Student groups from across Good Samaritan Education schools gathered recently for an ‘online immersion’ experience with Sisters and staff of Good Samaritan ministries in Bacolod, the Philippines.
The online immersion took the place of in-person immersion trips to the Philippines, which have not yet resumed after the COVID-19 pandemic, and allowed the students to form relationships with the people and ministries that they support through school-based fundraising.
Acting Mission Team Leader for Good Samaritan Education, Gabrielle Sinclair, said they were hoping the in-person immersions would resume in 2024. “In the meantime, these online opportunities are about keeping connections and maintaining the story,” she said.
“All of the GSE schools are fundraising in one way or another to support the Good Samaritan Foundation and the ministries in places such as Bacolod, so having that personal connection is very important.”
Gabrielle said that while face-to-face immersion trips offered an unsurpassed experience for those able to take part, typically each school would only send a few students or staff on each trip.
“The ability to connect virtually meant that so many more students could take part, which was a real plus,” she said.
Angelo Gattone, Mission Leader from St Patrick’s College, Campbelltown, said the online immersion allowed the whole Year 11 cohort to participate.
“It might not be quite the same as an in-person immersion experience, but it was still a very good option,” he said.
“It was really nice to see what’s happening on the other side of the world and to get a glimpse into the daily lives of the people working in these ministries.”
The Sisters of the Good Samaritan have had a presence in Bacolod for more than 25 years, operating a Kinder School, providing food for the children at the local orphanage, and operating an Outreach Centre serving people living in squatter settlements along the coastal shoreline of the densely populated city.
The online immersion was facilitated by Sister Anne Dixon SGS and featured input from various stakeholders, including teachers, administrative staff and helpers.
One staff-member, Dilyn, said it was a delight to know that students in Australia were interested in the work they were doing in Bacolod.
“It brings us joy to meet the Australian students and to share our ministry with them and to know that they are interested,” she said.
Carlo, who is the Finance Officer at both the Kinder School and Outreach Centre, agreed.
“Their enthusiasm and all the questions they asked us really made us happy,” he said. “And to know that they are interested in helping.”
St Patrick’s College Year 11 student, Jeanne Ysabelle Ocampo, said a memorable part of the online immersion was the tour given by Principal Marites Lagrito around the grounds of the Good Samaritan Kinder School.
“This tour was able to simulate, to an extent, what a physical visit to the Kinder School would be like,” she said.
“It included being able to see around the school itself, meeting some of the Kinder students, as well as being able to see what initiatives were able to come about at the Kinder School through the donations given by St Patrick’s College and the many other Australian schools affiliated with the Good Samaritan Foundation.”
She said that talking to the scholar students, who are on Good Samaritan Scholarships, and hearing their personal stories and being able to ask them questions highlighted the profound impact of the Good Samaritan ministries and their Gospel commitment to ‘being neighbour’.
College Captain, Abbey Clancy, said the face-to-face interaction with the people in Bacolod helped her to understand more fully the work being done by Good Samaritan ministries.
“The highlight of the online immersion experience was definitely how inspiring it was to see the people from the ministries and be able to witness the fact that there are truly good people in the world, doing their best to help those in need.”
Anne said she was thrilled to see so many students attending and was on a ‘high’ after the online immersion.
“Not just because I was listening and seeing fellow Aussies, but because I knew we were not forgotten by the wonderful Good Sam colleges,” she said.
“The keenness and enthusiasm of the students and staff came over clearly. I felt so relieved, even emotional, that the schools were making such amazing efforts to keep us on their Mission radar even though they have not been able to physically visit for two years.”
Carlo said he hoped the immersion experience would continue to build relationships between the Bacolod ministries and the GSE school communities.
“By sharing our stories, they become aware of the issues and challenges here,” he said. “They can also put a face to us, see us as real humans just trying to make a difference.
“Although nothing beats the actual real immersion experience, which we dearly hope will continue again soon, I also hope that some students feel inspired to go out and see their own local needs and volunteer to help.”
Katrina Flynn, Chair of the Good Samaritan Foundation Board, said immersion experiences such as this, whether it be for students, school staff, Oblates, or others, were critical to the work of the Foundation.
“Our role is not just fundraising, it’s also about sharing the stories and bringing the stories of these ministries to life, as a means of creating awareness,” she said.
“It shows the students the personalities of the Sisters and the people working in Bacolod and makes it all really tangible. It’s much more meaningful for them than just reading about these ministries in black and white. It’s very valuable.”
Katrina said the immersion would support the Foundation’s Bacolod Christmas Appeal, where funds are raised to help provide a Christmas meal, food hamper or gift to the children and their families.
“We’ve just launched our Christmas Appeal and this type of experience makes the giving so much more concrete for the students and their school communities,” she said.
Gifts funded through the Christmas Appeal will be delivered with love by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and their helpers at the Good Samaritan Outreach Centre.