Saturday, July 19, 2014

Last Week at Tuloy

My final week at Tuloy was filled with mixed emotions. It was the perfect way to end one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I apologize in advance for the long blog post!

Every morning, Dylan and I continued to work in aquaponics. We lined the insides of pots with wood shavings so that water could filter through the cracks when they were sitting under water. We then filled these small pots with soil and placed them in hundreds of holes along a long piece of Styrofoam that floated on the surface of the water. Before Friday, the final day of our internship, I did not truly understand and appreciate the purpose of our work in aquaponics. In fact, I probably considered aquaponics to be some of our least important work.

God surprised me by opening my eyes to the importance of our work in aquaponics. On Friday, around 250 Voc-Tech students came to watch Dylan’s players’ championship basketball game and my students’ dance performance (the halftime show) to conclude our clinics. After the game and performance, Father Rocky thanked us and spoke to the children about all that we had done for the past seven weeks at Tuloy. He talked about how we were working in aquaponics ten hours per week by pulling weeds, planting seeds, filling pots, and painting grates…things the children do on a daily-basis as well. The emphasis and reasoning behind his speech was servant leadership and leading by example. For five weeks, I hadn’t thought about aquaponics as a means of gaining respect from the Tuloy kids. Because we were doing the same work every morning that they did every afternoon, the kids looked up to us in a more meaningful way. We were serving as role models that they could respect not only for what we were telling and teaching them, but also for what we were doing.

Thursday was the final day of our English tutoring sessions, so Dylan, Camille (another volunteer at Tuloy and a new friend of mine), and I hosted a pizza party for our students. On Wednesday, we told each of our three groups of five students that there was going to be a surprise the following day, but they would need to create skits within their groups to present to the other two groups in order to get that surprise. We required our students to incorporate into their skits a designated number of vocabulary words and phrases that they had learned. I gave my students the scenario of new students coming to Tuloy, and they worked together to develop the rest. They had two kids play the “existing students” at Tuloy, and three kids play the “new students” at Tuloy. The “existing students” showed the “new students” around Tuloy and taught them what chores and activities they did on a daily basis. They did such a great job working together to create and practice their skit as I answered their questions about grammar.

When Thursday came around, the students were so excited to present their skits. They eagerly watched the other groups perform and cheered loudly when each one had finished. My kids surprised me with an extra performance that they presented in front of the students and tutors after each group had performed their required skits. They announced that they wanted to thank me for teaching them and then sang my favorite Filipino song, Pusong Bato, that I had told them about during our first lesson together. They continued by singing a song that said, “Thank you, God bless you, Thank you, We’ll miss you!” With tears in my eyes and the biggest smile on my face, I ran up to them to thank them and give them a huge group hug. It was so sweet and so unexpected. The other two groups then went up front to thank us and present songs and dances, too. After the performances, I presented certificates and gift bags to my students as we ate pizza. The gift bags contained an English-Filipino dictionary, their notebooks and art projects, and coloring utensils that we had used. As I presented these to each student one-by-one, I might as well have been giving them a million dollars. They thanked me close to twenty times and held on to their bags with such excitement. They held their certificates up high and asked to take a million pictures with them. We finished the pizza party by playing games and talking with the kids. My students spoke a different dialect of Filipino called Waray. They taught me simple things like “good morning” and “I love you.” We laughed as I tried to pronounce these new sounds to which I had not yet been exposed. I’m so grateful for the time we had to celebrate these students’ accomplishments in learning English.

One of the girls in my English sessions particularly touched my heart. From the first lesson, Marian stayed after every day to help me clean up and to push in every other student’s chair that had forgotten. She would thank me ten times after every lesson with a huge smile, and I would see her rapidly taking notes to remember all that she had learned. She was so joyful and so grateful. As we said goodbye and I hugged each of my students on Thursday, I looked over to see Marian with tears in her eyes. She squeezed me so hard and begged me to come back soon. She told me that she had learned so much and thanked me over and over. I will miss Marian’s smile, selflessness, and joy so much.

