At the meeting of the night before we had found out that we were to be given housekeeping duties for the morning of the Friday, which as we felt like we were making real progress yesterday, felt like a bit of a demotion again. We were not too despondent though as everyone has to do housekeeping duties and in the afternoon we were to find out more about the All Hands project (Project Leyte) at Tacloban via the orientation.
The housekeeping went well enough our team being me, Liz and Edwin and with his Dutch efficiency (or perhaps he had borrowed some from a German) and our knack for hunting out crap we started in the kitchen and worked our way through the house. It was a big house and, as you can imagine with any house having a large percentage of youngsters, some of the rooms were obviously inhabited by ‘Stig of the Dump’ fame. I was on bathroom duty so gave it my best shot and ensured each of the rooms were at the very least okay – Okay!
We stopped for dinner, then me and Liz along with Muriel, Alex (a guy from Belgium), Mikey the Workshop Team Leader and a young lass who fashioned her style on Amy Winehouse and who turned out to be a freelance journo from London. Alex one of the staff (from the US) took us first to the waterfront at Tacloban where we were met by Mike (the All Hands Project Manager). Mike was there to explain the next stage of Project Leyte for which he had just received the funding for that morning. As you can imagine he was somewhat excited at this point and it was really good to see as when we first met he looked quite exhausted. Mike was responsible for getting the funding for the project so the fact that the money had been granted, well you could see the relief on his face.
Mike explained that these new funds would enable All Hands to start work on another part of the project which would take place on the waterfront. The new project would be to build ‘centre places’ at each of the Barangays on the waterfront for each community but these places would also chosen by the community as well. In the Philippines basketball is followed and played fanatically so for one Barangay an old court was to be re-vamped so that as well as being able to play basketball on it there would also be a stage for the local kids to hold plays on or for the grown up to hold Barangay meetings.
It all sounded really good but struck me as being a bit strange as the work was being done for those communities which the Filipino government wanted to move away from the waterfront to residences higher on up in the hills – so that if bad weather struck they would not be flooded. The residents themselves did not want this as most of them earned their livings by the water – catching fish or eels and the like – so All Hands (as I thought) were putting themselves almost in a confrontational position against the governing forces. I put this to Mike but he did not find this a worry as I think he knew the politics of the situation far better than I – in that the residents would probably never be removed to a new area or if they were it would not be for a very long time. Just before we left Mike a young lad came over and tried to give him some money towards the cause which I think choked him as much as it did the rest of us present.
We got back on our Jeepney transport and drove out of town, along the way passing a completed project which looked really good. It was a small housing estate but each of the houses were of much better construction than the owners’ previous wood and corrugated iron dwellings. These new houses would be much more resistant to the extremes of weather the area has to deal with.
On we went to a Barangay where a school project had been completed by All Hands. Alex explained to us just how much work had gone into the construction of the school and also what it had meant to the people living in the area. The driver of our jeepney and his family actually lived in this Barangay so here was a person who firsthand was benefitting from All Hands work. Many of the Filipino carpenters used by All Hands to bolster the skills set of the volunteers came from this area as well. It was really good to gain a better understanding of what our volunteer work meant in relation to the area of Tacloban and its people and how, in the scheme of things, such little work gave so much back to the community.
There was great excitement in the jeepney on the way back to base as this was to be a full weekend off the one full weekend for the month. At All Hands there are usually six working days in a week and Ruth – the lady from our room – had been busy arranging a trip to Padre Burgos for this special full weekend. Me and Liz had no idea what a ‘Padre Burgos’ was but it sounded good and perhaps edible so we signed up to join the motley crew. Liz now sitting next to me tells me that she wanted to join the trip to ‘bond’ with the people on the base, either way it was all good by me and would get us away from the base and its ‘cruel, cruel’ living conditions for a short respite (lol).
So we had a quick bite to eat and then all boarded the minivan Padre Burgos bound. It was quite a trip and we had had problems with the cash machine but spirits were high on the van even though there was a lot of coughing and spluttering going on. We finally reached PB after good long drive and all feeling a bit knackered but when we got there we managed to get the double room at the guesthouse which was absolute luxury especially after All Hands. Nice fluffy towels, a fridge and even a HOT SHOWER – amazing!