A Sharing by Joshua Chan, a volunteer
Mission Friendship took place over 1 week from 12 to 18 May, to the sunny island of Cebu in the Philippines, with 7 volunteers and 1 full-time CHARIS staff. Our mission was to two villages built and maintained by Caritas Philippines in the wake of the catastrophic damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan: Hagnaya and Tacup in the northern part of Cebu.
The mission involved assisting the Cebuan Archdiocesan Relief and Rehabilitation Unit’s staff to construct two water tanks, in conjunction with the villagers. Our goal was to use simple materials, preferably all sourced from within the local area, and largely using local manpower, to construct a safe source of potable water, using bio-sand water filter. The process involves getting a large water tank, cleaning sand and gravel of varying sizes and filling the tank up with them, and letting the sand and gravel act as a filter to trap harmful bacteria. The tank can be easily self-maintained by the villagers and will act as a safe source of water in the event of a future natural disaster.
The trip involved a lot of menial labour, but despite being physically rather unfit, it was a great time to work together with other brothers and sisters across borders to build a project of love together. This was my first mission trip. Previously, I had only been on one overseas CIP with my university to Laos; while it was memorable, I felt it was missing the faith aspect and it couldn’t answer the question of “why am I going overseas to do something with others?” or “am I just being a voluntourist and arrogantly assuming that these people overseas need my help?” I signed up on this trip to seek an answer. Through a series of unexpected events, I was appointed the Faith Formation I/C for the Mission (I received a call inviting me to be so, and I consented because I thought everyone was taking turns to do faith formation!) and was in charge of leading a short reflection session on Catholic Social Teaching, prayerful reflection, and some sharing. These really edified me as I got to see our Church’s teachings, our faith, in action.
It is not about going overseas to help people we take pity on; rather, our Church teaches that everyone is equal in dignity, whether rich or poor and that we associate and show love to each other in solidarity, regardless of borders, to help communities and people become empowered to be self-sufficient. Not only were the answers provided to me as I got to live the Church’s teachings out; I too experienced much love from the villagers as we did the hard work together, and they generously offered us drinks and snacks, jokes, and lots of Cebuano words to learn! God’s love was incarnate in the locals as they showered us with so much affection.
Rather than a mission of humanitarian aid, it felt more like a mission of mutual love and coming together to create in love, just as God created us in love.