For its ninth year, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) sent 22 students, four teachers, and three volunteers to spend the holiday season and immerse in various Canada-funded ANCOP communities in the Philippines from December 28, 2019, until January 8, 2020. It was led by Michael Consul, with his father Bernie Consul from Couples for Christ Toronto, Canada.
Every year, 22 high school students are selected for admission to the TCDSB Program called Philippines Study and Leadership Experience. A unique and distinguishing component of this program is “service-learning” which is an experiential education concept where the learner adopts a life role that provides meaningful service to a community, to learn about oneself and others.
The Canadian students visited eight ANCOP Canada villages wherein they built relationships between themselves and their hosts (families and children) while experiencing the Filipino culture. The immersion also provides opportunities to observe the various program interventions of ANCOP such as educational sponsorship and shelter programs. The volunteers also visited an orphanage and conducted a feeding program with the children of Smokey Mountain in Tondo, Manila. Lastly, they helped build homes for a new community called Greatway Financial CFC ANCOP Canada Village in Lubao, Pampanga.
One of the significant qualities of the immersion was the daily reflection sessions, which the volunteers go through after a full day of activities. These reflection sessions aim to help them focus on their learning. One student expressed that the experience “heightened my understanding of other people, challenged my comfort zone and made me realize that I should be grateful for so many things I have in Canada.” Another student said, “We each loved the time for reflecting alone, and together, after each activity. More personal and collective space for reflection and hearing God is lovely.”
The opportunity for the group to meet, debrief and reflect at the end of each day became an instrumental part of the immersion. These informal meetings provided students with time to relax, discuss the challenges they faced, and discover ways on how to respond to those challenges. Most of them were amazed at how people with less can still be so happy and full of love. (CFC ANCOP Communications/ Romy Medina)