International Program

Staff Report on Service Work Camp 2024 in the Philippines

Please read the staff report of the service work camp conducted in the Philippines from March 11th to 19th, 2024.

From March 11th to 19th, we conducted a service work camp in San Mateo, Rizal Province, Philippines, with 10 university students mainly from Japan.

The main purpose of the service work camp was to continue the work that was being done before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. In the 2019 service work camp, we were involved in the construction of a wall on the land adjacent to the site operated by the NGO Buklod Tao, Inc. In the 2024 work camp, we worked on the expansion of that construction project. Buklod Tao is engaged in disaster risk reduction efforts for the residents and communities of Barangay Banaba, San Mateo, focusing particularly on supporting vulnerable areas prone to flooding.

Buklod Tao was formally registered as an NGO in the Philippines in 1996 and has been involved in disaster risk reduction efforts for the residents and communities living in the Marikina River Basin in San Mateo. The Marikina River is a tributary of the Pasig River, which flows towards the largest lake in the Philippines, Laguna Lake, and Manila Bay. Buklod Tao has been particularly active in supporting communities in San Mateo that are vulnerable to flooding. Due to past experiences of frequent typhoons and heavy rains causing the river to swell and resulting in numerous devastating floods affecting many residents, they have been working to raise disaster awareness among residents, installing rescue boats in the area (which are also made by the community), providing emergency support after disasters, offering psychological support to victims, and conducting environmental education for residents and local children to strengthen community disaster preparedness. Since many residents in the supported areas are facing economic hardships, economic stability is essential for disaster preparedness efforts. Therefore, they also provide support for small-scale businesses to the residents, such as producing products using recycled juice packs.

On the first day of the service work camp, after orientation at Buklod Tao, we visited a community where actual support activities were being conducted and learned about the lives of people living along the Marikina River. This community, where many economically disadvantaged residents live, experienced a large-scale fire in January and is in the process of reconstruction. We are so grateful for the trust built by Buklod Tao with the residents of the community that they accepted our visit as outsiders. The fact that the children of the community sang songs for our visit left a strong impression on the participants.

From the second day onwards, we began the main service activities (labor work), which involved the construction of walls. Before starting the construction of the walls, we experienced composting, a practice conducted by Buklod Tao. We learned how to make compost using all available resources without waste. We were also taught to use human urine as one of the items for fertilizer production. Even things that are considered waste or pests in daily life were considered important by Buklod Tao and were recycled and utilized.

During the wall construction, which was the main work of the service work camp (involving physical labor), we carried out tasks such as digging trenches using shovels, setting reinforcement bars, making cement, and stacking blocks under the guidance of community carpenters. Although a large amount of cement and blocks are used in wall construction, we had to transport gravel back and forth multiple times using wheelbarrows to make cement, mix gravel, cement powder, and water, wait until the cement solidified on the foundation, and then stack the blocks. There were challenges such as the initial difficulty in trenching and the inefficiency of our work compared to the experienced carpenters, leading to fatigue among participants due to unfamiliar physical labor. However, by rotating tasks among team members and with the carpenters progressing the work during participants’ break times, we were able to complete the construction of the four planned walls without major injuries, accidents, or illnesses over the four days.

From the labor, participants learned about daily improvements and efficiency, the fulfillment of sweating together, serving others, and the importance of building trust and cooperation with others. Through spending time with the staff of Buklod Tao, who warmly welcomed us from Japan, participants learned about the sincere efforts of each staff member and the activities of “building” communities and “building” people while rooted in the region, as well as the preparation made by Buklod Tao over a long period for the acceptance of this service work camp.

Although Buklod Tao does not explicitly espouse Christian principles, its founder, Mr. Manuel Ka Noli, continues to practice acts of love to respond to the grace he has received from the Lord.

During the reflection session on the final day at Buklod Tao, participants were impressed by Mr. Manuel’s earnest response to each participant’s question and realized the extent of blessings they had received. They were deeply moved by the sincere adults who are seriously engaged in serving the community and emphasized the importance of disaster preparedness.

The day after concluding the Sevice Work Camp at Buklod Tao, we had the opportunity to visit the Japan-based NGO, ICAN, and learn about its activities. ICAN, one of the Community and Development Grants Recipient Organizations in the fiscal year 2023, operates in the Philippines and Japan. One of their activities includes providing support to street children in the Philippines. We visited the “Children’s Home,” a childcare facility operated by ICAN in San Mateo, where we learned about ICAN’s activities from the director and had the opportunity to hear directly from a young man who was formerly a street child.

Throughout the service work camp, each day began and ended with prayers, and we always had time for reflection among participants in the evening. These reflection sessions helped in building trust and fostering growth as participants shared their honest feelings and thoughts, leading to sincere conversations. Each participant had their own unique experiences and insights, making the reflection sessions a valuable learning experience for everyone.

Despite the limited schedule of eight days, participants discovered themselves through interactions with others during the work camp, reflected on their own countries, the Philippines, and Asia, and gained a heightened sense of international awareness.

We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Buklod Tao, ICAN, and the members of San Mateo Methodist Church, who kindly cooperated with us and showed warm hospitality.

Wesley Zaidan will continue to implement training programs through experiences for the nurturing next generation.


Voices from Participants

“I strongly aspire not to lament being a person within a society characterized by significant disparities, but rather to live as someone who can bring about small changes from small communities within that structure, keeping in mind the voiceless individuals in the complex and seemingly unsolvable large society. (College student, Female)

“Among the many lessons learned through this work camp, what I want to keep in mind is the importance of humility and kindness, as I aim towards some goal alongside the friends I’ll meet in the future. Throughout all the programs, I’ve been able to encounter numerous kindnesses and connections. I feel happy at the thought of being able to somehow repay the kindness I’ve received here. It has made me want to become the kind of person who shares kindness with others, in proportion to the kindness I’ve received.” (College student, male)