Hey guys! My name is Canyen and I was part of the Project Kuya team for the 2017 trip. I am beyond thankful to the members and directors of this team that let me come along with them as they showed me what it means to be a part of the team.
I wrote a post before I left with Project Kuya about what I loved about the Philippines the first time I went, and what I expected with going back. I wrote about how much I love the Filipino people and how I’m grateful for all the life skills I learned from them. I wanna share a few thoughts about what it was like to go back!
During the time that I was preparing to go, a lot was happening in my life and I wasn’t really focused on going back. To me the trip to the Philippines, it seemed like something I would let happen to me and not something I had to prepare to actually work for and participate in. I thought the project would just kind of happen naturally and that I would be fine with that.
On our very first day, we went to the Chinese Cemetery where we knew we would be doing our project. Our plan was limited, but we had a ton of supplies and we were just going to give them out. In that moment of seeing the people living in the tombs and between memorials - probably the most abject form of poverty I have ever seen, even having lived in the Philippines previously - I got to fall in love with the Philippines and the Filipino people all over again. The kids were so excited to see Americans, to show us around, to introduce us to their friends, and to tell us jokes. I remember one little girl and her friends absolutely astounded that we were coming back to give gifts and talking amongst themselves of cancelling plans they had to meet us there.
Later when we came back, I had something of a spiritual experience. Whether you’re religious or not, I believe in brief but deeply and personally significant moments that offer such profound lessons as to define character. This experience I had in the tombs was one of them. The others in the team were handing out clothes and food, but I felt to take a frisbee and go play frisbee with that same little girl and her friends that I had only met the day before. Not only were they beyond excited to get toys from us, but they were eager to learn how to throw the disc, and ecstatic to teach their friends once they had learned the techniques for themselves.
Here was my life-changing experience: when I thought to myself, somewhat skeptically, of the overall significance of giving these people more clothes, more food, more toys, more candy, and more material things that would be useful to them for a while but eventually get thrown away, I realized we were doing something far more than that. We had given those people our time. We had shown them that of all we could have been doing, we chose to be with them and we actually liked being there. For those moments I played frisbee with those kids, I think they appreciated not so much that they had something to play, but someone who cared enough to play with them.
This whole project gave so much materially, but those gifts, for me, don’t come close to the significance of giving one’s time, actually, one’s entire being or life to helping people and just letting them know that they matter - that they’re worth the effort. The Filipino people taught me the importance of loving and caring for people in the first place; I’m humbled and deeply glad that I got to show them what I had learned from them when I went back to Cebu with Project Kuya.
Hope I’ll get to write you guys again! Stay tuned for more!