(All the photos in this post were taken by someone else.)
The first activity was a life skills and leadership camp for youth girls aged 12-17. We had forty-odd participants from four Iloilo centers, mostly homes for abused girls, and eight Peace Corps volunteers from around the Visayas. We ran the same camp last year but it was something of a mess. This year’s camp ran much more smoothly, which I think can be attributed to two main factors: experience – we actually mostly knew what we were doing this year – and the inclusion of six junior facilitators, girls who had attended last year’s camp and returned to help us facilitate sessions. Our plans for the junior facilitators were fairly minor in the beginning, but quickly we saw that they could be (and wanted to be) given more leadership responsibilities. It was one of the most encouraging signs of youth initiative I’ve seen so far.
Participants must remove their tsinellas without spilling the bucket of water. Any decent Philippine camp starts with and is liberally interspersed with icebreakers and team-building games.
Not everything went smoothly. One night an unexpected downpour forced us to abandon our makeshift sleeping tent and ferry the girls inside. In the middle of evacuations, the power (of course) went out.
For a self-esteem activity, we had the girls write down insults they’d received and then toss them in a bonfire.
Next was a camp for the youth beneficiaries of my center’s community outreach program. It was similar to our girls’ leadership camp, but included a mixed population of girls and boys. Two other volunteers and three of my coworkers helped with the activity, which we held at Bulabog Puti-an National Park in Dingle, Iloilo. I introduced the Pinoys to s’mores.
For a session on relationships and STIs we split the group by gender and had them list safe ways to show someone you love them. The boys’ list included Baklan ko sya madamo nga bulak (buying lots of flowers), Pamahawan ko sya (giving her pamahaw, snacks), and Txt2 ko sya pirme (texting her all the time).
The third activity, just concluded, was a Project Design and Management (PDM) workshop for around forty sangguniang kabataan (barangay youth board) members in another volunteer’s town. I had wanted to do this in my town last year, but our own youth leaders are so unorganized that the project didn’t turn out to be possible.
The workshop is a basically a run-through of all the steps required to plan, implement and maintain useful and successful local projects. As facilitators (there were two volunteers and each of us had a counterpart from our sites), our job was to guide them through the process, but the projects they designed were entirely their own responsibility. These youth have the opportunity to carry out projects because, as formal members of the barangay board of officials, they receive a yearly budget and have access to local resources.
The sangguniang kabataan has actually been a source of contention – mostly because they generally don’t do much. Lots of people want to abolish the institution and stop wasting the barangay budgets on projects that are either nonexistent or not particularly useful in terms of sustainable development. (The majority of SK money usually goes towards summer basketball tournaments or similar "projects.” I saw the budget breakdown for my town’s SKs once: for sports activities many thousands of pesos were allotted, while projects for educational services were given P200. That’s $4.)
I don’t know how many of the projects our SKs developed will actually be started, much less completed, but the workshop was encouraging. I personally didn’t think every project was particularly useful or feasible, but most of them were completely doable and seemed beneficial to their communities. And they know better than I do what their town needs, anyway. Considering my less-than-positive experience with my town’s SKs, I was impressed with the output of the workshop and I think it showed how the youth here are underestimated and, as a result, underutilized. Given decent support, they’re capable of developing their communities in progressive ways. And in the end, that’s much more useful, appropriate and respectful than Peace Corps volunteers or other outsiders coming in and imposing their own projects.
In Helium Stick, the group must work together to lower the stick all the way to the ground. Much harder than it sounds.
An SK presents her group’s output. The projects included building a well for water sustainability (the province’s water supply is undependable), community gardens to supplement food supply, expanding local capacity for health care, and stricter enforcement of the local youth curfew to reduce delinquency.
Summer might be just gearing up in the States, but here it’s already almost over. Classes will be starting soon, so work-wise it’ll be back mostly to tutorials, photography classes and office work. I hope I can fit in more projects in the last five months. My site seems to be getting more proactive about expanding their activities, particularly with the outside youth community, so hopefully I can get in on some of that action before I leave.