That same afternoon, Dylan and I said goodbye to the staff with whom we had eaten lunch every day of our internship. We decided to get their favorite desserts from a local bakeshop and restaurant called Conti’s. Before serving dessert, we spoke to the group of about fifteen nuns, priests, marketing employees, financial employees, and others from the management committee about how grateful we were for the opportunity to serve at Tuloy. We wanted to make this memorable, so we had Dylan’s Filipina grandmother translate our speeches into Tagalog. We laughed at our inability to pronounce the long words as we read our speeches, but the staff was so supportive and truly appreciated our attempt. They thanked us after and we all enjoyed the delicious mango and chocolate cakes.

Like I mentioned before, we had a big basketball game and dance performance on Friday for the Voc-Tech students to watch. We welcomed our audience and told them a little about what we had done for the past five weeks in our dance and basketball clinics. The game started and all of the students excitedly cheered on the two teams. My dancers were so nervous, so I went around and gave hugs and encouragement as I wished them all good luck. They performed four dances (two contemporary, two jazz) for the halftime show, and the crowd LOVED it. Their classmates in the audience cheered loudly every time there was a leap, lift, or exciting part in the dance. A lot of the adults present said that the contemporary pieces really touched them. I was so proud and so excited for my students. After the show, staff members at Tuloy came up to compliment the choreography and work of the students. Father Rocky told me that he did not expect the students to perform anything like that. The students had exceeded everybody’s expectations, and it was all because of their hard work and love for dance.
Two of the girls in Group 2 came up to me to apologize after their first piece for being off on the timing of their dance. They started to cry and said that they were so embarrassed. I told them that they should be proud and that there was no reason at all to cry. I even told them about how I had fallen on stage at a dance competition a couple years ago. I was so embarrassed but I had to get up and continue dancing…in front of an audience and judges. I had to shake it off, realize what I did wrong, and continue to perform for the rest of the competition. They seemed comforted that I had been through an embarrassing moment on stage and that I could relate to them. They apologized again and I reminded them not to apologize. They needed to be proud of their ability to stay together as a group and perform with excitement and energy.

 After the basketball game ended, the Tuloy residents (including our clinic students as well as others) performed songs and dances for us. This was a special moment for me, because it brought back memories of when I had visited Tuloy in January of this year. The kids had performed different songs and dances for my family and me…and that’s when I fell in love with the Tuloy kids and knew I wanted to spend my summer working there. Now I was watching the kids perform for me, thanking me for spending forty hours per week for the past seven weeks with them. Where had the time gone? My heart broke as I thought about leaving these kids. I tried to remind myself that I would be back in the Philippines by December, and Tuloy would be one of the first places I would go after landing in Manila. Some of the kids broke off from the group of performers that continued to sing for us so that they could give Dylan and I thank you notes. We each ended up with close to fifty, heartfelt, sweet, and compassionate thank you cards and posters that I have compiled into a scrapbook that I will treasure forever. One of my favorite messages in a card that I received said, “Thank you...with you, I feel I belong.” These kids were so grateful that we had spent our time at Tuloy, but I definitely was more grateful for the joy and inspiration they had given me.

Father Rocky spoke after the kids’ performance, and then Dylan and I said our final goodbyes. I had my dancers stay after to receive certificates and silk roses as a “thank you” and “congratulations.” Every hug and goodbye to each of my dancers was so hard. I truly appreciate the hard work they have shown me these past five weeks. They learn so quickly because they do not take their time in class for granted. They are so grateful to call Tuloy home and to learn in school and in other activities like dance. Their drive has inspired me to work harder in school and in my dance career. I have learned that every opportunity I have to learn and grow is a blessing. All of my students begged me to teach dance when I return…so hopefully this will not be the end of my teaching at Tuloy. I will miss those kids so much!

Tuloy has taught me so much. I have a greater appreciation for my relationships with others and I value deep connections with people more than ever. I also appreciate my opportunity to receive an education more. I know that I take for granted the ability to go to college and develop a clear career path, while so many kids are left with no ability to go to school because they spend their time searching for food on the streets. Fortunately, Tuloy has given so many of these kids the opportunity to learn basic skills, a trade, and about the God’s grace and plan for their lives. Tuloy will hold a special place in my heart forever, and I am excited to continue to support them in any way I can. Tuloy, this is not “goodbye,” only a “see you soon.” I am counting down the days until I return.

