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Stories of #GoodChange

June 2024

Journey to the Philippines

“As a Filipino who grew up in Australia, and now working for Good Neighbours Australia, I wanted to witness first-hand how development programs are implemented in the Philippines.”

Did you know that Good Neighbours, as a whole, has a presence in over 50 countries? Engaging with over 200 communities around the globe, we’re empowering people and transforming communities through targeted social and economic development initiatives. Our Project Officer Journey recently visited our office in the Philippines for a first-hand experience in the field. 

Good Neighbours | Philippines

PHOTO: Journey (far right), GNAU Project Volunteer Jo (second from right), with members of Good Neighbors Philippines and community members in Sitio Bakal.

Q1: What motivated you to join GNAU?

Journey: Hi! My name is Journey, and I’m a Project Officer at Good Neighbours (GN) Australia. I’m inspired by GN Australia’s tailored and innovative approach to community development which promotes self-reliance and sustainability. I can’t help but feel compelled to join in these efforts. 

Good Neighbours | Philippines

Q2: Tell us about your recent visit to our GN Philippines office. What did you enjoy the most?

Journey: I met with the team at GN Philippines, to visit their community development project (CDP) sites in Southville (Rizal), San Isidro (Rizal), and Sitio Bakal (Quezon City). I was inspired to see income generation and vocational training projects such as dressmaking, call centre training, bread and pastry making, farming and store management. I met with passionate volunteers and project facilitators leading these projects in their own communities. It was especially inspiring to see young people, not much younger than me, who are from low socioeconomic communities graduating from the training programs. They are finding work overseas, starting their own micro businesses and having the opportunity to pursue further education. 

Q3: Can you briefly tell us about the communities that you visited and the GNIP projects in those areas?

Journey: The communities we visited are among the most marginalised communities in the Metro Manila and neighbouring areas. Sitio Bakal in Quezon City is a remote community of roughly 300-400 households, while San Isidro, including the Southville CDP, is also among the most economically depressed areas in the Rizal province. Most of the community members are marginalised urban poor who were resettled in the area, poor upland farmers, and indigenous people, deprived of essential basic services.

While visiting the communities we met with volunteers assisting GN Philippines’ sponsored children in their letter-writing centres in Southville, alongside the teachers leading the learning centres in Sitio Bakal. At the vocational training site in San Isidro, I met with the teams leading the call centre and dressmaking workshops. In Sitio Bakal, I met with the men and women running an income generating sari sari store (convenience store) and farming project.

Good Neighbours | Philippines
Good Neighbours | Philippines

Q4: How was your experience meeting with the GN Philippines team?

Journey: The team who hosted our visit were so lovely and accommodating. Thanks to Grace (Resource Development Division Manager), and Mark (Social Development Division Manager), along with Jae Choon Lee (Country Director) and Visitacion (Economic Development Division Manager) for sharing the amazing work being undertaken in the areas of education, health, environmental sustainability, income generation and child development. 

Everyone we met, including the local community project volunteers and project facilitators spoke with such passion, knowledge and care about the projects they led, and the people in the communities they were created for. 

I could feel the warmth they had as they assisted the children with their letter writing for their sponsors, and delivered all the other projects for the benefit of their local community. The GN Philippines team also helped us understand some of the political issues and environmental issues surrounding their projects, so we had real insight into why they were designed and how important it was for the projects to succeed.

Q5: What were your key takeaways/learnings from your visit?

Journey: That holistic solutions are needed when creating programs for a community, and that long-term sustainability is of utmost importance. I found this philosophy was embedded in the programs we saw. Participants were not only provided with skills training, but also given resources and encouragement to take the next steps. For example, those enrolled in sewing or call centre courses are not only given free training, but provided with allowances to ensure they can finish the 35-day program. Those operating the sari sari store (convenience store) were not only given free capital but were trained to work together as a group, manage finances, and have a vision for their business. They share in the profits generated and pay the members who take turns in manning the store.

Secondly, it’s important to engage with the communities when designing a project and at every key milestone in the project cycle. 

Lastly, to be kind to others and find gratitude in your surroundings. It was very humbling to see the men and women welcome us into their communities, treat us with such warmth and care as they presented the projects they led with the limited/evolving resources they had, and take joy and pride in the work that they did for the community. That is definitely one of the many highlights of this trip that I will remember for a long time.

Q6: Lastly, after your recent trip, what do you look forward to working on at GNAU?

Journey: I’m looking forward to any opportunity GN Australia has to partner with GN Philippines and exploring ways that the Filipino community in Australia may be able to support the Philippines, uniting both communities under the same cause.

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