A Piece of Paradise in my Eyes


by: Lecele Ramirez

The various pictures and videos portraying the spirit of volunteerism when typhoon Haiyan hit our country ignited my willingness and desire to reach out and volunteer on the ground. When I learned that GK BayaniChallenge 2014 would concentrate on the Visayas (the region badly battered by Haiyan), I made it a goal to join the GK Singapore team this year. It’s my first time. I blocked the Holy Week as my annual leave upon learning that the team would go on these dates. 



I, together with six other volunteers, flew to Kalibo from Singapore a day before the Bayani Challenge opening. The remaining twelve volunteers from Singapore joined us the following days. I was incredibly impressed by the number of volunteers who came to Brgy Fatima GK village to take part in the ‘bayanihan’. There are just so many helpful hands digging the ground, repainting old houses, making hollow blocks, and moving the construction materials. In my eyes, that parcel of land became a piece of paradise where everyone builds hope for families we do not even know. 




To be honest, the physical work was a big challenge for me. At the end of first day, I already felt tiredness and muscle pain all over my body. That was the time I prayed for physical strength. I guess when you are really inspired by the beneficiaries, co-volunteers, and survivors around you, you’d wish you have all the energy in the world so you could do and contribute more to the ground work. I remember being down with the flu days before the trip. I considered backing out. I was worried then I would be more of a burden than of any help. But praise God, my body unbelievably endured it all and was able to survive the 5 days. 


One day, Kuya Binsoi (GK Area Coordinator for Western Visayas, Panay Island) drove us around and showed us a makeshift house just few meters away from the national high school where the volunteers stayed. It stood beside a fallen tree probably uprooted when Haiyan made a landfall on this place last year. He told us that the family living there will benefit from the GK houses that we are building. I felt excited and happy for the family. In few months’ time, they are going to have a more decent and concrete house which they can call home and can shield them better during the rainy season. 



Another popular activity of this BC that has easily become my favourite is the Paraisong Pambata. We gathered one hundred fifty kids from the GK Village and spent one afternoon with them. Some of the residents of Brgy Fatima joined too. They are the same cheerful kids who surrounded, accompanied and entertained us while we were working at the build site. I think all volunteers did an amazing job putting together the party packs and game materials for the kids. The kids were all smiles and it was indeed a delight to watch them during the games, feeding and distribution of loot bags. It was even more priceless to see their surprise and joy when the Jollibee mascot appeared and performed in front of them. I and my co-volunteers enjoyed it as much as the kids did. Truly a hit for the kids and the kids-at-heart! 


We had only spent 5 wonderful days in the village and clearly there’s still a lot of work to do when we left. But I take comfort in knowing that the Kapitbahayan and other volunteers who remain at the build site are continuing the ‘bayanihan' spirit. Even more so is the fact that that there will be more volunteers coming in the next days to help them out. Soon, new, colorful and concrete GK houses will rise at Brgy Fatima. GK BayaniChallenge is truly a humbling and enriching experience. I’m already planning to visit the site again in the near future! Yes, that piece of paradise in my eyes located at Fatima, New Washington, Aklan.