In 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated the island province of Bohol in the Philippines, killing hundreds and flattening communities. It was the worst earthquake to hit the Philippines in 23 years.
Recently, a group of our teachers and students travelled to Bohol as part of an immersion program aimed at putting the principles of Catholic social justice into action.
Our group had the opportunity to work alongside local school communities on identified projects, some of which included repairing damaged infrastructure and providing professional development for local teachers. This had been 3 years in the planning and a wonderful example of cross-cultural collaboration.
For those who don’t know me, I’m rather tall (over 2 metres) so when we arrived in the Philippines, everyone greeted me as the ‘giant’. I had my photo taken on many occasions that often felt at times like Gulliver’s Travels!
During our time in Bohol, we worked with teachers who by any standards have very little by way of resources but give so much of themselves and their time to ensure all students have access to quality schooling. Their commitment to education and belief in its transformative effects is extraordinary. Nothing is taken for granted here. There are no demands for more funding or debates over class sizes. Schooling is an investment in the individual as well as the community.
It isn’t an over-statement to say that we learned much more from them than they did from us. It brings into light just how fortunate we are here and how the opportunities we are afforded can never be taken for granted.
We often stress that education’s focus should be on the whole person: body, mind, spirit, character and imagination. This was certainly a wholistic learning experience for us and one in which I saw myself as a pygmy in the land of giants.