If you want to learn more about Tuloy and its mission, visit their website at

Thank you for reading my blog! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Week Six

This week Dylan and I continued to work in aquaponics by cultivating the soil, arranging pots, and painting recently welded grates that will hold pots above the water. I am continually amazed by how much work there is to do in the aquaponics system and I continue to thank God for giving me the opportunity to serve in this important way at Tuloy.

On Monday, we had a meeting about future non-academic workshops for Voc-Tech students like the Self-Discovery Workshop. We have begun assigning volunteers to develop and facilitate workshops on interviewing, professionalism in the workplace, intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships, social ethics, sexual education and ethics, and money management. We hope to complete the frameworks for these workshops within the next couple weeks so that volunteers can begin to administer these workshops as soon as possible.

I have been assigned to researching and developing a guideline for a Sexual Education and Ethics Workshop. At Tuloy, students are not allowed to have relationships to avoid distraction from their studies. Some kids have also had very heartbreaking pasts regarding sexual abuse, human trafficking, and more; therefore, having relationships at Tuloy could spark negative emotions and unwanted tension. Students definitely benefit from this rule at Tuloy, but there is still a high risk of pregnancy for girls shortly after graduating Tuloy. Tuloy wants to work on emphasizing God's purpose and plan for their life in this area. I will be praying, researching, and brainstorming on this topic this upcoming week  so that I can complete a rough draft of the proposed workshop Tuloy could facilitate later in the school year. This workshop will go through many edits and revisions by other volunteers and spiritual staff at Tuloy before it is finalized to present to the students. Please pray that God will speak through the creators and facilitators of this workshop to inspire the Tuloy kids to follow His plan for their future family life.

On Tuesday, Dylan and I went to the annual staff picnic. All of the teachers, nuns, priests, marketing employees, accounting employees, and other workers spent the day swimming, singing karaoke (a HUGE thing in the Philippines), eating, playing badminton and cards, and simply enjoying each others company while celebrating what God is doing at the Tuloy Foundation. I loved being able to see the employees spend the day taking a break from their work to get excited about the next year at Tuloy. The Tuloy staff members are such a special and fun group of people! The picnic was held at the place pictured below.

In my dance classes this week, I have been focusing on teaching choreography for their performance on July 11. I wish I had just one more week to continue teaching technique before going into choreography mode, but I have been able to incorporate miniature technique lessons within the choreography teaching. Both groups are doing an amazing job of learning choreography very quickly. Group 1 has learned both of their pieces and Group 2 has half of their contemporary piece left to learn. Some of my students, however, have had to miss many rehearsals for football (soccer) practice. I know that this upcoming week will be very stressful as I try to reteach choreography for the students who have missed for football practice, but I also know that these kids are too excited to let their show be a sloppy mess. They are all over-the-moon excited to show their classmates what they have been learning and to wear their new "Tuloy Dance Clinic 2014" shirts. I can't wait to see their two jazz and two contemporary dances come to life on the gym stage. Although this week will be somewhat hectic, I know the kids will be working harder than ever in preparation for their performance. I am going to be so upset to say goodbye to my dancers after this upcoming week is over! Here are a few of the students'  messages they leave me that make me smile so much:

Teaching English to the new Tuloy kids from Eastern Summer has been a lot of fun, too. The kids have learned so much so quickly in terms of greetings, objects in the dorm, body parts, and sports/hobbies. We have done fun activities and games such as "Simon Says," "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes," "Catch Phrase," "Charades," and "Pictionary." The kids are often very attentive and involved; however, one of my students seemed very distant toward the end of the week. It broke my heart to seem him with his head down and mind wandering. It was a big reminder that these kids are going through a very hard transition from their lives before the typhoon affected them to life at Tuloy. They are very far away from home and do not know many of the Tuloy kids very well yet. These kids are going through so much more than I have gone through, and they are over five years younger than I am. I use every English class to not only teach these kids, but also put a smile on their face and let them know that they are loved. Although one of my students had a harder time with smiling, I pray that I brought a little bit of light into his life this week.

This weekend, my family and I went to Zambales to surf and Subic Bay to swim with dolphins! Experiencing these new adventures with my family was priceless. Our new, 9-week old puppy, Mango, enjoyed the trip, too.

