Feeling All the FeelsemPOWER Trip: Philippines
Anyone who has attended a service trip in the past walks away with the same sentiment: Viridian is about more than just building a business.
That was certainly the consensus among the voluntourists who recently returned from the first Australia emPOWER trip to the Philippines. Associates traveled to two orphanages in Ormoc to make repairs and upgrades to both a boys’ and girls’ facility. They painted, plumbed, planted and patched to improve the quality of life at the center. But, more importantly, they brought attentiveness, kindness and laughter to children who have been abused, abandoned and feel otherwise alone in the world.
Each person recalls a different life-changing moment from the trip, but the life change is always the same. They each feel blessed to live the life that they do, and they feel privileged to have been able to share a helping hand—and their love—with children in need.
A few Associates (and even a member of our executive team!) share their most powerful memories from the trip, along with a piece of advice for their fellow members of Generation V.
Director Felicity Parker
When we first met with the kids, they were so broken and distant. It was hard to know how to approach them without intimidating them or crossing some invisible boundary. I stationed myself by a bookshelf and began reading to myself, hoping that it would encourage some of the children to join me—and they did! I was blown away by how desperately they each wanted a new human connection, and how goal-oriented they were. There were some incredible readers in the group! After that initial wall had come down, we began to play games and interact with more and more of the boys.
Some of us started to make a garden in the back of the building, hoping to create a peaceful, pleasant space for the kids. The day was hot and long, with a lot of manual labor required. At one point, our time was ending and we were almost done with the project. It would have been easy to leave it unfinished, but we wanted so badly to finish it for these boys who deserve so much, but receive so little. We forged on and completed the garden. Watching the boys water the plants and tend to their new space was so rewarding!
Business takeaway: Even when the work is hard, you will be heavily rewarded if you push yourself a bit further and step outside your comfort zone.
Ambassador Mark Hall
We were only on the ground working at the orphanage for three days, but I feel that we left a lasting impression. By not only improving their living conditions, but also by listening to them, playing with them and earning their trust, I think we were able to convey to the kids just how much they matter.
There was a young man—he couldn’t have been more than 17 years old—named Ivan who wasn’t a worker at the orphanage, but was volunteering his time to help show us around and be a much-needed translator. He immediately connected with us, and we all quickly developed a tight bond with him. Turns out, he is now continuing to go to the orphanage to spend time with the kids. I’m so glad that our visit resulted in these kids having another person that they can depend on and look up to.
Business takeaway: Be consistent across what you’re teaching and what you’re doing. Also, remember to stay coachable—everyone has something they can learn.
Ambassador Baron Grant
We arrived to the kids living in disgraceful conditions. They bathed outside under a single spout, with their toothbrushes stored where rats milled around. It was hard to see. It was also hard to make an initial connection with them, since English was rarely understood. By starting a simple game of hide and seek, we all began to speak the same language with our gestures and smiles.
One young man was brought to the center while we were there. He had been picked up for being out past curfew, and said that his mother leaves him often. When asked where his father was, he said he had left them to start another family in Manila. I was heartbroken for this boy who was clearly hurting. He also kept holding his mouth, so I gently asked if I could take a look. He had four or five broken teeth, and I couldn’t bear seeing him in pain. I told the director that I would pay for his dental work, and he took him to the dentist the very next day. The cost was minimal to me, but his new smile was priceless. We are so fortunate to live the lives we do in Australia (and the U.S.), and we need to remember to give back whenever we can.
Business takeaway: You need to understand someone’s backstory and where they are in life before asking them to join you on this adventure. People are more responsive when you are able to present them with a solution to a problem. Having the right intent is more important than growing your team as quickly as possible.
Vice President Robert A. McFadden
On the first day at the orphanage, the boys were hesitant about these foreign visitors. It was hard to communicate that we were there to help them and spend time with them. I think that message was made clear when we took them on a field trip to local lake about an hour away. The boys swam, played, laughed and ate—you should have seen how ecstatic they were to each receive their own personal bag of potato chips! It was overwhelming to see these kids simply being kids, something we probably all take for granted in our daily lives. Some of the boys hadn’t left the orphanage in nearly three years—they hadn’t experienced any outside education, music or activities. It was heartwarming to give them an afternoon to just be kids.
The girls met us with the same hesitation as the boys, but they had prepared a song for us that they presented wonderfully. By the third night, once bonds had been formed, the girls enthusiastically put on a show for us that lasted every part of two hours! They were animated and eager, and had such incredible talent. We felt privileged to be able to be an audience for them, and for their beautiful voices to be heard and appreciated.
I feel confident that we changed some lives on this trip, but I know for certain that the least of which were our own.