Ateneo Celadon’s annual outreach program R.E.A.C.H. stands for Responding to Encourage Action towards Care and Hope. It began on September 21, with talks from speakers in Faura AVR. The volunteers successfully showed their first responses for the children of the Pinag-Isang Palad (PIP) Community in Commonwealth, Quezon City on October 29, 2016.
The Mid-Autumn Festival served as the theme for the first out of the four outreaches planned for this school year and was held in partnership with the Gawad-Kalinga Ateneo organization (GK-Ateneo). This was followed by the second R.E.A.C.H. session which was held on December 8, where a build project and a Christmas Carenival were held, the latter following GK tradition.
The First Seeds
The R.E.A.C.H. program began with inspirational talks from Chinese-Filipino speakers whom have been on the front-lines of humanitarian activity in the Why We REACH Socio-Civic Talk. The talk featured Lea Frances Yu and Jerick Limoanco as speakers for the event.
Lea Yu spoke about her personal experiences in her passion to volunteer for U! Happy Events and the Tzu Chi Foundation. She said “You will feel like a brand new you for every event you take part of. All of us look for happiness, and it’s not rocket science.”
“Every drop of water makes the ocean, and we just have to make tidal waves with these littles ripples. For every community, we can transform the nation. And with every nation, we transform the world,” Lea concluded.
Jerick Limoanco spoke on behalf of GK, with his beginnings that led him to be an “accidental” farmer and social entrepreneur. His contributions span from agriculture, education and trucking.
“We talk about development. But if we leave the least behind, nothing will change. The innovations, the new disruptions, if you really look at it, it’s for the 1%. Our simple proposition is: Why can’t a country so rich like the Philippines feed itself? Kasi laging naiiwan ang walang alam. Laging naiiwan ang walang kayamanan,” he said about GK and social entrepreneurship.
“I challenge you. Your Atenista diploma won’t mean anything if you don’t use it. If you don’t use it to help others, what is the use of a world-class diploma?”
A Mid-Autumn Beginning
The program for the first R.E.A.C.H. session started off with a prayer, followed by an introduction of the Celadon and its goals by Himig Marcos, the Vice President of External Affairs. This was followed by Tito Willy of the PIP Community formally introducing the community to the Celadon’s members.
The first activity of the program was called “The Boat is Sinking”, where the kids had to group themselves based on a category given to them by the host, Sofia Calderon. After this, each child was given a piece of paper with an animal written on it. They were instructed to make the sound of their given animal as they looked for all other kids making the same sound.
A puppet show followed the games. Entitled “Ang Kuwento ni Chang E,” the show was presented by the volunteers. This served as an introduction of the Mid-Autumn Festival (MAF) to the children. Afterwards, the kids were asked some questions about the show to ensure their understanding, and those who answered correctly won prizes.
Now familiar with the idea of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the community got to experience one of its traditions by playing the dice game. Once the mechanics of the game were explained, it was all fun and laughter as the kids played with the volunteers.
Stephanie Sayson, the President who was among the volunteers for the first outreach, recalled the outreach to be amazing and refreshing. “[It’s] definitely a different experience from previous outreaches we’ve had in Celadon. The kids from the area were super quick in picking up the MAF story and the dice game itself. I think every Celadonean, Chinese or not, needs to experience really going out and sharing our culture. It’s so refreshing to see how they understand and appreciate our culture. And it’s great that we push for fostering nationhood through culture sharing while they are young. Looking forward to the next ones!”
Building and Spreading the Holiday Cheer
The second R.E.A.C.H. held last December 8 split the volunteers into two teams. One team made their way back to the PIP Community for the Christmas Carenival the volunteers have prepared for the children while the other team took part in the build project of the Escopa Tanglaw Community located in Project 4, Quezon City. Both operations were held near simultaneously from 1:00-6:00 p.m. and executed in partnership with GK-Ateneo.
The build started with quick introductions with the members from the Escopa Tanglaw Community. The participants formed a human chain, wherein loose stone and gravel were shoveled into bags and then passed from person to person onto the second floor of the house undergoing construction. These materials are to be used in the mixing of the cement crucial in the ongoing construction of the house the Escopa Tanglaw Community envisioned.
The build project had to be stopped early though due to bad weather, but nonetheless the members of the community expressed their thanks due to the time and effort the volunteers saved them with their combined efforts.
While the build was ongoing, the PIP team also had their hands full with the Carenival they have arranged for the children. The Christmas-themed Carenival was a series of mini-games designed to share the Chinese culture with the children of the PIP Community. Hosted by Chenelle Co, the volunteers wasted no time in guiding the children through the different Carenival stations. The kids were treated to playing games like tops, tumbang preso and a quiz bee about the Chinese culture essentials. Other stations helped the kids write letters to be stuffed inside Ang Paos for their loved ones and taught them how to use chopsticks.
The children and the participants were also grouped together in different teams for a caroling contest after the mini-games. With the build team’s arrival, the children showed off their musical skills and brought smiles to the entire outreach team. The second R.E.A.C.H. session came to a close after gifts were distributed to the children and heartfelt goodbyes were exchanged.
The volunteers made their way back to Ateneo de Manila for a synthesis session, where all volunteers shared their experiences throughout the day. They also gave their insights on how their efforts in the outreach made an impact on the season of giving and what they thought to be the greatest gift people could receive during the season.
With regards to the mix of the Christmas and Chinese culture theme and the success of the second outreach, project head Christian Tiu shared, “We had no idea whether to emphasize more of the Christmas theme rather than sharing our Chinese culture to them or vice versa, so we decided to merge them together. We managed to share our culture through the games. However, it is the Christmas theme that clearly overarched this outreach. As Celadon takes the value of family very seriously, we were also able to reach out to them and share how we, Chinese-Filipino students, also celebrate it by treating them like our own family. Aside from our own Carenival, we also made other activities for them like the caroling contest and the gift-giving session in which the kids really enjoyed.”
Benedick Cuña, a returning volunteer from last year’s R.E.A.C.H., shared that his second time volunteering turned out to be far more exhausting and strenuous than the one he joined last year. Despite this, he explained, “It was still a very enjoyable experience because seeing everyone working together and helping one another was very fulfilling for me and knowing that we are somehow contributing to the welfare of the community in our own little ways make all our efforts absolutely worth it.”
The first two R.E.A.C.H. sessions would not be as successful without the help of some sponsors, and thus the organizers and the participants would like to express their many thanks to them. Vital Water, Vaseline and Resourceful International Marketing served as sponsors for the two R.E.A.C.H. sessions, while the list of sponsors for the second R.E.A.C.H. also included Leone Kids Art, Mr. Gulaman and Rackey Lollipop.
The next R.E.A.C.H. session will be held tentatively on February 11, 2017 in the Pinag-Isang Palad community once again, where a score of children eager to see the next batch of volunteers await!
Written by Janelle Chan.
Photos by Joshua Cheng, Chenelle Co, Robert Cuartero and Mark Yu.