Back in November 2010, when I decided I was going back to Manila, I told my friend Leah I wanted to do some kind of charity work aswell. We did a lot of talking back and forth regarding what kind of activity would be the most suitable, but after Leah visited the White Cross Children’s Home and showed me the pictures, I quickly decided that was what i wanted to do. We decided to do it on Valentine’s day, and Leah did all the planning and arrangements with the orphanage. I focused on raising some money from my friends so that we could make the day a memorable one for the kids.
To raise funds i decided to simply ask my friends, family and relatives for contributions. I asked for monetary donations, since it didn’t make much sense to transport stuff across the world; especially when the Philippines is so much cheaper than Sweden. I didn’t expect to raise much, but i managed to raise close to $1000 in just a few weeks, and from a quite small number of friends. I was really amazed by the response and I am forever grateful to the ones that did contribute and offer me support.
Planning & preparation
Me and Leah did a lot of the planning online before i left for Manila. We decided to buy each child a small gift bag, to feed them lunch and to spend the rest of the money on milk that we would donate to the orphanage. The gift bags should contain some items they could use for some time, something fun and also some little piece of candy.
The day before the visit I teamed up with my friend Lenore and went to the Baclaran market in Manila to do some serious shopping. It was a really hot day, and I had to drink a whole lot of water to get through it, but it ended up great. We went back to the hotel with 60 pcs of soap, 60 small towels, 60 toothbrushes and a lot of different toys and candy bars, so that we would have something that would fit kids of all ages. Back at the hotel, Leah joined us and we started packing the gift bags for the kids. This was a tedious task indeed, but we finished in a few hours.
Next up was preparing the pabitins. A pabitin is a typical thing at a filipino children’s party. It’s basically a bamboo frame that you hang treats, small toys and other goodies from. You then hang the pabitin high, and lower it teasingly so that the kids eventually can grab the stuff. Stringing the toys, candy and little treats to the pabitins did take a lot of time, but i turned out really great. Dead tired, but with anticipation for the coming day we went to sleep.
Meeting the kids
We met up the other people joining us for the event at noon and then proceeded to pack the stuff and ourselves into three cabs that would take us to the children’s home, located in San Juan. After all of us had arrived at the children’s home we started setting up the pabitin, preparing the gift bags and making sure the milk and lunch would be delivered as arranged. After about 15 minutes of preparations, the doors to the orphanage opened, and the kids came rushing towards us. The kids are between 2 and 9 years old and it’s just overwhelming how curious yet well mannered they are. We started with writing name tags for the children and ourselves. My name was the source of much laughter and the kids had a good time trying to pronounce it. I sat at a table with a few girls aged 4-5 and they were all talking to me, trying to tell me things. I was so happy just to be there to listen to them even if i couldn’t understand what they were saying.
We started our schedule with some games, and the kids loved playing them. All of us got involved and there was laughter and happy faces all over. The winner of each game got a small prize, and it really touched my heart to see them share their small prizes with the other kids.
After the games i handed out some candy to them, and it was nice to see how the older kids helped the younger get candy before they took a piece for themselves.
Time just flew by, and it was soon time to serve the kids some spaghetti. It got a bit messy, but it was once again nice to see the older kids taking care of the younger ones. The meal was spaghetti, hot dogs and marshmallows. A true Filipino kids meal, I’m told. It was a bit too sweet for my taste though, but the children loved it, and that’s all that counts.
We all helped clean up the place, and then brought out the pabitins. The first one for the older kids, and the second one for the younger. They really enjoyed this, and i had a really good time watching their joy. It was also heartwarming to see them proudly show off their new things to all visitors.
After this we handed out the gift bags, and i spent a long being surrounded by children wanting to show off their new toys. I got swarmed with kids climbing me, hugging me and talking to me. It’s obvious that what these kids miss most is to be recognized by adults. To be loved, to be seen, to be touched.
It’s getting late, and it’s time for us to pack up the stuff, before we leave. Since many of the kids have been abandoned in life, it’s better if the kids leave us and we sit in the courtyard as the children give us some last hugs and wave goodbye. After this we do some cleaning and hand over the donations to the woman managing the children’s home. She expresses gratitude and I express my gratitude for allowing me to have one of the most meaningful days of my life with the childre.
This was one of the most emotional experiences i have ever been through. I felt like i had all possible emotions hit me throughout the visit, from euphoria to hopelessness. As i carried one of the small girls in my arms, and she clang onto me, my eyes were actually tearing up, and I had to take a few really deep breaths just to keep it back. The same thing happened as we were leaving and the older girls were shouting my name and “kuya” after me from the balcony. In the other end of the spectra, I can’t really recall a bigger smile on my lips than when some of the kids were proudly showing me their new toys.
But most of all, it was a very humbling experience. It made me realize that my daily problems are indeed pretty insignificant from a wider perspective. There’s nothing i can do in life that would mean i would end up in a situation where i have no one and nothing to rely on, and the visit made me realize that just being born in Sweden makes me a winner in the lottery that is life.
It was with mixed feelings I went to bed that night, but I am very glad I had thi experience, and it is indeed one I highly recommend to everyone.
I’ll end this post with a great video that one of the other attendees made after the visit. Very touching indeed.
Leave a Reply