As I prepare for this next week, I am trying to take in all that I have experienced these past six weeks, plan my goodbye's and thank-you's to those who have touched me so much at the Tuloy Foundation (staff and children included), and examine the transformations that have occurred within me. I know that this week will be busy, emotional, and exciting. Thank you for your prayers!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Five Weeks Down, Two to Go

This week we worked in aquaponics by tilling soil and cultivating the plants for two hours every morning. A lot of the lettuce, radish, and onion seeds that we planted a few weeks ago have grown faster than I had expected. I have loved being able to see the results of our work in aquaponics these past few weeks, and I look forward to continuing this work for the last two weeks of this internship.

I began teaching English to five new Tuloy students from Eastern Summer, Philippines this week (one hour per day). Although I do not know to what extent, their lives were affected by the devastating Typhoon Yolanda. These fourteen-year-old kids are so sweet and so eager to learn, which makes our English sessions a lot of fun. They were somewhat shy because they are new to Tuloy and obviously do not know me very well yet, but I am sure they will open up more these next two weeks. We began working on greetings, dorm vocabulary, and chores this week so that the children can begin to learn English that they will use here at Tuloy. Thankfully, they know basic English already and understand new vocabulary words with simple explanations in English. A lot of our sessions, however, involve drawing and/or acting out words or phrases so that they can better retain the information and have fun while learning. I'm excited to see their progress these next couple weeks!

In dance this week, I began teaching their choreography for their show on July 11. Each group has one contemporary and one jazz piece. They are SO excited to perform for their friends at Tuloy, which makes them learn the movement quickly. Here in the Philippines, though, timing and scheduling are very tentative and a lack of communication is very common. I have found that many of my dance students often come late because they don't know what time they are supposed to be in class and/or have other scheduled activities at the same time. This will definitely be challenging as I begin teaching choreography because the students who miss one section of choreography will have to learn that material quickly in order for me to continue teaching more. Even with this challenge, I can't wait to continue teaching these four pieces to these talented and passionate students.

We conducted our last two Self Discovery Workshops on Wednesday and Friday for Voc-Tech programs of computer technology and welding. Both groups were very interactive and fun to teach. Each Voc-Tech program had their teacher present at the workshop. One of the greatest parts of these workshops was getting to hear these teachers speak to the students after the workshop. They shared personal stories of their pasts and gave the students encouragement to keep pushing toward their goals. Some of these teachers had lived in poverty just like the kids at Tuloy, and the students were probably able to connect with these stories so much. I have loved conducting these six Self Discovery Workshops and watching the students become so motivated and excited to follow their dreams.

On Tuesday, the Philippines military came to Tuloy to present the Pinoy Batang Bayani (Filipino Young Hero) ceremony. In this ceremony, the Tuloy staff/students and the military honored and welcomed ten new students to Tuloy. The military had sponsored these children from the Manuvu tribe to come to Tuloy to complete their studies by flying them from their province to Manila in a military plane. The Manuvu tribe is one of the poorest tribes in the Philippines, and it was a great honor for the military to give ten of their children a chance for a better future. Principal Jojo described how the children who had never seen a sink before were amazed by how the water could flow out of the faucet when they turned the knob. These kids are being exposed to so many new experiences, and I can't wait to see how God uses their time at Tuloy to help them and the people of their tribe.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Halfway Done…What?

My fourth week at Tuloy flew by. Actually, this whole internship experience has flown by. Wednesday marked the halfway point of my work at Tuloy, and I can't believe I only have 3 weeks left.

This past week Dylan and I worked in aquaponics again (pictured on the left). We did a lot of painting and planting outside. The heat and bugs are definitely frustrating at times. On Thursday, we had hundreds of tiny little bugs in our clothes after working… Although this has been hard to handle at times, I've learned to become more patient with these kind of things and remain joyful in my opportunity to serve in the aquaponics system.

We conducted two more Self-Discovery Workshops on Wednesday and Friday with new automotive and electrical students this week. The students were a lot of fun and we shared so many laughs as they made up cheers and completed art projects together. Although some of the kids on my teams were somewhat shy, all of them became increasingly more open with each other throughout the day. I enjoyed watching them bond as new classmates and friends so much.

