run by a Marist sister
which fitted very well with the experience we wanted for the pupils.
We also, during the course of the two weeks, visit the Mental Hospital in the Davao and on occasions over the last number of years the pupils have worked there. Last year the pupils also attended Mass at the male prison.
The value of the project is several. The exposure of pupils and the staff to the poverty and suffering of people has had an extraordinary effect in terms of their re-examination of themselves, of their lifestyle and of their circumstances. It has brought out wonderful qualities of teamwork, generosity and sensitivity in all concerned. It also gives everyone who goes a sense of a Marist project which comes under the Society of Mary in a completely different context, which strengthens their relationship with the school on their return. It has been a critical factor in cultivating a sense of connection with CUS as a Marist school for those staff and parents who have gone.
We are very grateful for the donation from the CUS union and this will be allocated to one of the projects we have in mind. My hope is to develop a connection with one or two projects that we would adopt and enable them to become sustainable over a period of years with our assistance. I also hope that as increasing numbers of pupils have experience of this work that it might encourage past pupils who have left in the last number of years to perhaps travel as team leaders or perhaps to go there for a gap year when they are qualified.
MARTIN DALY sm