A Very Fulfilling Summer

By HANNA SHIN | Junior Reporter

This summer, my mom, my sister, and I signed up with International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ). IVHQ is an organization that matches volunteers with projects from all over the world. These projects are locally led and include a broad range of skills from teaching, construction, environmental sustainability, and health care. My family and I chose teaching.

We traveled to Palawan, Philippines for the program. It is an 18-hour trip including the 3-hour layover in Manila.

Once we arrived in Puerto Princesa Airport, we took a 2-hour bus ride to Tigman Village in the town of Aborlan. Tigman is a beautiful village. It’s right along the ocean coast. Houses are made out of bamboo trees and coconut leaves for the roofs. Almost every house is adorned with a beautiful garden. There are 1,600 residents in Tigman Village. Fishing and farming are their main means of livelihood.       

We had a one-day orientation before we started the one-week teaching program. We were taught basic words in Tagalog, a cooking lesson of local cuisine, safety precautions, and toured the village.

In the mornings, we taught preschoolers in Tigman Day Care Center and in the afternoons we taught 2nd graders in Tigman Elementary School.

At the Day Care Center, kids’ ages range from 3-4 year olds. We taught the students shapes, colors, sang songs, and read them books. There were 24 students to one teacher. The kids were adorable, welcoming and were very excited to learn new things.

At Tigman Elementary School, we taught math in 2nd grade. There were 35 students in one class. We taught them double digit subtraction. It was challenging because some kids didn’t understand the concept of subtraction and others had not mastered their single digit subtraction. We had to review the topic before moving on.

One day during our stay, we experienced a power outage. It was extremely dim inside the classroom but the lessons continued on. Despite the challenges, it was still a very fulfilling experience. The kids were always grateful and open to new ways of teaching and learning.

I spent time with them outside the classroom during their lunch break. We played and we talked about ourselves. They were all ears when I shared with them my interests and the country I came from. In the eyes of these children and myself, I was not only a teacher, but a good friend to each and every one of them.

My mom took me to the local market and we bought pencils and paper pads. We gave those to the students on our last day of teaching. Philippines is a 3rd world country and most of the students don’t have much. What we gave was very little but the smiles and thank yous didn’t seem to stop when we handed them our small gifts.

They had a surprise for me too. They each wrote me a note and I will treasure these.

I will never forget my experience in Tigman Village. For one, I’ve made friends and I will try to keep in touch with them through letters. I’ve learned a lot about the Filipino culture and the wonderful people that they are. They seem to be always happy even if life is not perfect.

As I was pondering about this amazing trip on the plane back to California, I felt good inside. I was able to put a smile on someone’s face and made a difference in someone’s life somehow. My trip to Palawan, Philippines was definitely the highlight of this summer.