Philippines LitCamp Day 3: Opening Up

Today's bunk time activity was four square memories, an activity from the LitClub curriculum that asks children to draw and write about their family, their friends, their hobbies, and their dreams in four squares. Every camper was immediately engaged by the prompts, and we all spent a long time immersed in thought, thinking about and describing our lives. Their notebooks have quickly become filled with beautiful stories and pictures, and I have never seen children so enraptured by having the opportunity to write.

After writing and drawing, it was time to share. On the first and second day if camp, the kids were excited to share, but still nervous. Some were reluctant to share in front of friends, others about their ability to work through the language barriers. Today any lingering apprehensions disappeared. John shared his dream of becoming a flight attendant. Mica shared that she would like to finish her studies to help her family. Paul shared that he missed his father, who passed away recently, and Hendrix comforted him, sharing with the group what a good man he was. Nani Ludy spoke about her sister passing away, and the joy she has felt taking Queen, a camper, as her daughter. Bong drew his sister as his family and his friend.

There are many, many moments of absolute unbridled joy throughout each day, but many moments that cause us to stop in the midst of the excitement and reflect on the realities of the camper's lives. It is hard to understand that at the end of the day, when we return to our hotel, the campers return to the smoke of their homes. It is hard to know at the end of this week, the constant fun that they so absolutely throw themselves into with full force will stop.

But then we remember how important this joy is. Joy is such a key part of resilience - their laughter during Jigga Ja, their clapping during Baby Shark, their giggles and hugs and jumping and high fives all speaks to just how strong and resilient these children are. In circumstances where so many of us would give up, they still find reasons to smile, and after childhoods that have not been childhoods at all, they still find the strength to share. Each and every one of them is inspiring. And that is what LitCamps and LitClubs provide - a sanctuary and joy for every child, and the opportunity to be the child they should be able to be.

Some moments we won't forget from today are a silent game of sending a pulse around a full LitCamp circle, squeezing each other's hands one by one; Wendell and Nestor, our wonderful PEARLS volunteers, helping the youngest bunk successfully lead a marble across the pavilion through pipes into a cup; Nani Mae teaching us "Oh How Lovely" in Tagalog; the orange team writing their bunk anthem and shouting it across camp; the oldest campers huddled around Yaya in a circle for a read aloud of "A Tale of Two Frogs," their faces inches from the pages.


Every day is a wonder with these children, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to share in their joy.

--Madison Graboyes, Global Community Builder