Why did you decide to volunteer with GVN in the Philippines?
Caitlin: I chose the Philippines because it has always been a country I wanted to visit. Also as a first volunteer experience I felt it would be less confronting as I had heard great things about the people, culture and attitude of the locals. Which of course all turned out to be true, the Filipinos are so friendly and accepting of everyone. I had researched a few volunteer organisations and GVN seemed to have the best children’s program in the Philippines that I found. Being Australian I also felt more comfortable choosing GVN because it’s a New Zealand based organisation rather than some of the American programs I had come across.
Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?
Caitlin: I feel like the local community had more of an impact on me personally, I don’t know if working in child care for 4 weeks did impact the community but they definitely were grateful for the help. However now that I am home I am in contact with the Filipino partner organisation CERV and am organising donations for their newly open library, so I hope that makes a difference to the lives of these beautiful people that accepted me into their village.
What was the best moment of the entire trip?
Caitlin: So many amazing moments it is hard to pinpoint one, but I would have to say the children were the favourite part of my experience. Even though I couldn’t understand what they were saying they would come chat away to me, climb all over me, sit on my lap, play with my hair. Two of my students would wait for me after class to hold my hand and walk me home, they were so sweet.
Besides that the island is just beautiful, you will be blown away by the still water, rice fields and mountains, plus the friendly people all make the experience that much better.
What's something interesting about the Philippines that the average person doesn't know?
Caitlin: Karaoke was invented in the Philippines originally called “Sing along with the system”, you will experience how much they love Karaoke and no need to be shy the worse you are the better!
How has this experience impacted your future?
Caitlin: My volunteer experience literally changed the direction my life was going. After I returned home I wasn’t looking forward to going back to my Commerce degree that was waiting for me. I was talking to a man I work with who does a lot of aid work in India and asked him how he copes coming back to normal life, he said I have to make it my normal life. It took me a while to figure out how to do that but I am now studying development studies and am about to embark on a 6 month Community Development program doing in Indonesia. I’m not sure if I would have had the confidence to change my studies if I hadn’t gone off on my own to do this volunteer trip.