Philippines LitCamp Day 5: Rose, Bud, Thorn

As we prepare to head to the airport in just a few hours after a fun filled last day of LitCamp, complete with singing, storytelling, a talent show, and a pool party, I wanted to leave you with the team's collective Roses, Buds, and Thorns for the week.

Susannah, LitWorld Intern

Thorn: Definitely the language barrier. Especially since my group was very set on writing in English. Even when Ate, Dhalia and I made it very clear that Tagalog was completely acceptable, they would still write in English. Only when I started speaking more Tagalog did the orange team write in their native language.

Rose: This camp was so FUN. The kids definitely had fun, and we had a bunch of fun too. Helping create the opportunity for unadulterated play was very impactful for me, but it's crucial to acknowledge that all of the kids, through their enthusiasm, helpfulness, and willingness (overall awesomeness), collaboratively brought about that outcome. The LitCamp's structure lends itself to getting closer with co-counselors and campers in a very lovely way. That process gets me every time.

Bud: This week has been wonderful, and I would love to see how LitCamps function at LitWorld's other Innovation Hubs.

Yaya, LitWorld's Innovation Developer

Thorn: The hardest part of this trip for me was and is thinking about the conditions the kids return to each and every day. It's hard enough to think about them returning to slums and squatter communities, but it's even harder to think about the home lives and family situations that some of them have to cope with and survive through each and every day.

Rose: My rose has been seeing the joy and happiness in the kids faces as we gather for morning meeting, split off into bunk time, share and learn from one another. I love each and every child's own unique personality and style. Andrea, the crazy kid who, despite yelling everything she says can't seem to get enough of each and every activity. Nicole, quiet and sweet and one hundred percent into every song, game and writing activity we do. Paul, the joker of the group who manages to see humor in everything despite still morning the recent loss of his father. They are all amazing and wonderful.

Bud: Being able to bring LitClubs to these kids and connect with them on a regular basis. I can't wait.

Madison, LitWorld's Global Community Builder

Thorn: The low of my week is definitely leaving the kids. It is so hard knowing that some of them are returning to Ulingan and the unlivable conditions there. I struggle to understand why some families will not be moving to Bulacan, though I don't want to judge them.  I just wish all of the children could have a stable, safe, warm, and loving place to live and grown in. It is hard to know that is outside of our control.

Rose: Every moment of this week was my rose. From seeing the kids have so much fun and open up more by more every day, to watching the volunteers slowly take the lead, running our favorite activities and feeling confident that the things they have learned this week will continue to impact the community. I have loved each and every second of this week. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to get to know the children, with their unbridled joy and resilience, the moms, with their tenacity and love, and the volunteers, with their commitment and desire to learn. This week is a week I will never forget.

Bud: I am so excited to see how LitWorld, Project Pearls and the Vibal Foundation continue to grow together and work to support this incredible community. I think we can and will continue to be a resource for Project Pearls in terms of our experience and helping them navigate and determine how to play the most robust and supportive role possible in these families' lives.

Eliza, LitCamp Leader

Thorn and Rose: Becoming so close to Bebe and Ludy these past couple of days is both my rose and my thorn. After only five days, I already feel a deep sense of commitment and responsibility to them and to their children. For one week, we teamed up in order to care for the youngest group of kids. Now, to leave them in the dust with this huge responsibility seems unfair. This was extremely clear in Bulacan when Mae off-handedly suggested I take Queen with me back to the United States while I had her in my arms.

Bud: My bud is knowing that I have the power to maintain some sort of connection with them and have a lasting impact.

Danny, LitCamp Leader

As we sat eating dinner tonight in the Korean Restaurant I glanced down the aisle toward the door and spotted a chubby kid playing on a tablet, immediately I pictured 'our' children in Ulingan and wondered what they might be doing at that very moment. I felt a sudden sadness and realised that life can never be viewed in the same way, not after this week. Maybe it was the contrast between his rotund shape and the tiny bodies of 'our' children; maybe it was the difference between the wealth he demonstrated with his electronic device and the rags that some of  'our' children would wear to camp? Although these contrast were striking it was a third which brought me out of my lugubrious state and made me smile; an infectious smile that has been passed around camp all week from child to child, child to adult, adult to adult and adult to child; the child in the restaurant wore a frown to go with his tablet and expensive meal, 'our' children have worn a smile all week. A smile that has motivated me when I was exhausted and brought joy to my heart each day.

It is difficult to avoid the images in my mind of them living in Ulingan,  but their smiles have been so sweet, so loving, so beautiful and so happy that it is these images of  their smiling, shining, happy faces contorted with fun as they do "Jiggar Jar," "Baby Shark," or "Crocodile Crocodile," that will remain with me through the next year until we return for LitCamp 2014.