MST, PDM and Coming home for a visit!

Trip Start Mar 21, 2006
Trip End Oct 05, 2008

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Greeting's to all!

So before I delve into my update about the past month I want you all to know that I am coming home for a short visit October 17th- November 7th. I am very excited and looking forward to spending time with my family and seeing friends. I hope that includes a chance to see many of you. For all you Redlands folks, I will be in Redlands for Homecoming Weekend and the Centennial Finale. My plan as of now is to be there October 25th- 28th. I would love to see you there so if you were not planning on returning for homecoming perhaps you should now reconsider. Please keep me posted on your plans during these dates and e-mail me your number so I can contact you when I get home.

This past month was filled with a variety of activities; we had a tree planting at the farm, I attended my batch mates wedding, had my mid-service medical check ups, and co-facilitated a three day Peace Corps Project Design and Management Conference. So needless to say I have been busy which has been wonderful. The longer I am here the more comfortable I am. It really has hit me, perhaps in thinking about my preparations to come home for a short visit how much the Philippines has become a home to me over these past 16 months, which is a really wonderful thing to recognize and be apart of.

Thankfully the dry spell of what should have been a wet past few months ended last month and the typical rains arrived. Which almost forced us to cancel the tree planting at the farm, but we pushed through with it despite the weather. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Government Office) donated over 300-tree seedlings to ENCA including Pine, Caliandra and Butterfly Tree to help in the reforestation efforts ENCA is apart of. It was really fun to plant the pine trees in the upper area of the property. I was happy that we were able to get the local community that borders this area of the farm to help in the planting. Throughout the history of ENCA the Cosalan's have struggled with preventing illegal logging on their property. Even with their land title it is difficult to control such a wide piece of property (45 hectares). One way that ENCA is working to stop the continued illegal logging on their land is educating the local community about the importance of reforestation and protecting their shared watershed, conducting the tree planting's is one step towards these ends. It is always so wonderful to be at the farm and even better to get my hands dirty plating trees! I continue to learn the value and fulfillment of working outside and with my hands through this experience.

The next weekend was my fellow PCV's wedding; Dan married his Filipina girlfriend he has been dating since we arrived to our sites last June. Despite the typhoon raging outside throughout the wedding, all went well and it was nice that so many of us were there to support Dan. We were all amazed that his family from the US arrived only days prior to the wedding and were thrown into eating Igorot food (which primarily consists of boiled pig) and watching Dan get married only a few days later. His mother was glowing the entire time and it was really special that they were all there for this important occasion.
The next day we all headed down to Manila for our Mid-Service medical exams and mid-service technical training. All went well with my medical check-ups and it was wonderful to catch up and see my fellow PCV's. Many of us had not seen each other in nearly a year so it was a blast to all get together again. At the MST conference I co-facilitated a session on Environmental Education and facilitated a quick Grant Writing session. While I was in Manila for two weeks which was far too long, the highlight of my time there was the last three-day's. I was asked along with three other PCV's to co-facilitate a three-day Project Design and Management Conference. After PCV's and their counterparts attend this conference they are eligible to apply for small grants that are available through Peace Corps. This PDM was unique because it was the first time that Peace Corps has teamed with USAID to help provide grants to the Mindanao Region. Mindanao is the southern most islands in the Philippines and an area we are not allowed to go to. In the past, Peace Corps has had the largest number of volunteers in this region because it is the poorest region in the country. Sadly the last 10-15 years have been a time of great political as well as religious battles and killings in the region. Mindanao has the largest population of Muslims in the country and has sadly been a host to the "terrorist activity" here in the Philippines and elsewhere. Despite all the propoganda we receive about Mindinao it was wonderful to work with a diverse set of Filipinos and especially with members of the Muslim community here in the Philippines.

The majority of the participants from Mindanao were members of the various PTCA- Parent Teacher Community Associations at schools throughout Mindanao. It was very humbling to hear about their projects, ranging from building a school water system to ensure the students have potable water, building sanitary restrooms, to putting up fencing to ensure that students don't skip out on school. While it was challenging to facilitate this training because there were 60 total participants including PCV/Counterpart pairs and the Mindanao participants we all learned a lot about how to improve the conference for next time. As always I had a wonderful time facilitating and watching the light bulbs go on in the group. We had to spend a lot of one on one time with the Mindanao participants to ensure they understood the information which was tiring but well worth the work when we heard them present their projects the end of the week. While the goal of the conference is more about learning the process of formulating a projects vision, goals, objectives and tasks, it was wonderful to see that at the end of the three days many people had the start of what I am sure will turn out to be very successful and fundable projects. It is amazing to be apart of helping people gain the capacity and skills necessary to make their lives better and attaining their goals more of a reality.

The last week I was in Manila ENCA Farm's first official WWOOFer arrived. Again WWOOFing stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms and connects travelers to work on organic farms all over the world, in turn for their work they receive food and lodging. Josh has been here nearly two weeks now and is not only the first official WWOOFer at ENCA but also the first in the entire Philippines. Which is very exciting and extra hands at the farm are always welcome.

I hope this update finds you all well wherever you may be and I am looking forward to seeing many of you when I am home next month. Please do send me your phone number so I can reach you when I am home and we can try to connect.

Peace and all my love,


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