It is my last week in the Philippines- how crazy! Two months flew by, and yet, I feel like I have garnered a lifetime of experiences within such numbered days. This blog post, I wanted to talk about the local daycare that we visit around once a week. I have always loved working with children- so many of them speak their mind without a second thought, they create a game for enjoyment out of nearly anything, and they are purely living life. With these children especially at this daycare, they have been breaths of fresh air within my time in Manila.
I remember the first time I walked into the daycare over a month ago, fifteen pairs of widened eyes stared back at me with hesitancy. The teacher, Ate Ethel, introduced us as volunteers from the United States- but they seemed totally disinterested in this fact. As I approached them to talk or say with hello, many children avoided my eye contact or were resistant to saying anything back. After failed repeated attempts, I decided that the best thing to express friendliness was to step back from talking, and instead let my actions speak. This worked surprisingly well- what ended up breaking the ice was when I started drawing pictures for them once they completed their in class assignments. As I wrote “Great Job!” and “100%” on their papers, I also doodled some Hello Kitty, some Spiderman, characters from Frozen, and more. Soon, the kids crowded around me and enthusiastically asked me to draw more and play with them.
The next hour and a half, I sweat even more than I ever had in the Manila heat (which is a LOT). These children who were initially quiet when I first met them were the most energized kids I had met. They ran around, thrilled to have someone (aka me) chase them around the room. They lined up behind me, waiting for their turn for a piggy back ride, and I often had a pile of three to four kids on my back all at once. They were a big fan of my friend who was strong enough to pick up nearly nine kids with just his arms- but even he was gassed out by the end of the day. In times that I had to take a break from all the back-breaking work, I would draw pictures on the chalkboard of different cartoon characters, as the kids guessed amongst themselves who it was. I also sat down with those who were more one quiet side, spending time putting together puzzles with them and having conversation. Each child I met had their own distinct personality, and I was grateful that they opened up to me as quickly as they did that day.
Since then, I have returned to the daycare every week and have only grown closer to many of the children. When they see me enter the classroom, many yell “Ate Anna” at the top of their lungs. There is an indescribable feeling of happiness every time I see them, and sadness each time I leave. It will be painstakingly difficult to say goodbye to them this week.