The participants experience the hard work of harvesting tapioca.“Mission trips can be so fun and enriching!” said Sophia Goh, 12, from the Church of the Holy Cross, “I didn’t expect it to be so awesome. The kids I met brought smiles to my face every waking hour. I realised that we are truly blessed in Singapore.”

Goh was among the 42 participants, consisting of 17 adults, 23 children and two Verbum Dei Missionaries, who attended a five-day Family Mission Trip from Dec 5-9. The trip was organised by the Verbum Dei Missionaries to reach out to the needy people of Tagaytay City, Philippines.

“We have always organised mission trips for young working adults, but this was our very first mission trip organised for families with children from five to 15 years old,” commented Sr Sandra Seow, one of the organisers of the trip.

She added that the aim was to inculcate a sense of empathy in both adults and children, and work together as a family to reach out to the less fortunate during Advent.

The Singaporean participants, upon arriving at the Verbum Dei Retreat Centre at Tagaytay, were greeted warmly by the Filipino mothers and young people from the nearby slum areas with traditional dances such as the karakol and tinikling.

After morning prayers each day, the group would set off for various activities like harvesting tapioca and coffee beans in a farm, cooking spaghetti and feeding children from a slum area, and praying the rosary in the houses of the nearby neighbours.

Participants giving spaghetti to the children from the slum area.One striking experience for the participants was when they visited a very poor area where houses were made of discarded cardboards, plastic and wooden planks, and with soil as their flooring. There, the group gave packets of fruit juices and biscuits to the children and invited them to the Christmas party on Dec 8.

Raphael Michael, 11, from the Church of Blessed Sacrament, said, “Living in Singapore where we have almost everything we can ask for often leads us to take things for granted. Seeing people, especially children, who live in slums without proper living condition and food was heart-wrenching and I couldn’t imagine being in their shoes. The thing that impressed me the most was the joy I saw in each one of them despite the little they had.”

Ms Melody Wong, 38, from the Church of the Holy Spirit, shared that although the people suffered from poverty, “they still have the simple trust in God”.

She added, “We received so much more from the people we met – their generosity, openness, smiles – compared to what we had given.”

During the Christmas party, the participants played games and entertained the children and mothers with a fashion show, a Christmas skit, singing songs and even did the “Singapore Workout” with them. Gifts for the children as well as food hampers for the mothers were distributed.

Hannah Lee, five, from the Church of St Ignatius, said, “I have learnt that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth and I have to treasure what I have.” n