Monday, March 3, 2014

Three weeks in Kananga!

So this is a bit belated, but we’ve been without reliable internet for the past three weeks (even now it’s a bit spotty). Our three weeks volunteering with All Hands and living at the big pink hospital in the town of Kananga, on the island of Leyte, in the Philippines has sadly come to a close. I know no one wants to read a novel about the last few weeks, so I'll try to give just the highlights!

Conditions were what you might expect for a small, rural village that has recently suffered a devastating typhoon: 
No electricity (the generators ran from 6-10ish each night)
No internet
Sleeping under a mosquito net in a giant army tent with 24 other volunteers
Bucket flush toilets 
Cold, outdoor bucket showers

But after the initial shock of "what had we gotten ourselves into?!?!?” wore off (it took maybe half a day), it became home and you didn’t even realize life had been any other way.

Kananga Municipal Hospital, our home away from home. It looks like a big watermelon.

The very humid and hot army tent where we slept.

The lonely street the hospital sat on. 15 minutes down this was the town of Kananga
Buying an afternoon snack from our closest "store".
We woke up with the sunrise and roosters crowing. Actually, the roosters crowed all day, in fact their prime time seemed to be between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The hour after sunrise was the coolest hour of the day and by 8 a.m. you knew you were in for a long, hot one.

Our daily projects ran the gamut and included: 
Deconstructing homes and school buildings that had been destroyed or structurally compromised 
Helping local teams working on rebuilding new homes 
Putting up tarps at homes and schools 
Work to get the only local hospital reopened 

If you ever wanted to feel like a movie star, show up to a school in a small village in the Philippines. You can’t walk across the grass without 20 kids shouting “Hi!!!!”, “What’s your name?”, and “Hi Auntie Lauren!” Shoveling rubble could draw a crowd of 10-20. Our last day we were pulling down walls of a classroom and probably had a crowd of 60 kids. Heck, Grant getting mud out of his boots with a stick drew a crowd! One of the biggest things I take from this experience (and hope I never lose) is just the pure happiness of these kids. Their lives are so different from what we know -- one boy who brought me flowers told me his house hadn't yet been repaired because they needed welding equipment but there was no electricity to run the equipment. During recess, the kids didn't have any toys to play with, but they made games out of kicking and throwing their sandals. They have SO little but were SO happy.

Grant offering the mud from his shoe to a little girl. Not too impressed.
We make the kids do all the dirty work.
Makeshift classrooms since the typhoon.
Work in the field was pretty brutal at times, a lot of sledgehammering, shoveling, wheelbarrowing, moving debris, more shoveling, in pretty unforgiving tropical heat. We can now put up a tarp to replace a school room’s wall, sledgehammer and pull a wall down, shovel pretty much anything that can be shoveled, paint a roof, and put up crown moulding like a pro (that’s more Grant than Lauren).

Pretty much sums up how I feel about putting up crown moulding.
Our sweet ride.

In our time on base, there was up to 55 volunteers working on the project. Some people had come for a week, some for 6 months, from all over the globe. We met some incredible people with incredible stories. Some seemed to be life-long travelers, some just taking a week or two off work to come help. 
Even though we were only there for a short amount of time, I know this experience will be something I treasure and remember forever. We were part of something special and bigger than ourselves, and I feel very lucky to have been able to be a small part of that.

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