Clean hands and feet, freshly painted classrooms, cleared glass and trash from the "Field of Dreams" sports area...Over 200 members of the Pasay Philippines Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated in these community service projects June 2, 2012 in Paraiso Heights, Smokey Mountain, Tondo, Manila.
Junior Chamber International Philippines (JCI), an NGO whose mission is to provide opportunities for young people to develop leadership skills, and Gawad Kalinga, an organization known for building communities for the less fortunate, partnered with the Church in this activity. Rodney Dizon, JCI President, Rich Estuesta, a JCI Officer, and Nonoy Marquez, GK Head for Smokey Mountain were all there to help direct the activities.
It was raining the previous day and the leaders were concerned that only a handful might show up. In addition to the weather, giving service on a rainy day in a place like Smokey Mountain—an area which used to be a dump site—would definitely be challenging. The spirits of these young volunteers, however, were not dampened by the rain. The members came in jeepneys and cars and were all excited to do the work. One JCI member exclaimed, “Wow, you have such a large group! How did you get so many youth so excited to come serve?"
Wearing their yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests, they assembled at the school grounds where they were welcomed by volunteers from Gawad Kalinga and officers of JCI. On one side of the building, the children were eagerly waiting for their cue to enter the gymnasium where some of the activities would occur.
The group was divided into three. The sisters, led by the Pasay Philippines Stake (diocese) women’s Relief Society President, Eleanor Antonio, attended to the children in the gymnasium. Armed with their pails, brushes, soap, towels and nail cutters, the sisters taught over 200 kids how to keep their hands and feet clean and gave them their own version of a “foot spa.” It was certainly a treat for the children to experience the dirt being scrubbed off their hands and feet, and having their nails cut by the sisters.
The children were then each given a pair of slippers and hygiene kits, and the wide smiles on their faces were enough to keep the sisters going. Some of the children were given the chance to share their talents while waiting for their turn to have their hands and feet washed.
The second group composed of the youth and their leaders were assigned an additional project to clean and paint classrooms. It was an enjoyable experience for them to be working together, doing something good and having fun at the same time.
A third group, composed mostly of male members and a handful of sisters, walked to a place called “Field of Dreams,” an open space covered with sand where residents hold different ball games and other outdoor activities—some of them hosted by different NGOs. Nonoy Marquez, who is fondly called “Tito Nonoy” by the residents, warned the group to be careful of broken glass that might be embedded in the sand, which presumably came from the piles of trash dumped in the area. True enough, broken glass was found; luckily, nobody was hurt.
Serving the residents of Smokey Mountain that rainy day warmed a lot of hearts. Seeing the children hugging their new slippers and smiling made the volunteers realize the great blessings they enjoy every day, and that they sometimes take them for granted. The Church volunteers and the staff from each organization went home smiling and feeling good about their opportunity to serve and bring joy to someone else’s life. Their wish for the children was that these children’s lives would be blessed, and that they too would be given a chance to continue the cycle of service.