2015 AFAS EXCHANGE – through the students’ eyes

Most challenging experience?

“Seeing the confronting sights of homelessness and seeing [some Filipinos] living rough, but they had the biggest smile on their faces. Coping with that was hard.”

“The fact we were white and probably seen as more important people because of money – this to me does not make you a celebrity or any more important than another human being. So I struggled to assume that role [of the celebrity].”

“The human interaction was the one conflicting aspect with my other overseas trips [ to the third world]: the realisation of people living in survival mode their whole lives challenged how I perceive my life…”

“Personally I was confronted by the fear I felt of people on the street. When walking through the markets, I felt I shouldn’t be afraid of humans but instead I found myself unwilling to make eye contact with beggars, with street vendors, and even with families…”

“I found it challenging accepting the praise the communities gave us.”

2009 Friends

2009 Friends

“For me it was the way I had to suppress my reactions to certain things that was the biggest challenge. Seeing kids with rags and ripped clothes on compared to what I was used to was shocking. An example was when a group of us visited a scholar’s house and met his mum. The shock was their home which was made of bamboo. I felt like it wasn’t much at first, but the pride that the scholar had in their home really changed my perspective on it.”

“Visiting communities where people could barely afford food or clothes, knowing that I would leave o go back to the apartment where I was safe, dry and easily fed.”

“It struck me that almost all of them [children on the streets and at the schools] would never have the same opportunities as me. As a person who has travelled extensively…this was by far the most powerful and challenging experience, especially being able to visit the homes of the scholars.” [The scholars are the students whose education we fund through AFAS}

What insights did you gain?

“How a group of four or five friendship groups can come together in song, dance, interacting with school-children or in charity where donations are assigned.”

“the importance of the work AFAS does and how much it means simply to be there in the Philippines….The overall message I would take is that no amount of money outweighs the worth of being present and making friendships…”

“I found at times that the work AFAS does challenged me emotionally to consider my relationship with education at Villa and with further education.”

“The actual difference education {makes}: it can be used to change nations….What AFAS did is actually benefitting more than just the scholars but potentially the whole country. I found this very important in my future involvement in AFAS.”

“the true difference between a hand-out and a hand up.”

“It [the exchange] has allowed me to grasp the notion of being a voice for the people who have none.”

“How such small things to us, bags of rice and soap, can make such a large impact on the local people who receive them.”

“The most obvious thing or insight found was the value of education. In comparison to Australia it is remarkable to what extent people [in the Philippines] would go for education. It also throws into perspective just how much the average Australian takes for granted.”

“How happy the people are with how little they have. It is insightful to see that they are always smiling…”

“I gained a massive and valuable insight into the everyday lives of people living in poverty. To experience first-hand their lives, their struggles and their happiness made the exchange  very rewarding….”

“I knew that everyone would treat us hospitably, but I can’t even put into words how amazed I was and how at home they made me feel. Going to sleep some nights I found myself thinking things like, ‘I may be thousands of kilometres from home, but I don’t feel like I am at all.’

(Compiled by John Holroyd. Just a cross section of the amazing comments from all of our exchange students)