We also worked on a powerpoint presentation that we will present on Monday, June 23 to Father Rocky, the founder and president of the Tuloy Foundation, and the Management Committee. This powerpoint consists of all of our statistical analyses from the interview of OJT students and graduates that we conducted on June 1, 2014. Many of our findings were positive. We found that Tuloy's high school education system prepares its students for their job interviews, jobs, and relationships with their coworkers to a similar extent as other high school equivalents. We also found that Tuloy's living conditions were rated significantly more comfortable than living conditions outside of Tuloy. Based on concerns or suggestions made by our interviewees, we will formulate future workshops like the Self-Discovery Workshop to better prepare students for their lives after Tuloy. Currently, we are considering future workshops that will help with interview skills, professionalism in the workplace, interpersonal skills, money management, and sexual education/ethics. After our meeting on Monday, I'm sure we will have even more ideas for future workshops that could benefit these children. I'm excited to see Tuloy progressing in such a big way so that it can better prepare these kids for their future.

Dance was a lot of fun this week. Both Group 1 and Group 2 had their first contemporary classes this week. I introduced "lifts" in their classes where they worked together to lift one person into the air. This was somewhat difficult at first because they refused to cooperate and follow instruction. After discussing the importance of safety with them, however, they began to listen more. This activity turned into a great way to teach discipline and teamwork with the kids.

This week, I also ordered screen-printed T-shirts for the dance kids to wear for their performance on July 11. I am so excited to donate these shirts to these kids so that they can have something to remember their experience in this dance clinic. Some of these kids only have one or two shirts, so this shirt will provide them with another shirt to wear, too. I can't wait to see them all in these shirts!

This upcoming week I will begin teaching English to a few new Tuloy kids whose lives were affected by typhoon Yolanda. I am nervous and a bit insecure about my abilities to teach English to students whose language I do not speak, but I am beyond excited to be able to show compassion and love to these kids who have been through something so tragic. I know this will be a great experience, and God's definitely going to use this for His glory. Prayers for this new task ahead are greatly appreciated!

In other news:

We adopted an adorable Golden Retriever puppy named Mango.

My dad, brother, and I saw the amazing Broadway show "STOMP" at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

…and my family will be reunited this upcoming week as my mom and sister move here to the Philippines. We can't wait to have them here!

It's been another great week in the Philippines.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Week Three

Monday morning, Dylan and I began working in aquaponics. Tuloy has a huge aquaponics system on its campus that provides vegetables and fish for food. This system is self-sustaining because the fish produce nutrients for the plants and the plants produce nutrients for the fish. They also use composting, a breaking down of various biodegradable materials, to produce organic fertilizer for the plants. On Monday, we spent two hours planting onions, radishes, lettuce, and herbs in hanging pots. Many Tuloy kids also volunteer their time in aquaponics by planting, watering, painting, and so much more. It was amazing to see not only the amount of creative engineering that must have gone into building the aquaponics system here at Tuloy, but also the amount of handwork and dedication the people of Tuloy currently put into this system. After speaking with Father Rocky, we've learned that a lot of other organizations who have adopted aquaponics systems are simply in experimental phases. Because of the amount of volunteers that care so deeply about this organic system, Tuloy currently has one of the first fully developed and successful aquaponics systems. Here is just a glimpse of the aquaponics system at Tuloy:

I also began my dance clinic this week. I held auditions on Monday and Tuesday, which allowed me to choose twenty-five students for group one and twenty-four students for group two. Although both groups are fairly larger than I had intended them to be, I was super excited to accept all 49 of the students who auditioned. Each group will have four jazz classes and four contemporary classes throughout the clinic ending on July 11. At the end of the clinic, each group will perform one jazz piece and one contemporary piece in their final performance. I am super excited to be teaching these kids something I am so passionate about! They even left me a sweet message on the chalkboard:

I began my first jazz class for group one on Friday. I taught them a warm up and a few steps, but then gave them time to create their own dances in small groups. I was amazed at the talent these kids have in creating short dance pieces. At the end of class, I had the students sit in a large circle. We went around the room and said our name and one thing that we learned from class today. I told them that there were no limits to what their answer could be. They could share one dance technique, step, concept, value, or life lesson depending on what stood out to them the most during class. They were all so open and fearless about their responses, and almost all of them shared something that related to respect, teamwork, or discipline. I was so proud of them for acknowledging these values on their own, and I loved watching them intently listen to each other’s responses. I led a prayer to close class, thanking God for the time we had to dance and worship Him together. I'm so excited to see how God uses this dance clinic to not only teach them proper dance technique, but also teach them life lessons and values that they can hold onto for the rest of their lives.

