|The best times of my life!|
Click here for my photos
This is my personal website. It's mostly about my work in Dumaguete, because that's the only thing in my life that is interesting enough for a website. I made it in order to share information with people who asked me about volunteering here, and people who ask me why I'm here. For the official Little Children of the World website, click here.
This front page is information for people who want my advice on volunteering here in Dumaguete. Most links lead to photos I've taken here.
There are revisions of the volunteer program. Please contact LCW for details.LCW is hesitant to accept volunteers during the tense international situation. If you'd like to come unofficially to help the kids here, contact me: email@example.com
The following is a revision of an article I had published in the magazine Transitions Abroad.
Hassle Free Volunteer Program
After months of searching for an overseas volunteer position that did not require a lengthy application and interview process, fees, or specialized skills, I found Little Children of the World, (LCW). LCW's main project is Little Children of the Philippines, (LCP). I skipped the recommended in-person interview in Tennessee to save money and was on a plane less than three weeks after my initial call. Due to miscommunication, the people at LCP hadn't been notified that I was coming. Having a stranger with a backpack show up at 7:AM on a Sunday morning didn't faze them at all. They just invited me in and sang "Welcome to the Family". There is no arbitrary length of stay. Volunteers can come for a day or for years. What work you do and work schedules are equally flexible. LCW and LCP are non-denominational Christian organizations. All that is necessary is a sincere desire to help children in need. There is no budget for the volunteer program. Volunteers must be entirely self-supporting. The Mission House is maintained by the volunteers at $5 a week each, which includes all the basics as well as laundry service for linens. It is not difficult to manage on less than $5 a day; budget for $10 a day if you're the extravagant type. Volunteers live in a spacious and comfortable house, complete with cable TV, full kitchen, free internet access, etc. (See the mission house here.) LCP is located in Dumaguete City, a pleasant college-town of around 100,000 people. Half the population is under 20 years old, and over half the population is below the poverty line. That means over 25,000 poor children. LCP reaches only a small percentage of them. As a volunteer you'll be able to take on serious responsibility, whether in existing programs or initiating new projects. Or you can just come on a friendship tour; taking photos, singing with the kids, going on field trips, etc. The experience is yours to make. Anyone can be helpful here if they try.
(See volunteers at work and play here.)
(See more detailed volunteer information here.)
Possible areas of work:
1. Preschool Nutrition Program: This program needs constant follow-up. This is a much bigger job than it sounds. The pre-schools themselves are fun to visit and it is a good way to be introduced to the communities. Many volunteers in the past have chosen to visit the same pre-school each morning in order to get a chance to know the children better.
2. Housing project at our farm: 32 houses have now been built, financed by Consuelo Foundation. (See the importance of housing projects here.) Even with the construction finished, the housing project still has follow-up work needed. Dr. Bettie Elwood knows Millard Fuller and was the one who originally invited Habitat for Humanity to come to Dumaguete. LCP and Habitat worked together on what was the first housing project for each agency in Dumaguete; the Balugo Habitat community. After his visit in 1993, Millard Fuller described the Balugo project as "the most beautiful and successful project in the world"! (Visit the Dumaguete Habitat homepage here.
3. Health: You could bring all your friends and there'd still be room for more help here. This is one of the more frustrating and more rewarding areas to focus on. It can be very difficult to get things done, but what gets accomplished is very important.
4. Handicapped: LCP has a program for helping handicapped children. These children need a lot of attention. We've gotten numerous operations done for free; club-feet, cleft-palates, hair-lips, etc. These problems are often left untreated despite the availability of free operations. The families need someone to come in with initiative. For too many it is too easy to passively accept the condition of their child, as they often are not aware of the possibility of free operations. The Handclasp workers demonstrate how to access the available resources; like all of LCP's programs the attempt is to focus on training and education.
5. Learning Communities: You can teach almost anything you think would be useful and/or fun. You can teach on Sundays at the center and/or in the communities during the week. It can be purely recreational, like basketball or origami; or practical like math or English or hair styling.
6. Sponsorship: This would be good if you want to visit people in their homes and get a more personal view of their lives. There is need for visits with members with special problems, long-term members that are still not sponsored, children whose sponsors want photos of their home, etc. You could also help a lot in the office if you enjoy that kind of work. (Learn more about sponsoring a child here.)
