The Peace Corps Experience and Life with the Natives

The First Four Months Part II

About halfway through training, we went to Supervisors’ conference. There it was revealed where actual work sites would be upon the conclusion of training, what the nature of each volunteer’s service would be, and the supervisors we would be working with. Placements were based on trainees’ skill sets and site placement interviews that were conducted a few weeks prior. Anticipation was high, as high as the fever I had due to a nasty infection in my foot. Infections and all the other fun diseases of this region are extremely difficult to heal due to the tropical climate, but that is a whole other topic for another day.

On the Road to Baclayan

I was lucky enough to end up with an amazing organization named Stairway Foundation, Inc.that is based in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. Stairway is an international organization primarily focused on child sexual abuse and child rights advocacy.  After twenty years and the maturation of these programs, the organization has began a community outreach program in the village of Baclayan. Baclayan is subsistence level agricultural community that is inhabited by the Iraya Mangyan people. They are an incredibly shy people that has been marginalized by the surrounding community and struggling in the daily fight for survival. They live in poverty but for the most part are a relatively happy people. My assignment would focus primarily on education tutorials, a feeding and health program for the elementary school in conjunction with Stairway’s farm, and livelihood program surrounding around the native products and art of basketmaking.

After the conference we went to Manila for street immersion. These emotional few days had us tour through some of the most dilapidated places in Manila observing the omnipotent poverty, street families, and prostitution. We toured several social welfare organizations including DSWD and an NGO that works exclusively with tuberculosis patients from a notorious part of Manila named Smokey Mountain. Each year in Smokey Mountain, nearly five hundred people contract TB due to inhumane living conditions of life literally in a landfill and antiquated charcoal production next to the landfill. Please use a search engine to see images of Smokey Mountain to see the conditions and truly understand what poverty is. I was blown away by the horrific skin conditions and assorted medical maladies that afflicted the people of the community and absolute unimaginable squalor in which the people lived.

The Beginnings of Stairway's Farm

After Manila we returned to Olongapo to finish training. After passing the Language Proficiency Exam (LPI) and getting in our basketball games in against the best of Old Cabalan with half the barangay watching, we again headed to Manila for Counterparts Conference to be sworn in. Before I knew it the trainings were done, we were sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteers, and I was enjoying my last bites of catered hotel food and real coffee. Next stop Oriental Mindoro…

By: Trevor Mooney

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