Philippines LitCamp Day 1: Sweat and Smiles

Wow. The first day of LitCamp was an intense, exciting, fun, laughter-filled (HOT!) day.

We started the morning with a visit to Ulingan. It was incredibly humbling to walk through Ulingan, a community so similar to so many we know. Like Kibera and Port-Au-Prince, steel sheet houses line sewage-filled paths, yet the community is unique with its own challenges (water and smoke from the coal pits where the families earn their livelihoods) and alive with its own culture and personality. It was a stark juxtaposition, seeing children running through smokey corridors and laughing when we could not breathe easily. We walked drenched in children (I felt like a human tree growing children!) and ducking into the homes we passed saying, "Good morning," and "How are you?" It is always eye-opening to see how the simple things we do every day, like make breakfast and see our loved ones out the door, seem familiar in such different circumstances. Everyone we met in Ulingan was warm and generous.


From there we loaded up the vans with our team and about 15 children from Ulingan, and headed to our LitCamp site in Bulacan. The LitCamp site is the new elementary school that most children will attend when the move to Bulacan is finished and school resumes, so it was a special opportunity for us to help them become familiar and comfortable in their new environment. We were thrilled to find that the school is beautiful. Resource-rich (the classrooms have books!) with a lovely garden, pet guinea pigs, a computer lab, and a wonderful outdoor space for play.

We were joined by another 35 kids from Bulacan, who had already relocated. That meant we had about 50 children - slightly more than expected but a wonderful amount nonetheless! We passed out our LitCamp tshirts and name tags. A little boy appeared at the front gate of the school selling place mats, and after buying a few, Eliza invited him to join the camp. He beamed with pride receiving his name tag and had so much fun all day.

We all came together to start the day with a morning meeting and a rousing rendition of the "Hokey Pokey," a rainstorm led by Susannah, stretches led by Danny, and "Oh How Lovely" led by Yaya. Then the kids split into bunks by age for their bunk-time activities, which included the Hello song, a check-in question, a hand circle, a read aloud, and beautiful journal decorating. They took so much pride in personalizing their notebooks and proudly displayed their hand circles for all to see.

Next we played some big games as a group, with a round of Jigga Ja, a silly dance of African origins, The West Wind Blows, and a very fun game of Swim Fishy Swim!

After lunch, we again split into bunks for rotations. Yaya led two periods of singing favorite camp songs, and some new Tagalog songs with help from some wonderful moms and our LitClub leader Karen! Danny led team-building initiatives, and fun games like Duck Duck Goose. I am not sure I have ever seen a group of kids have more fun playing Duck Duck Goose in my life! Eliza led a wonderful activity on improving our communities and her groups made beautiful collages displaying their ideas. Susannah's rotations designed their own funky animals and gave them new species names and personalities. The kids were in hysterics over this. We closed the day with a book donation from Vibal Publishing. Every book was written in Tagalog and many of the children sat right down and started reading.

Despite the fact that the day was hot and sweaty, and we were a new group coming together for the first time, you could already feel the community in a tangible way by the end of the day. Hugs abounded, giggles were everywhere, and new friendships were made.

We can't wait for tomorrow and the second day of LitCamp! We are off to an amazing start so far, and it promises to only get better from here!

--Madison Graboyes, Global Community Builder