This week we also held our first two workshops for incoming OJT students. Ms. Connie (our supervisor), Dylan, three other volunteers, and I acted as facilitators for the all-day workshops. We were each assigned a group of students in which we led different activities throughout the day. These activities helped them define who they were, what goals they had for their future, what values they want to live by, and how they can develop resilience when facing obstacles in their lives. I was amazed at how the kids in my group became increasingly more open throughout the day. Many of them were shy to share their thoughts at the beginning of the day, but were much more comfortable sharing their ideas at the end of the day.

One of the girls I spoke with truly touched my heart. She opened up to me about her fears of being alone because of the bad memories that came to her mind when she wasn't distracted by other people. I talked to her about some of my fears and how much God helped me during those times. We were able to talk to each other about the importance of prayer and seeking God when we are anxious or upset in quiet times. I was so proud of her for opening up to me and acknowledging her weaknesses. She left with a huge smile on her face and an eagerness to turn to the Lord. These kids have been through so much heartache and trouble that I cannot even begin to understand. Please pray that they will continue to seek the Lord, despite their fears and anxieties. They are all such special and inspirational kids!

During the workshop, the kids were asked to come up with a team name, team cheer, and group art project. The kids in my groups did not know each other before attending this workshop, so it was awesome to see how close they got by the end of the event through these activities. They were laughing and hugging like they had been friends for months as they said goodbye. Watching them work together as a team to create a team name, cheer, and art project was incredible, and I know they left with a new set of great friends. Here are some of the creative projects that my kids in team "Dream High" (culinary students) and team "YOLO" (dressmaking students) made during the workshops:

And completely separate from my internship, I began taking some amazing modern and ballet classes at Ballet Philippines...

and I tried "halo-halo," a popular Filipino dessert, for the first time…

It was a great week!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Week Number Dalawa (Two)

This week was super busy, but a lot of fun. We finalized the guideline for future clinics and processed the interview results. We found that many people felt like the lacked patience and an ability to adjust to newer methods and techniques that they might not have been trained in before. We have not yet discussed workshops that we can develop from this data, but we will definitely be thinking about these things the next few weeks!

We've also been preparing a workshop titled "Self-Discovery" for incoming Voc-Tech students. We will facilitate this workshop for the next three weeks in six different groups for a total of 300 students. In this six hour workshop, we will be leading different activities for the students to look at how far they have come and how far they want to go. The students will be setting goals for themselves so that they can go into their Voc-Tech programs inspired and ready to grow. The workshop includes videos, discussions, art activities, and a "multiple-intelligences quiz" that helps them see their strengths. The first workshop will begin next week, so we had to organize the slideshow and logistics this week.

We were able to play with the kids during their free time for two hours each day again this week. During free time, the kids thought it would be fun to teach me so many different things in Tagalog. One of the things they like to say when something cool happens is "boom panes" which literally translates to "boom rotten"…I was very confused until I realized it was basically the same concept as when people say "that's sick" or "nasty" in English. We started yelling "BOOM PANES" every time someone made an impressive basketball shot. They think it's hilarious that some random American girl is yelling "boom panes" with them, and they laugh so much when I say it. I've also learned many other common sayings and words in Tagalog, and they love to quiz me to make sure that I am memorizing them. They also taught me the first part of a very popular Filipino song "Pusong Bato (Stone Heart)." They love singing it with me now that I know some of it.

In addition to learning some of the language, I've learned how to play some games that have been passed down in the Tuloy Foundation. They are all very complicated and creative, and I love watching them play so quickly. These kids are so smart! I see their intelligence in the way they describe things to me in English using their limited vocabulary, in the way they can so quickly play complicated games with each other, and in so many other areas. I also love how they find joy in so many little things. They have grown up with little to nothing…no video games, no TV, no computers. They find ways to have fun with each other in sports, games, dances, songs, and basically anything else. They are teaching me so much about finding joy in everything. I love it!

