With this update we are opening up Les’s diary to you all and just maybe Les’s heart will simply touch yours. Continue reading as we are sure you will ultimately understand……
Les’s diary – March 26 2015
I took a break from construction yesterday so I could participate in one of many Volunteer for the Visayans nutrition programs (and to allow my construction chemical burns to heel). I helped out at the Abucay site in Tacloban. The program officially feeds 35 kids that have been assessed as most needing a controlled modified eating plan. This guarantees these kids with a balanced nutritious meal once per day.
The day started at 8am when I met up with two other wonderful international volunteers at the VFV head office in Bliss (Tacloban). From there we crammed ourselves into a pedicab and made our way to the local market to buy the fresh ingredients. Today’s special treat for the kids: – Mexican Tacos with rice and peanut butter sandwiches. I quickly discovered that the 600 peso (A$20) daily budget doesn’t always buy enough to also feed 40 additional kids in the same community.
We decided to put our own funds into the allowance to cover the extra ingredients. I’m told that this is a regular occurrence as it is sad for the volunteers to say no to the other kids not involved in the modified feeding program. VFV as an aid organisation has only limited funds for each nutrition program which heavily relies on overseas donations, program sponsors and of course feet on the ground here in the way of volunteers to deliver the aid.
From the market we travelled by jeepney and after a 10min walk in the morning heat, we arrived in the community of Abucay. We were greeted by over 2 dozen excited children playing on the small road near the entrance. They swarmed over the 2 regular volunteers and then realised there was a newbie – me. These kids are doing it tough but in true Filipino style, they love to have fun!
After 15 min of fun playtime we started preparing the food in an open shelter reserved for the daily feeding. Even though we are there to perform an important task we also make sure we constantly interacted with the kids and adults to ensure their day starts off with fun and laughter. Some of the older children also assist with food preparation.
Once everything was prepared and the meat/rice was cooked, all of the children in the VFV feeding program eagerly line up at the serving bench. The other kids also form a line at the back of the shelter in hope of any leftovers. Due to the extra cash put in by the volunteers, yes normally the other kids also get a small serving (if they don’t then the kids in the program share their meal with their brothers, sisters & friends which can ultimately have a negative overall impact on the outcome of the program).
We dished up a large plate of the delicious food for each of the children and their names are crossed off a list by a young lady in the small community. The Tacos, rice and sandwiches looked and smelt awesome. I really wanted to try them but of course other children will miss out. The kids are very polite and are clearly grateful for the food. Without this daily nutritious meal they might only eat rice and whatever small amount of vegetables that their families can afford. A recent clinical study has also recommended that everyone in the community should have at least one egg a day too. VFV are trying to arrange but like with everything they do, funding is a major issue.
Once all of the nominated children were fed it was time for the other kids to also enjoy some food. Their portions are smaller but none of them complain. They are all clearly very grateful for the food. Today the food stretched out to feed approximately 70 children in total.
There was silence whilst the children ate their yummy Tacos. The silence was later broken by the sound of a little boy saying “excuse me sir”. Standing next to him was the cutest little girl maybe around the age of 3 with beautiful but sad eyes. “Anymore please?” he politely said. This was the lowest I have felt for this whole volunteer experience. My body was numb and found it hard to speak. I gestured back with open palms that we had nothing left – not even any fresh purified water. It took me some time to collect myself and commence cleaning of the cooking equipment. The girl silently left the shelter without food. Later I was told by someone else that she was late to our feeding last week too. If only we could do more…..
At around 12.30pm once the open shelter kitchen is cleaned up we say farewell to the friendly locals and my new friends. Always time for a laugh or two with the little kids on the walk out of the small community. Just like the way we were greeted we are also waived off by happy smiling faces.