From Concept to Reality
What should've taken us an hour to drive through the city of Manila, took us three! My friend & I decided to rent a car to do some sightseeing before our meetings - day one was easy, breezy & relaxing - exactly what we had hoped to get over jet lag.
Day two was gruelling and I almost gave up hope, except for the fact that we had a meeting with staff from Food for the Hungry Philippines and they had arranged a meeting with the mayor of Navotas City! Thankfully, my friend has lived in Nigeria and is an expert at driving through crowded streets while avoiding people and the occasional goat. He drove through Manila traffic and I navigated. We were still stopped twice by police & had his driver's license confiscated. We paid a hefty fine to get his license back the first time, but we weren't so lucky the second.
Google maps gave us the wrong destination at first, but we finally rerouted to Navotas City Hall. We were 5 minutes away when we came to a blocked road. A kid moved the blockade so we drove down the narrow street, barely missing the many obstacles in the way. We realized too late that there was a gaping hole in the road at the far end with no way around it. We couldn't turn around and there was no way we could drive backwards all of the way back down the street. After trying to turn around, we gave up and jumped out to rebuild the road!
We were quite a sight in our business clothes shifting the blockade and pile of rocks blocking the road. A small crowd gathered and spoke to me in Tagalog. They all watched as we tried to fill the hole with cement blocks, but the hole was way too deep. Thankfully, a police officer came to our rescue and miraculously found a metal plank to lay over the hole. The men in the crowd then jumped in to help reinforce the plank for us to safely drive across. After saying thank you as often as I could, I jumped in the car and we sped off.
As soon as we arrived at City Hall, the FH Philippines staff recognized us immediately and took good care of us. Meeting the mayor was wonderful - he is very grateful and supportive of their work in the troubled areas of his city.
Our next stop was a high school where they have a food program for the least nourished children. I was so impressed by the selection process of the children and how the staff determine what they need, but also train the parents, teachers, local government and churches on how to care for them physically, academically, spiritually and emotionally as a community.
FH Phil Children
The children from the food program were assembled together. The principal explained how Food for the Hungry helped the children achieve their academic goals and highlighted their school as one of the best in the region. My friend nudged me to check out the stage - they painted a huge banner across the platform to welcome me! I then looked and saw the agenda included an 'inspirational message' with my name next to it. Gulp!!!
What a pleasure to meet the children, parents, teachers and FH staff. Their dedication is obvious. Their time with this specific neighbourhood is coming to a close, but they are already working to increase ownership & leadership from within the community to continue the work when they leave.
It Takes a Village
This day was certainly a comprehensive glimpse into what Food for the Hungry does on the field just a month after joining the Food for the Hungry Canada board. This trip has enormously helped me transfer food poverty concepts into reality. I'm thankful for the competent and faithful staff in the Philippines for showing me how things work in their country as they impact numerous economically under-resourced communities and hundreds of real lives.