This week was a big week for soccer. Two brothers of the Philippines national team came to visit Tuloy on Thursday to support the kids and give them some encouragement. Phil and James Younghusband are super popular here, and the kids were so excited to have them. Tuloy has a soccer program that consists of about five boys' teams and one girls' team. Two of the boys' teams got to play with the Younghusband brothers and all of the other Tuloy kids got to watch. The brothers donated plaques to Tuloy, too! They are on the left and right sides, and Father Rocky, the founder and President of the Tuloy Foundation, is in the middle of the picture below.

All of the Tuloy teams also got to play in the "Havaianas Football Cup" at Alabang Country Club near Tuloy on Sunday, June 8 thanks to the benefactors that support soccer at Tuloy. It was a huge soccer tournament that lasted all day, and the kids played so well. I got to go cheer them on with my father and brother. Seeing them get to compete against these other teams was remarkable, and I know they were all so thankful to have this kind of opportunity. The girls' team even placed fourth in their division!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My First Week at Tuloy

My first week at Tuloy was great! During our orientation on the first day, we met some of the volunteers and staff. We got a tour of the facility, which includes classrooms, a beautiful chapel where Catholic mass is held every morning, a gym with basketball courts and a stage, multiple gardens, an aquaponics system to generate organic lettuce and fish for food, a football field, and dormitories where the children sleep. They have plans to build a performing arts building on campus in the future where the children's dance, choir, and other performances can be held…how cool is that?!

We were also able to learn the details of Tuloy's education system. When students first enter Tuloy's school, they take a test that places them into one of five levels where they learn English, values, basic math and science skills, and some computer skills. After the students are ready, they begin Vocational Technical (Voc-Tech) training in either baking, culinary arts, computer science, air conditioning repair, automotive repair, or dressmaking. When students are ready to get hands-on experience in their particular field, they become OJT ("on the job training") students who interview for unpaid internships with different companies in the area. These OJT programs can sometimes become job opportunities for them later on. Regardless, they are great opportunities for them to gain experience.

I began working with Dylan, another intern from Duke University, on our first couple projects. Dylan and I worked on an interview form that OJT students and graduates could fill out. We wanted to see how Tuloy helped prepare them for their OJT experience, as well as how Tuloy could better prepare current Voc-Tech students. We developed questions that would give us details about the level of technical difficulty in their job-interviews, actual work, home life, and relationships with their coworkers. We then facilitated these interviews on Sunday, June 1 so that they could be processed and analyzed during our second week at Tuloy. From these interviews, we hope to develop workshops and programs that can better prepare current students for their future careers.

For our second project, we developed a guideline for future volunteers on constructing and implementing a sports or arts clinic. Dylan will be leading a five-week basketball clinic while I will be leading a five-week dance clinic beginning June 9. We developed a way to plan a daily and weekly schedule for a clinic and provided our own frameworks for dance and basketball as examples. This guideline will help future volunteers teach not only basic fundamentals in a particular sport/art form, but also values such as respect, teamwork, and perseverance that the children can apply to all areas of their life.

For the last two hours of each day, we played with the children during their free time. This first week was a chance for me to introduce myself to a lot of the kids. I am the worst with memorizing names, so I had the kids quiz me by running up to me each day and saying "What's my name???" Although I got many of them wrong the first few times, this definitely helped me. We all got a lot of laughs out of it, too! I was also able to play soccer, basketball, volleyball, and badminton with a lot of the kids. This was so much fun because even with the language barrier (although many of them can speak English fairly well), we could connect, laugh, and just have fun playing these sports.

What I found the most interesting about this first week was the level of respect these children give me. They are so well-behaved. They always address me as "Ate Kylie" which literally translates to "Big Sister Kylie," but is more like "Miss Kylie." They often grab my hand and place it on their forehead when they greet me, which is also a major sign of respect. Although I am so proud of them for being so polite, I worry that this level respect translates into something more. Unfortunately, Americans are seen as more wealthy, more fortunate, and just "better" overall in the eyes of most of these kids. Many of their first questions were, "Have you been to Hollywood?" and "Do you know any celebrities?" They also think that having light skin and blue/green eyes is miraculous. I know that in order to connect with them, I need to erase that stereotype from their minds and remind them that we are all children of God, defined by His love and grace…not by where we are from, the material things we own, the shade of our skin, or the color of our eyes.