Estancia: from an ISM student’s eyes

Article by: Jiwon Cyhn

The first day of school is always a momentous occasion for any student; old freshmen become sophomores, sophomores become juniors, and juniors become seniors. However, in a parallel universe where a community watched rushing waters wash away their houses, schools, and the life they’ve known, the first day of school means so much more.

It means so much more to the children of Estancia.

On June of 2015, a group of ISM students travelled to Estancia, a province 800km from Manila that was devastated by the Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, in hopes of opening the renovated elementary school and collaborating with the students. Despite some setbacks with the original scheduling, the trip was an immense success and the small delegation brought home stories and news to tell their fellow Bearcats.

I am one of those who had the privilege of travelling with a small delegation of ISM students to see first-hand how ISM has helped rebuild this community. We planned this trip for months, and finally, when the day came, we left Manila with the sun still sleeping and but our hearts and minds awake and excited.

On the first way we set foot in the rural town, we were shocked to see the presence of the typhoon aftermath. We were told that some still had trouble with their water system and that some were still trying to recover lost property. The once inundated streets were left parched and the soil barren. However, despite this, we saw the biggest change in the town’s elementary school. What used to be grassland filled with temporary tent classrooms are now replaced with new, concrete classrooms with study roofs. The children, who used to loiter around the debris of their school, now play in clear, wide fields. All this thanks to all the schools from around the world, from Bangkok to America, who extended their hands to those under the rubble. The 70,000 dollars (2.3 million pesos) from ISM’s disaster relief fund aided the school’s rebuilding, most notably the 10 classrooms and the school gymnasium, which can be used as evacuation centers for future calamity. When we arrived, children were already using these classrooms and the gymnasium was only a couple of roof tilings away from completion.

On the second and third day, we got the opportunity to meet the children from grades one to five. In groups, we hosted arts and crafts activities, English lessons, and outdoor games. Then we ushered the children to their open, wide fields to have a massive flash mob.

Even though it seems like a lot has been done to rebuild Estancia, there is still more we can do. During this year’s ICARE, 16 ISM students will fly back down to the town to deepen ISM’s relationship with their community. These 16 students will engage Estancia’s children in numerous activities and help them realize that there is really a rainbow after the storm.

 

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