See children in need of sponsors here (These are out-dated.)
7. Peace: Guest speakers are always appreciated for the Sunday service as well as in the Sunday school classes. There are different classes for each age group. Each community has regular Bible-study classes and they enjoy having visitors participate.
8. Computers: If you have any skill in this area you can be of great assistance. (See some computers in use here)
9. Marketing: LCP has a nice product line of hand-made paper and cards and flour-sack clothes. But it is not run as a business should be; in production, inventorying, or merchandising. As a training program it has been less than successful too.
10. Outreach program: The street child program always needs volunteers. We have a home for the children and priority is given to getting them back into public school. (See some street children in the program.)
11. Finances: The finance office needs help from anyone with the appropriate skills, or anyone who would like to learn those skills.
12. Milk project: This program is intended to provide members with affordable powdered milk. Finding the best wholesale source, fund raising, and distribution are all areas volunteers can help in.
13. Writing: We need articles for LCW publications. It would also be great to get publicity elsewhere if possible. I got articles in some home-town papers when I went back. The more the better.
14. Photos: When I went home it was the photos that raised funds more than my talking. It is easy to get good shots here and we could always use more great ones. (Some of my favorite photos here.)
15. Gardening: The grounds here are greatly under-utilized. There isn't (yet) anyone taking charge of seeing that it gets done well.
16. Smoky Mountain: Dumaguete has it's own dump. Squatter families live in the dump and earn their living by scavenging through the trash. LCP is very active in this community and volunteers often choose to focus much of their time helping these particularly needy children. (See Smoky Mt. photos here.)
17. Insert program of your choice here: If there is something else you think should be getting done you can start it yourself. LCP is generally very flexible; if there is something you want to try, go for it!
18. We have a new program called School on Wheels. It teaches out of school children and prepares them to re-enter school. We need more tutors helping with this, as there are over 70 children in several communities being taught this way.
Don't feel like you have to be involved in all, most, or any of these programs. Volunteers usually prefer to decide for themselves what work they would like to do. There is never a shortage of work to do or of new ideas to implement. If you have any questions about these programs or have any ideas you'd like to explore, please email LCP, LCW, or myself.
Preparing your visit to Dumaguete: Here is some basic information you should know before planning a visit to LCP. This listing is by no means complete; if you have any other questions just email me, I'm always glad to help potential volunteers.
VISAS: It is easiest to take care of that here. For up to 21 days no visa is necessary for American citizens. For about $60 you can get a visa for an additional 39 days. After 60 days, extensions of up to 2 months can be had for about $75. People often double-check this with me. Really, it is MUCH better to handle ALL the visa arrangements in Dumaguete.
MONEY: Recently, the peso has been about 53 pesos to the dollar. (Check the current rate here.) You can use American Express Cards and/or Traveler's Checks if you wish, but the rate is poor and it is very slow. If you bring cash, $50 & $100 bills get the best exchange rate. I strongly recommend using an ATM card, or a debit card. There are several 24-hr machines in town. It costs $1.50 to withdraw up to 10,000 pesos but you get the best exchange rate. With the current fluctuations this is especially important, as the local banks are slow to adjust to the peso falling and quick to adjust to it rising. It is also much quicker than exchanging cash. I have a Cirrus ATM card. I believe others are also accepted but check with your bank. If you have a 3 digit PIN number you'll need to get a 4 digit one.
HEALTH: No real problems or required vaccines and such. There is virtually no malaria in this part of the Philippines. However, there is Dengue fever. There are no vaccines for Dengue and it is extremely unpleasant. It is rare, but I had it myself and was laid up for about a week. (No other volunteer has ever gotten it, and few LCP members have either.) Many doctors will recommend shots for various tropical ills, but their information is based on the Philippines at large - not the Dumaguete area. The only shot I recommend is for tetanus if you're overdue.
WATER: The water in the Mission House is filtered and boiled to be safe. The boiling is expensive and does bad things to the taste of the water. Volunteers are encouraged to buy bottled water, which is very cheap. Drinking non-bottled water anywhere else here is not really recommended, though I drink the city water in restaurants without trouble (so far).
