MANILA, Philippines – One would think that as volunteers, it would be us teaching the kids, but interestingly enough, we are the ones that end up doing much of the learning.
That is, learning lessons on bravery and strength, of family and faith.
I guess it’s safe to say that one great thing about college is how you’re given a lot of chances to break the boundaries of a typical classroom and your pen and paper. You’re presented with avenues to learn and grow in a totally different setting, with totally different people. In college, aside from academic endeavors, one is given the chance to pursue interests and advocacies.
I am one of many Ateneans involved in Kythe, where we provide psychosocial support to kids with chronic illnesses and their families. This is done through hospital visits, therapeutic play, and events where we get to bring the kids out of the hospital. Simply put, we gear our efforts to make the kids feel as if they are not sick – that their sickness need not define them.
Upon joining the org four years ago, I only wanted to take part in its beautiful vision. But after all the hospital visits, advocacy events, chitchats with the parents, and relationships formed, the experience made me realize much more than that as it taught me to appreciate the beauty of life; to root optimism in the everyday; and to acknowledge simple joys.
I met Ashley four years ago and since then, we’ve always found ourselves being partnered with each other in events. In the course of our interaction, I’ve seen her go through the vicious cycle of getting well, only to get sick again. I’ve seen her grow into a mighty and spunky little girl, dealing with her condition with much strength and optimism. Everyone looks up to her because she is the epitome of hope and courage.
One would think that as volunteers, it would be us teaching the kids, but interestingly enough, we end up doing much of the learning. That is, learning lessons on bravery and strength, of family and faith. The children and families we get to interact with make us realize how life can put you in the most difficult situations, but how you deal with them is what truly matters.
We are also exposed to life’s realities – to struggles and pain, to the plight of government hospitals, to the constant and arduous search for how else we can help. It’s interesting how sometimes, we find ourselves being moved by issues beyond what we signed up for such as privatizations, and the restricting cost of healthcare.
This is another important learning we obtain – that any involvement is always part of a bigger picture. The involvement constantly challenges each of us to discover how we can further contribute to the issue at hand. We yearn to find out what else we can do for the children and their families.
While our involvement may have started with the desire to help, the beauty of the whole experience is eventually refocusing the desire from I, me or us to the kids and their families. It is no longer just about volunteerism but about interaction with the children, and how the interaction can make them feel better about themselves and forget their afflictions.
I feel fortunate to have found Kythe-Ateneo, and to have shared many experiences and memories with these brave little angels, their families and my fellow Kythers because they have all contributed to this perspective.
We do what we do because the children deserve a normal childhood. We only hope to contribute in any way we can by spreading awareness and crafting ways for involvement. We only hope to constantly pose a call to action for an active role in the service in all ways and always for the kids.
(Jamia Amin is a BS Management student at Ateneo de Manila University who describes her stint with Kythe as one of her passions.)