Thursday, January 18, 2018

This year's Toronto Catholic District School Board team flew from Canada to the Philippines to once again, extend their hands to the underprivileged brethren and families through building homes and hopes. 

Mr. Michael Consul, a teacher from the TCDSB, led the twenty-three (23) students from Toronto, Canada with two more teachers, Ms. Anne Afheldt and Ms. Frances D'Amico, in immersing to different communities. The team spent their first day through a reconnecting activity at the Masagana ANCOP Village last December 29, 2017. On the next day, they conducted building and tree planting activities in the village of Our Lady of Banneux in San Mateo, Rizal and played with the kids of Avanai. 

Before celebrating the year 2018, they had their orientation first with the ANCOP Philippine team at the CFC Global Mission Center. They spent the last hours of 2017 touring Manila and welcomed the New Year at the MOA grounds. 

The TCDSB team started the year by sharing their time at the Smokey Mountain Community in Payatas. They also had the chance to interact with the children of the said community and play several games with them.

The second leg of the immersion was conducted in Baliuag, Bulacan, where another ANCOP site was about to rise. They started their Bulacan experience on the 4th of January through a welcome program from the Municipality of Baliuag. The program welcomed the team through cultural dances and an introduction to the current situation that the area has and the country experiences in general. Right after the program, the students went to Brgy. Piel, Baliuag, Bulacan where the new ANCOP site was located, to start helping in building homes for the families.

During their six days of stay in the area, the students did not just have the chance to involve their selves in building houses but they also had the time to build relationships with the future home partners of the community. These home partners who were living in a shelter and lands that they do not own expressed their thoughts and gratitude upon meeting the students. Yolanda Permejo, 51-year-old and a chosen beneficiary shared her happiness seeing them; she said "Nakakatuwa kasi dahil nakikita natin na yung nararanasan nilang klase ng buhay ay iba pero andito sila para tumulong sa amin." (It is joyful to see that though we know that they live a different kind of life compared to us, they are still here to help us). Another home partner added that the homes that the students are building are a symbol of change and development of their lives. 
Between the days of their construction on the site, the students also had the chance to converse with the families, play with the children and give gifts such as clothes, shoes and school materials. 

Last January 7, 2018. The students visited the CFC ANCOP Vancouver in Paniqui, Tarlac where they spend their time with the home partners and their families.

They also had their visit in one of the Cornerstone schools; the Baliuag North Elementary School, last January 8. Here, they shared their knowledge with young students through teaching them how to read. On every end of the day, the team shares their realizations through a group debrief. 

On the last day of their immersion, the TCDSB team was invited again to the Municipality of Baliuag after the build. The municipality provided a send-off program and they had the chance to socialize with the families who will be living in the roofs of shelter they helped to build. Along with them is Bro. Ricky Cuenca, a CFC International Council member and president of ANCOP Canada. Bro. Ricky expressed his gratitude to the students who generously shared their time to provide hope to the poor brethren and address the inspiration that the team had brought through the mission they conducted. He added: "I honor all of you for sharing your time, talent and treasure for those that are less privileged. I'm happy to hear through your sharing that you've had a wonderful, meaningful and fulfilling experience in this immersion". In the middle of the program, the students showcased their talents through various performances and voiced out their thoughts and learnings during the trip. One of the students who partake his realizations  is the 17-year-old Mick Mendoza who is in grade 12. Mick conversed, "Going on this trip, I heard it was life changing and all that, but to actually experience it was another thing… I learned that it's really about relationships, community, family, and friendship."

In a separate interview, the 33-year-old teacher from St. Edward Catholic School, Frances D'Amico conversed her experience during her first service trip in the Philippines. D'Amico shared her desire to really engage in the culture and that her experience in the country will hold a special place in her heart. She also partakes her joy upon being with the students of Toronto. She said, "Having a good group of Toronto student leaders makes it easier for me to enjoy the experience."

Also, Michael Consul imparted that the impact that the students gain is the realization that they appreciate the things they have and the little things more. 

When asked about what he felt on doing the service for seven (7) years now, Consul answered that changing the world in two weeks can be hard, but seven times two weeks is a good accomplishment. His reminder to his students is that their journey and mission start today, and what makes the trip even more impactful is what they can do after the trip. He then encourages them to always have a heart for the poor and to continue serving Jesus.

Lastly, Consul shared the things he looks forward to for the next service trip in the country. "We look forward to bringing even more students and make them more of an impact" he said "So I tell the students that one of the vessels that can make an impact after the trip is to encourage more people to go to the trip, encourage more people to learn about ANCOP and to motivate themselves to keep doing God's work. "


By Diana Mendoza

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