In November 2019, St Monica’s College, Epping sent the first group to the school’s Philippines Immersion Experience in Bacolod. Little did we know what the world was about to face just a few short months later.
The travelling group consisted of 12 outstanding ‘Monicans’ coming from different life backgrounds and experiences, including three students in Year 11, three in Year 12, three alumni and three staff members.
In Bacolod, a small city in the province of Negros, the people welcomed us with open arms to their community and their village with their warm hospitality. Our group spent a week in Bacolod accompanied by the Good Samaritan Sisters and staff at the Good Samaritan Kinder School and Outreach Centre where we spent most of our time being involved in the local community.
The involvement included helping with the feeding program in The Boulevard, running a physical education session for the students exposing them to Australian sports such as Australian Rules Football, visiting the orphanage, and spending time with the women at the community Outreach Centre.
During formation before the trip, we deepened our understanding of the Philippines and the community we would be visiting, and each other.
We began fundraising efforts to purchase sanitary items, books, stationery, and socks for the children at the Kinder School. We were overwhelmed by the generous response from the college, local and domestic sporting and community groups, and friends. The donations were very much appreciated by the people in the Philippines.
Each member of the group had a different but equally rewarding experience. One thing that everyone agreed on is that we worry about the little things in life but when we look at people who don’t have much, they are still happy with the gift of life that God has given them despite their living conditions.
The experience has given us all a much different perspective on life. We want to remain connected to the Bacolod community and have been looking at ways we can continue to give back. We saw the need for a new sanitation facility at the Kinder School where there is only one bathroom for the staff, students and families.
Initially, we planned to hold an entire school fundraising week in 2020, but COVID-19 intervened. Earlier this year, we finally held a fundraiser where St Monica’s College generously raised $9600 along with a Go Fund Me page.
Our college also made an application for the Barry Wood Memorial Social Justice Award through the Independent Education Union (IEU) and it was an honour to be awarded the prize, which supported our fundraising efforts.
This exceeded our fundraising goal of $6000 and every cent will support the work of the Good Samaritan Sisters in the Philippines. The Kinder School is eagerly awaiting the new facility, however, due to COVID-19 construction is yet to commence. The pandemic has hit many communities hard and Bacolod has been no different. Lockdowns have made it difficult for the Sisters and staff at the Kinder School in their ministry with the families of City Heights.
We hope this project will bring joy to the Kinder School community once they are able to return to face-to-face learning.
The project is part of the commitment by our group and St Monica’s College to continue to support social justice and the Bacolod community. Each of the 12 Monicans who took part in the Philippines Immersion Experience holds a deep connection with Bacolod and the mantra of ‘reaching out and welcoming in’. We look forward to seeing this relationship continue to grow.
By Lynton Martin, St Monica’s College, Epping, Alumnae 2020.