WHAT TO BRING: You can get almost anything you need here, so don't worry if you forget something.
Toiletries: Local products are cheap, U.S.A. imports are expensive. This is generally true about all goods. Bring anything you're particular about.
Clothes: Comfortable shoes/sandals, and footwear for ocean swimming. you'll need a hat but you can get a straw hat here for 50 cents or a baseball cap for about a dollar. You need at least one pair of long pants or skirt because shorts aren't allowed at the immigration office. The more revealing your clothes, the more attention you should be prepared to get. Women in revealing clothing are presumed to have "low morals", men dressed like that are just considered low class. It's too hot for rain coats. (Check the Dumaguete weather here.) You can save space by getting a cheap umbrella ($3) and flashlights ($1) here. We have mosquito nets. The Mission House provides linens, including towels and wash clothes.
Camera: Of course! Insta-matic film is available locally, but is very expensive. A camera like that would attract swarms of eager posers. A roll of Kodak 100 24 exp. costs P72. Other brands are as low as P55. To develop it costs about P 120, reprints cost under P4. (All those prices are 1 year out of date.) Special kinds of batteries are available, but I can't promise that all types are available. Bring photos from home! People here are very interested, especially photos of your family. Photos of your home, car or other possessions may give the impression that all Americans are fabulously wealthy. (And by local standards that is true enough.)
Vitamins: Generally very hard to find and very expensive here. Generic children's multi-vitamin/minerals make excellent gifts.
Antibiotic cream: This is available here in the $1 stores, but is hard to find and expensive in Dumaguete. In tropical areas it is very important that every little cut be treated, so this is an important personal item to bring and also an excellent gift.
Fun: Toys, games, and/or sports equipment that you'd enjoy using with the kids are good. Again, though, most is available locally if your luggage space runs out. Balloons are hard to find locally and the kids love them.
BE CAREFUL: It's better not to bring anything expensive, especially jewelry, watches, or pens. You'll get to feel right at home in the Mission House and anything small and pretty left laying around in the public area is a big temptation for some of the younger children to play with. The dorm rooms have locks, of course, and a lock-box can be available as well.
LOGISTICS: Shop around for your ticket! I flew out the first time from New York City on China Airlines, $885 for a 1 year open - return ticket. The next time I flew out of New York again, but on Philippine Airlines, which was $984 - including the round trip domestic flight here! This year I am flying Korean out of Detroit for $964. There are other cheap airlines, but most airlines will price a lot higher. Most travel agents stick with the expensive airlines. (Stays of shorter periods (under 90 days) should be at least $100 less than what I've paid, or even over $200 less.) The ticket from Manila to Dumaguete fluctuates in price from $40 to $60. ( Buying round-trip does not save money.) Arranging before may cost a little more but could save you an extra day in Manila if they're booked. There are flights from Manila to Dumaguete. (Flight schedule) Flights may be delayed! When you book your return flight, keep this in mind. (Note, all prices listed may have changed.) There is an airport fee of P550 when you leave the country. Visitors over 6 months need to pay another P500. These fees seem to change frequently, so check ahead to be sure. There is an over-weight charge on domestic flights on all luggage over 20 kilos. The boat is $20 but takes 24 hrs. compared to a 1 hr. flight. (Boat schedule.)
If you're over-nighting in Manila, the Malate Pension is a good place. It was $7 for a bed in dorm with air conditioner, email them for current rates. Fan dorms and private rooms are also available. You can make your reservation from the hotel desk at the airport (it's hard to miss). Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org So you could reserve ahead. A taxi to the hotel should cost no more than P150, but they'll try hard to get P300 or more from you. If you can find one that will honestly use a meter, the charge is quite a bit less.
If you pay for anything in dollars, you'll be over-paying for sure. There are money exchange desks at the airport. The rate is not quite as good as it is in Dumaguete. The desks may be closed at night, I don't know the exact hours. You could find someone to exchange with you from their own pocket if you ask around enough, but I believe that's illegal and you'd stand a chance of being ripped off.
Please notify LCP when you'll arrive in Dumaguete, so they can pick you up at the