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Journey to Discovery: #IamVincent @AdamsonUniversity

by | Mar 10, 2016 | Formation, Reflections

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In “A Journey to Discovery: Volunteering, the Vincentian Way,” Jan Roelrey Tecson of Adamson University writes about “…life-changing experience was so striking that I continued to join the summer missions even after I graduated from Adamson.” Many thanks to Pamela Mantuhac for encouraging our young Vincentian authors from the Philippines! Included is a lovely picture gallery at the end.

When asked about volunteerism, I really could not imagine myself as someone directly involved in it. I just wanted to live a normal, typical life – finish schooling, find a good job, and have a family of my own. I thought most people would rather work for their self-advancement than waste time doing service for free.

It was not until I entered the pillars of the Vincentian-run Adamson University that a 180-degree change of perspective happened. Since my parents did not have much, I was fortunate to be accepted as a student assistant and got assigned to the Integrated Community Extension Services (ICES) office. It was there that I had a firsthand experience of the Vincentian way of helping marginalized people in our society. ICES organizes volunteer groups such as the Vincentian Students and Alumni Volunteers (VSAV), which is in charge of doing relief operations in disaster stricken areas in the Philippines. I joined the VSAV in 2010 and being a member deepened my experience in disaster relief operations and student community involvement.

The university also opened the door for me to participate in the Vincentian Popular Mission, an annual summer activity organized by the Office for Vincentian Identity and Mission (OVIM). I first joined the mission in 2012, which was held at the Northville relocation site in Calumpit, Bulacan. My two-week stay in Calumpit with the other volunteers opened my eyes to the real situation of the urban poor: how hungry they were for God’s word; how just being alive was a daily struggle; and how faith in God was the only thing that sustains their weakening reserve against the adversities of life. That life-changing experience was so striking that I continued to join the summer missions even after I graduated from Adamson.

Thus, it was not a surprise that I readily said “Yes!” when I was invited to become the second Vincentian Volunteer for the World (VVW) last year. I was sent to Thailand to teach basic English to grade schoolers in the Anuban Thidametthatam Phatthalung School of the Daughters of Charity for a year starting last October. Since I was not professionally prepared for the work of an English teacher (I am an accountant by profession), I had to enroll in a three-month preparatory English Language Teaching course at Adamson. I also took the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) after arriving in Thailand.

If one would ask me again what is volunteerism and why did I volunteer, I would say that God has a unique way of leading a person to be one. I was called, and I responded. I believe it is my role to serve the Lord with the best that I can with a Vincentian way of doing it.

At first I had a hard time connecting with the students, especially those in the lower grade, as I have very little knowledge of the Thai language. However, as the days went by, they started feeling comfortable with me and tried their best to ask and/or answer questions in English. I was assigned to teach all levels from grades 1 to 6 and three sections of Kinder 1. Due to the varied levels of understanding among the students, the school divided them based on their performance levels. I provided enrichment activities for the better ones so they will not be bored, while I did remedial sessions for those having a difficult time.

IMG_0116Since I did not know Thai and my students barely knew English, I had to be creative; I did gestures while telling them stories or started conversations to help them understand. It was like a drama presentation every time and it was very fulfilling to hear the “Ah!” of the students when they did understand what I shared. The students also tried their best to express in English. Every time I walk along the corridors they will call my name and greet “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” (although they would often they interchange the two). I would always smile to myself when I overhear them using English expressions like “Oh my god!” “What?” and even simply replying yes or no. Such joy indeed!

One incident that happened lately was when one of the school’s English teachers was talking to a Thai teacher. The English teacher said, “Teacher, the pla is delicious”(Pla means fish in Thai). One of the Kinder 3 students said, “No, Teacher. It is fish, not pla.” We all laughed, feeling proud at hearing the student correct the teacher with the English word for pla.

Teaching a second language is not an easy task at all, but hearing and seeing students make an effort to learn is all worth it. The warmth that I felt with their affection and passion in learning makes the tiresome day fulfilling and worthwhile. I have just spent three months of doing volunteer work here in Thailand but I am really high spirited and eager in continuing the Vincentian way of charity for the months to come.

If one would ask me again what is volunteerism and why did I volunteer, I would say that God has a unique way of leading a person to be one. I was called, and I responded. I believe it is my role to serve the Lord with the best that I can with a Vincentian way of doing it.

As Saint Vincent de Paul once said, “Is it not the duty of fathers to look after the needs of their children? Since God has put us in the place of their parents to save the lives of these children, to raise them, and to instruct them in saving knowledge, we must take care not to fail in a task so dear to him…” (CED XII:89.)

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