Philippines LitCamp Day 2: Camp Spirit

Last night our team debriefed at dinner, sharing our roses, buds, and thorns of our first day of LitCamp. The thorns were brief, and included the language barrier - an obvious hurdle we needed to clear - and the fact that at the end of the day, the children still returned to Ulingan, and we couldn't do anything to change the challenges there. It was good to air our thorns, and process those emotions together.

Our roses were many of the moments I shared in yesterday's report: smiling faces, a hilarious round of swim fishy swim, and the way that the children were so filled with enthusiasm and joy at every new activity they were introduced to. Our own conversation was filled with laughter.

The buds were perhaps the most enlightening part. For some of us, it was getting to know the children better, and looking forward to our bonds growing. For others, it was trying out an activity in a new and different way. Each of us felt even more excited for day two.

The bud that I shared with the group was a nugget I have picked up from the last two LitCamps I have had the good fortune of leading: you can truly see the fun the children had and the impact you made on day one by the way the children arrive on day two. Day one is a fun and exciting day, but it is also a day filled with "new." New people, new places, new activities, new ideas, new experiences. Day one is a day outside of our comfort zones, before camp becomes our comfort zone. The fun and feel of camp is much clearer when we have all had the chance to reflect.

This idea serves as a metaphor for the second day of the LitCamp. Arriving at breakfast and loading up in the van this morning, the team was itching with excitement, prepared with all we learned about each of the campers and the community as a whole on day 1. When we pulled up in Ulingan to pick up the kids, they burst into the van, leaping in to hug us and squeeze in the seats between us, to chatter away to us about their nights and ask us questions about the day to come. Any butterflies or apprehension were replaced by complete excitement, expectation, and comfort as we drove to Bulacan.

Little traditions became entrenched over night, and the bunks, like LitCamp itself, have developed their own strong micro-communities. Cheers of "Red!" "Orange!" "Green!" and "Blue!" led all the kids into bunk time. Every camper, from the youngest to the oldest, was engaged making heart maps and raised their hand to share.

We moved into some big games, starting with another round if Jigga Ja, with more giggles than before (which did not seem possible) and then played a game of cheering Rock Paper Scissors (where the winner is cheered on by the losing opponent until the entire camp is split into two huge groups cheering for the final competitors). It is always wonderful to see a group of 25 campers cheering madly at the top of their lungs for an 8 year old playing Rock Paper Scissors.

We played a variety of relays - hopping on one feet, two feet, ball chasing, and a crab walk. The smiles and laughter let us know that this play is so special. The children simply do not have the space to run and play like that in Ulingan, and you can see on their faces that it means so much to them to let go and be children.

After lunch, there was more singing, collage making, animal creating (still hilarious), and team building. Danny challenged the oldest bunk with protecting the last egg of an endangered species (a marble) and returning it to it's nest. He gave each camper a halved piece of PVC pipe and had them work together to make a long long ramp to a cup. While the species did not make it, the campers had so much fun, and learned a lot about working together.

Perhaps the most inspiring part of today was seeing our volunteers from Ulingan shine. Nestor, the preschool teacher; Wendell, the enthusiastic teen volunteer; Dhalia, the social worker and disability activist; Bebe, Ludy, and Mae, moms and "nanis" to the children. Each of them blossomed today, translating more comfortably and leading the activities, participating in every way from hopping in the relays to singing at the top of their lungs and making their own collages. Each of them inspired me today with their joy and their commitment, and the way they give so much to these children despite their own difficult lives.

It is clear that this LitCamp will make a deep impact, and that the games we play and songs we sing, the endless amount of times we pick up another and another and another book to read, will be carried back to Bulacan and Ulingan, into homes and schools and daycares. We are all learning so much about just how much joy can fill an 8-year-old, an 11-year-old, a 14-year-old, and we are all - LitWorld, PEARLS, volunteers, teachers, and moms - committed to making sure that joy continues long after the LitCamp ends.

Until tomorrow!

--Madison Graboyes, Global Community Builder