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The playground builders from Daanbantayan returned in larger numbers this year with an ambitious goal of building two playgrounds in two different locations in Tacloban in 10 days along with a host of activities. One at the Lighthouse, which is run by KIM (you can read about our previous work with KIM, here and here) and the other at a public school called DZRM Elementary School. This was the part of the same group who built the playground in Daanbantayan, whom, incidentally, introduced me to Springboard but I won’t bore you with the details of that. This is all about the army of volunteers from the UK, which I was lucky enough to be part of again.

Click here to read about Springboard’s Chairman/CEO, Annette Helbig’s account of her visit to Tacloban

A little background…

The students came from The Sholing Technology College (TSTC), Southampton, U.K. and ranged from 14 to 19 years old.  For some it was their first time in Asia, for others, it was their third playground building trip in the Philippines. For all the students though, it would be their first taste of life outside of Manila. A world of concrete and smog replaced with a world of greenery and clean air.

For everyone involved, this is the culmination of two years work, from the organizers to the students who had spent the last two years fund raising for this project, to cover all expenses and to cover any additional costs. This included a manner of fund raising events which included a charity bicycle ride from one end of the UK to the other. This makes everyone heavily invested in their work, from digging holes to laying turf to cleaning play equipment, no one is work shy. No job, no matter how tedious, is beneath anyone, each understanding that each part is essential to the success of the whole.

This aint no holiday

The students took time off from school and used their half term holiday to come to the Philippines. So whilst their friends back in the UK were lounging around the house or partying or waking mid-afternoon, all the TSTC students were up 6am and digging holes for posts at 7am, in some intense tropical heat everyday bar Sunday. The temperature during the first week in Tacloban ranged from the mid to late 30s and they worked through the whole day. Not out of fear of being reprimanded but out of dedication to getting the job done. I have never seen a group of people so reluctantly take a break. If this is them on holiday, imagine what they would be like at work…

The build

The ground at DZRM Elementary School‏ was way more forgiving than at the Lighthouse but both a vast improvement to the ground at Daanbantayan. I spent the first day of the build at the school drowning in a sea of computers and a wave of jealously washed over me when the students told me how the holes practically dug themselves. Their biggest problem they had been getting carried away and making the holes too big.

Everyone had a job to do, if they didn’t have a job, they were busy finding additional work. The older students took great pleasure in teaching the younger students (and myself) new skills such as mixing concrete.

I got the impression from talking to some of the returning students from the U.K that if it was not for these projects, their lives may have taken a different course. It was also clear with the older students that these trips have had a profound effect on them, giving them a world view that was way beyond their peers. They have witnessed firsthand, the inequality and struggles that far too many people in this world experience on a daily bases. They are not armchair champions of the poor nor poverty porn voyeurs, they are trying to make a difference to the world in their own way. Their interactions on social media make it harder for people to ignore the plight of so many children living below the poverty line in the Philippines.

The big day

At the Lighthouse, people would stop by the side of the road and watch the playground slowly emerge. Kids would stop, watch and asked what we were up to and who the playground was for. When we told them, it was for them, smiles would appear. Whilst at the elementary school, every break time we were surrounded by a sea of faces, each one eager to try out the new playground. Becoming more excited as each new piece fitted into place, slowly building up to the finale.

At both sites, the bad weather may have put people off but it did not dampen the enjoyment of those who remained. Every available bit of space on the playground equipment was choc full of kids enjoying themselves, not a single piece of equipment was left untouched.

At the monkey bars at DSZM,  The lads would push in front of the girls, act all macho, and manage a couple of bars before falling off. The girls patiently waited their turn before showing the boys how it was done, the majority progressing way further than the boys. One tiny lass, just flew across the bars, much to the boys shock, a few tried to emulate her success but failed.

The end

They say the youth of today are lazy, self absorbed and materialistic, from the students I worked with and spoke to, they seem quite the opposite. This post Millennium generation appear to be much more aware of the ever growing social inequality that spreading throughout the world and appear to be more active in readdressing this balance. One of the students had to drop out of university due to the high costs but still retained their commitment to sponsoring a child through education in the Philippines.

This project came about through the help and work of many different people from organising to logistics to donations, with all the different pieces adding up to make the whole. David Berry who organised the trip and fund raising mission of the students, Amtrak Shipping Management who provided free shipping of the containers, Playdale provided the playground materials and their playground guru, Mick, to organise the construction of the playground, Kids International Ministries helping with organising things in Tacloban, and finally, Springboard linking the various parties together and covering the costs to cover the substantial import taxes (a shock to all involved) to release the container and for allowing me to head on over to get my hands dirty.

We are always looking for new projects that will benefit the people of the Philippines and help provide a brighter tomorrow for future generations of Filipinos. Visit here for a grant application form. Alternatively, you can donate to help us implement future projects and to maintain current projects, such as day care centers and scholarships.