St Joseph’s Institution (SJI) International sent a team of nine students and four teachers on a trip to Manila to work with the Philippines Community Fund (PCF) as part of the school’s Service Learning initiatives.
The trip, which took place from Oct 18-23, helped the team to learn about a community that lives in very difficult conditions, but nevertheless works hard and leads fruitful lives.
The Tondo community lives, works and plays on the Tondo dumpsite, which is the main refuse dump for Manila. Families there rely on collecting plastic for recycling companies, but many also run businesses within the community such as mamak shops that sell commodities to the other families.
Despite their situation, a sense of community is evident.
During the visit, the SJI International team worked at the Philippines Community Fund School, helping out with a variety of tasks such as giving out 300 pairs of wellington boots, which were donated by SJI International Elementary school parents, to primary school children.
The boots would provide more protection for the children’s feet during times of flood, thus helping to reduce the number of injuries and infections.
A market day was also organised for children to choose items from the 350kg worth of goods that the SJI International team brought to Manila.
They comprised basic necessities such as bedsheets, towels and toiletries.
A gift exchange of postcards took place between the SJI International and Filipino students as part of a joint school exercise. The aim of the exchange was to improve the literacy of the Filipino students through the reading and writing of postcards.
The Singapore team also assisted in sorting ring pulls from cans, discarding any that were damaged or dirty. The ring pulls could then be used in making a variety of products that are a valuable source of income.
Natalie Wong, 15, described her experience at the dumpsite: “There was trash everywhere; the ground was littered with sweet wrappers, plastic bags, mud. Lots of mud. There were dogs and cats everywhere. There were kids everywhere.
“Despite our different settings, kids here and kids back in Singapore are not so different, maybe a little less phone-addicted actually. Some are loud, others are quiet and they have their own dreams of the future.”
The trip to Manila was part of a project that began in 2014.
Over the past 18 months, SJI International students have been collecting ring pulls which were then shipped to the Philippines Commuinty Fund School where they are used to make a wide range of products for sale.
The profits from the sales are invested back into the Tondo community to fund education, housing and sanitation.