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How a volunteering experience at an orphanage abroad became a transformative journey for one woman

Walking into and volunteering at an orphanage for the first time, I was filled with a mix of excitement and nervousness.

As a half-Filipino, I felt a sense of pride and joy to be back in the country where my family was from, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from my time there.

Would I be able to connect with the kids? Would I be able to make a meaningful impact? These were the thoughts running through my mind as I walked through the gate.

The orphanage kids posing for a photo on a bridge.

Courtesy of Faith Lopez

When I arrived, I was greeted by a group of shy and curious children. They peeked out from behind doors and around corners, eyeing me cautiously as I made my way through the halls. I was struck by their shyness, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous myself.

I was a stranger in their home (Bata Ng Calabnugan), and I knew that it would take time to earn their trust and build a connection with them.

However, as the days went by and I spent more time with the kids, I began to see their walls come down. They started to open up to me, sharing stories and jokes, and even asking me to join in on their games.

Soon enough, they welcomed me into their home with open arms, quite literally. From that point on, I had a kid attached to me at all times. They were always eager to hold hands, give hugs, and jump on my back whenever I wasn’t looking.

By the end of my stay, it was hard to believe that these same children had once been so guarded and distant.

These were kids who had experienced more hardship and trauma in their young lives than most people could even imagine. And yet, they still found reasons to smile and laugh every day.

They were incredibly stubborn and strong-willed, which could be challenging at times, but it also gave them a strong sense of perseverance.

Most of all, though, they were just kids. They loved to play and have fun, just like any other children their age.

They had big dreams and aspirations, claiming that one day they’ll be doctors, teachers, engineers, and artists. It was inspiring to see their determination and ambition, even in the face of adversity.

The writer playing with a baby

Courtesy of Faith Lopez

My experience with the children truly challenged and changed my understanding of development work.

As someone who had recently graduated from university in this field of study, I had entered this experience with the goal of applying the knowledge and skills I gained to the organization.

But I quickly realized that the realities on the ground were much more complex and nuanced than anything I had studied in school.

I had to acknowledge that volunteering at an orphanage (Bata Ng Calabnugan), particularly as someone who grew up in the West, can often perpetuate the harmful narrative of the “white savior.” My understanding of development had, to a certain extent, been built around that.

The reality is, the children and staff at the orphanage are experts on their own lives, and that my role as a volunteer is simply to support and amplify their voices, rather than to impose my own ideas or solutions.

The writer playing with the kids.

Courtesy of Faith Lopez

I learned that while systemic change is necessary and important, there is also power in partial solutions. By giving the children access to education, food, and a safe and loving home, the organization has made a tangible impact in their lives. I realized that sometimes, the most effective solutions are the simplest ones.

In the end, I left the orphanage feeling humbled and grateful for the opportunity to learn from the children and contribute, even in a small way, to their lives.

If you’re considering getting involved with this organization or one alike in whatever capacity you can, I urge you to take the leap – I promise, you won’t regret it.

If you wish to learn more about the orphanage and help them in whatever way you can, you can get in touch with them HERE. – MyPositive Outlooks

Watch the video below to learn more about the writer’s Philippines experience:

About The Author:

Hi, I’m Faith! I’m all about stepping outside my comfort zone, connecting with people and learning something new whenever I get the chance. You can follow me on Instagram and YouTube.

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