Traveling within developing countries will cause your child to open her eyes to others’ needs and open her hands in compassion. One great advantage of intentionally pursuing compassionate travel is that your children will get to see how the majority of the world lives. An institutional classroom setting can not replicate the hands-on learning that occurs with real life, experiences.
Just off the main thoroughfares of Metro Manila, barangays (neighborhoods) are home to families that are unfailingly hospitable, persistently happy but inadequately supplied with daily necessities of food, water and medical supplies.
Visit any barangay in the Philippines and you will immediately be offered the best the family has to offer. If necessary, this means taking a loan from a neighbor to buy you a Coke and a pack of crackers from the local sari sari, the common home-based shops.
Nearly everywhere we went in the Philippines, children and teens were very polite and thankful. Teens in this Manila barangay volunteered to be our “guards”and showed us around. In exchange, we offered hot rolls which were hungrily scarfed. Giving hot bread was the reason we stopped, but we accepted their offer as guards for their dignity. That’s important to remember if you intend to help without hurting.
Our children saved and scoured our house for pesos. We were able to purchase dozens of warm, coconut-covered soft rolls known as pan de sal. As soon as we jumped out of our Toyota Hi-Ace van, little street children quickly crowded around.
As we gave away warm bread to fill hungry bellies, we were amazed at how many conversations we were able to have with the parents. In addition to the warm bread, we had the Gospel of John in Tagalog for those that were interested. Our goal was not to push religion but to give an answer to anyone interested about the the joy within us.
Sadly, if you visit the urban poor in Metro Manila, you are bound to be asked to take a baby. This grandmother was begging us to take her grandchild.
“Please, help me.” she cried. “Take this baby and raise him. He needs a mother.”
In another generation (or with less stringent immigration laws), we just might have tried to bring this lad home–for one of you. 😉
We had a long visit with this dear lady. We left her with some immediate food items, milk for the baby, a few outfits and also some seed packs for her garden. She left us with the warm memory of beautiful hospitality and the stark reminder of the inequalities of life. We do not all have the same opportunities.
We do not know the name of this precious little girl. She was sullen and would not speak. She seemed fearful even to eat the bread and kept looking inside her tiny concrete house. She was surrounded by squalor. Inside, a man (possibly her father) sat watching a blaring television. In Manila, it is common to see even the poorest homes with a television, even when food is absent.
The scene gave us a raw reminder that entertainment steals precious moments.
Babies love to rock in the duyan (Tagalog for baby hammock). The duyan serves to both lull baby to sleep and to keep her off the ground with its roaches, mice and water.
We have learned to be wary of starving dogs that are seen on nearly every street in metro Manila. Thin, diseased canines roam the streets, many carrying rabies. It’s very sad to see the pathetic effect of crushing poverty in the Philippines, even on the animals.
We realize that giving bread for a day will not have a long-term effect on poverty. However, if you instill compassion into your child, the investment is bound to be long-term and high yield. Our daughter dreams of returning to the Philippines to open a home for street children.
Such dreams are more caught than taught.
Dare to travel the back roads, stay longer visiting local communities and encourage your child to serve her new friends. She will gain an education that can be gained no other way.