The end

 Posted by Kari Gravdal at 1:39 am  Philippines
Dec 012014

29th November

…….and so it is all over!

My fourth week passed by in a hurry and I don’t know what happened….

Nutrition at Lolita as the week before. This week in company with an Australian woman. New heads creates new ideas and together we decided to try to keep the children occupied while they were waiting for the food. Origami and drawing as a start. Some of the older kids (following their younger siblings, the target group for the feeding programme is kids aged 3-5), found origami interesting and some of the younger found my simple paper boats amusing. We also decided to buy plastic containers with lids to the children as a gift. They all had different containers, some 2 litres ice cream boxes, some tiny lunch boxes, others came with a flat plate, and we even had one trying to collect his lunch in a plastic bag. Now they all got a colourful box with their own name on the lid. It is so much easier to share the food and give them the same amount, when all of them got equal boxes.

Friday we had to weigh and measure the children. Luckily, we were two this day and had a local woman to help us. What a busy day! The Australian took all the measurements and kept the records, the local woman identified the kids and explained what was going on; I was in charge for the food and managed to put together a tomato sauce with sausages – many sausages. We also served bananas and mangos as an extra treat since it was Friday and my last day. All popular. I think it is a good thing to ‘spoil’ them a little occasionally; they certainly deserve it.

Wednesday afternoon I went back to Mohon to see the karpinteros and the house where I started my volunteering 4 weeks ago. I had promised them to see them before I left. It has been raining more or less all week, but Wednesday it poured down all day, so I was not looking forward to the visit, as I knew how muddy it would be at the building site. I brought soft drinks and cakes from the local bakery with me on my worst Jeepney tour ever. Due to the rain, the plastic covers alongside the Jeepney were down, so no new air came into the vehicle. When all seats were taken, they squeezed in a washing machine and a big sack of rice, before placing even more passengers on stools. We were all about to suffocate in there until I managed to persuade them to open up one of the curtains. “but you will get wet, Ma’am”…… rather wet than dead! I sat far in so to get me out of the Jeepney as we arrived my destination, was a bit of a struggle. The path to the house was flooded, I had to make a detour to reach it without wading, just to find that no one were at home! A young man belonging to the family did not know where everybody were and when they would be back, so nothing else for me to do than to have a look around, take some photos and hang my cakes and drinks on a hook on the wall. I did also bring my torch as a gift to the house and young boy living in it followed by a card to tell I had been there. They had written our names in the cement, as an honour to us volunteers. A nice gesture. When I was about to leave, the sky opened up even more and you cannot believe the rain! After a while, I struggled my way back to the main road to wait for transport back to Bliss.

I do not know what to feel and think about the building project as it ended up as an ugly shed. It is so sad that donated money ended up like that. Maybe I had too high expectations for what was achievable; maybe it was a wrong decision to let the family build the house instead of hiring a more professional builder to lead the work? I though in the beginning that the new house would become an improvement to the plot, it ended up as a shed among sheds and it is hard to tell that is newly build. The added “comfort room” build in concrete blocks I will not even mention. This was not a suitable project for volunteers, as no plan or drawing existed and there were no following up or expectations.

Friday morning I presented an alternative build a home project for the director of VFV. Thanks to my brother, they now got a set of drawings, cutting lists and a description for how to build a simple but solid house. If this will lead to a better result than the Mohon house, depends on who is building it and how they are followed up by the organisation. It is important to follow the drawings and description to make the design work, but it is doable if they find skilled workers that are willing to try. There is a family at the dumpsite that VFV will help with a place to stay, so as soon as a plot of land is available, they will start building using the design.


Thursday there were no feeding at Lolita as the “health center” was used for another purpose. I decided to spend the day seeing one of the other projects and a young English girl working at a shelter for young boys allowed me to shadow her. She has been in Tacloban for three months and is very devoted to the shelter. She even got her own fundraising site. She is so full of engagement and ideas. The shelter is situated about a 45 mins Jeepney tour north of Tacloban, but first she took me to an area called Salvacion, where a Canadian organisation are building new homes for Yolanda victims. Here she had found a ‘karpintero’ that had agreed to build two cabinets for the shelter. Salvacion is situated quite high up in a mountain side and the minicab service provided is rather poor, so most of the morning passed by waiting for transport. We reached the shelter about lunchtime and her project for the day was to empty an old shed to make a ‘work shop’ for the boys to work with their bikes. Wading in mud, while fighting spiders, caterpillars, mice and ants, the shed slowly turned from being a dark hole to a pleasant place to be. No food all day, and a long day it was, so I was exhausted when I eventually came home to Bliss. The plan was to go out that night, and we did, but I went home again after an hour, went to bed and slept as a child all night. There is a limit for what this old body can manage.

My housemate has been in Tacloban for three months. She has worked as a teacher at a remote school and has established a net of friends. She has had a hard week saying farewell to them all. Hugs and tears all week. My stay was only four weeks so it was a bit easier for me. We had company on the flight to Manila this morning.  18 years old and the whole life in front of her!

What will I miss from my stay in Tacloban? Nannay and her son for sure. Nannay’s food and hospitality. The boy’s energy, his mixture of Waray Waray and English, his kisses (always on my arm for some reason), the general positive attitude of the people (that I myself definitely can learn a lot from) and the juicy, yellow, sweet and tasty mangos. The beauty of the country, the snorkelling in the clear warm water, the colourful reefs…..

I will not miss the stinky drains, the muddy ground and the sweaty nights under the mosquito net, the non-flushing toilets and the crowded Jeepneys. Neither the gecko in my bedroom ceiling…

My Tacloban adventure has come to an end. It was not at all what I expected ( – I did not know what to expect). Did I make a difference as my T-shirt sad I would?

No, I did not.



First Name

Last Name

Your Email

Join the GVN newsletter

© 2011 Volunteer Journals Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha