In July 2019, a group of young people travelled to Cebu City in the Philippines to work alongside Redemptorist Youth Ministry (RYM) Cebu and the Badjao Tribe in the Nano Nagle Early Learning Centre. I was lucky to be part of this incredibly diverse and talented team. We had two training weekends before embarking on the project where we discussed what we hoped to learn and what skills we planned to share during our time in the Philippines. This pre-departure training gave me my first insight into Development Education and the Sustainable Development Goals. As I am involved in Scala on a voluntary basis working on the Meitheal Youth Leadership Programme, I felt confident in working on our planned RYM retreat. Another thing that filled me with confidence about this trip was my experience as a preschool teacher here in Ireland. I was delighted hearing that we would be working in the Nano Nagle Early Learning Centre and particularly in the Montessori classes made me feel very much at ease with the project we had ahead of us.

In the Philippines, we spent time with Redemptorist Youth Ministry Cebu, sharing games, dances, friendships and a three-day retreat, which allowed us to share our individual concepts of faith in action. I personally gained so much from working with these young people as they were so open and willing to share their thoughts, practice and culture. I was delighted to learn some everyday Cebuano words, games and songs all of which I have begun sharing in my classroom this year which links closely with SDG #4 Quality Education. Not only did our work with RYM Cebu include elements of faith but we also focused on Sustainability and the differences and similarity between Ireland and the Philippines. Stewardship of the planet is central in all lifestyles and the climate change crisis is something that we all strive to help decrease. The Cebuanos focused on SDG #13 Climate Action and in particular sustainable consumption of materials and the correct disposal of waste.

The awareness of poverty and food waste among the RYM youths struck me, as a serious contrast to the lives lived by most young people in Ireland. They consciously filled their plates ensuring only to take what they need, a way of life that links closely with SDG #1 No Poverty and #2 Zero Hunger. We also worked alongside the teachers in the Nano Nagle Early Learning Centre and the Badjao Youth Council. SDG #4 Quality Education was radiating from what I witnessed in the Badjao School.

My passion for working with children was nourished even further when I saw the children of the Badjao running to school with a look of excitement on their faces. The appreciation the community have for the teachers Edwina, Pau, Janice, Venerva, Tommy and the Presentation sisters in addition to the pride of place the school holds in the community was something that melted my heart as a teacher. The smiles on the faces of the young children, their families and the Chiefs of the Tribe were something that made the whole experience worthwhile. A day that will stick out in my head forever will be the day the dentist came to visit the montessori children. The smiles on these children’s faces and the excitement about this new experience filled me with positivity. It became evident that the SDG’s are part of the Badjao way of life especially with this dentist visit focusing on SGD #3 Good Health and Well-being.

We ran some workshops on bullying, human rights and the future of the Badjao with the Badjao Youth Council a group of 16-20 year old’s who are a voice for the youth of the Tribe. Hearing from these incredible youths who everyday challenge the stereotypes about their Tribe set by the Filipino population. Each of these students attends either high school or college outside of the community and face adversities and discrimination for identifying as Badjao. While these obstacles continue to present themselves, the spirit and passion this tribe have has encouraged these young people to rise above the hate and prove their value in this world through their successes as college graduates and educated members of the Filipino workforce further reducing inequalities. A thing that hit home for me was the contrast in life situations for the RYM youth and the Badjao youth, while all of these young people live in the same city they face extremely different realities.

Upon returning home I became incredibly aware of the diversities I saw in the lives of the children I taught in Ireland and the people I passed on the street. Just like in the Philippines the vast contrasts between life experiences was evident. I began to question myself “How did you not notice this before especially as a teacher?”. From that moment on, I began furthering my knowledge surrounding inequalities in this world and began challenging the norms. Seeing the amount of waste not only in my home but also in my job has led me to take action focusing in particular on SDGs #2, #5, #6 and #12. While these might be a lot to focus on at once I have begun implementing them through the lens of SDG #4 Quality Education making the people I encounter aware of the impact of each little decision they make on the plant we call home and the people we call family.

“Solidarity is when a group work in harmony to support each other on their personal journeys.” My experience in the Philippines has opened my eyes to a world of happiness and joy where people walk with each other in unity supporting individual difference. It has made me think about the way we look at life in a glass half empty manner when we should take a leaf out of these incredible people’s lives and see the world as a good place full of potential and opportunity. By passing kindness forward, we are not only giving a little love but we are also getting a little love of our own. “Love your neighbour as yourself” Matthew 22:39.

About Author
Name: Niamh Harrington
Volunteer Sending Agency: SERVE
Award: Bronze
SDG: 4