Leaving an Impact
As our days in the Philippines become numbered, the inevitable Goodbyes have been at the back of my mind.
Prior to this trip, I was most apprehensive about the kind of impact I would leave on the local community. I’ve been on a fair share of service trips to know that many a times, the desired impact is often less than positive. How can you possibly make a lasting positive impact in such a short period of time – What happens to the equipment you introduce to the community after you leave and no one has the means to repair it? What happens to the donations you leave behind that runs out after a month?
While this program was different in purpose, we were still entering an entirely new community for 3 weeks, and our short appearance would leave an impact on the local community whether desired or not.
In this regard, working with Jeffrey’s business was the most service trip-like – we were here with the intention of helping. In the beginning, the idea felt almost presumptuous, show up for 3 weeks and give suggestions to help improve a business that has been running for over 3 years.
Initially, Jeffrey was just as skeptical of our intentions as we were. However, overtime, we started to understand each other better and this led to more open and honest discussions that began to really amount to something.
I believe the biggest difference was that we didn’t come here to implement a plan we made based on our preconceived notions – we came here with nothing but an open mind. This allowed us to readily consider and accept his difficulties and suggestions. Our daily discussions with Jeffrey did not feel one-sided, rather, it felt like a genuine exchange of ideas. Bouncing ideas off each other, and trying to understand why a certain idea did not work here and how we could possibly make things better in the given context.
After showing him the report we had completed, he commented that he had already taken one of our suggestions – the offering of free wifi for milkshake purchases and adjusted it to include other shop purchases as well. He even went ahead to print the tarpaulin for the promotion. His initiative and actions leave me with a peace of mind – our stay may have been a short 3 weeks, but our impact on Jeffrey’s business mindset and outlook was something that was lasting and sustainable. We didn’t just leave him with a report with some suggestions thrown in the mix, we left him with a greater belief in himself and his shop.
Jeffrey and us with our printed report.
In Tubod Mar
“Should you be giving them this much attention if you’re going to leave in a few weeks?” Was a question i constantly asked myself whenever I played with the children in the village.
It all started one night when I thoughtlessly showed Marydelle (our neighbor’s 7 year old daughter) a clip of Peppa Pig and the next day she showed up with 3 other children and together, they waited over an hour for me to get back from town – they were waiting to watch Peppa Pig on my phone. I had unintentionally disrupted their regular daily routine by introducing a new form of entertainment.
Every night since then, Marydelle would come over to our house expectantly waiting for me to show her more videos. I did not want this to grow into a reliance on my electronic gadgets, as I knew this was something I could only offer for 3 weeks. What happens after I leave?
I am reminded again, that maybe the local community would have been better off If I had simply minimized the impact I would have left in this 3 weeks. Nonetheless, I grew more conscious of my actions since that incident, and have focused on playing together with the children instead by joining in on their daily activities and games.
The children all know my name by now, and they run across the basketball court shouting my name when they spot me. I can’t help but think of their disappointment when they come round the house on Sunday only to realize that we have gone. Maybe they’ll simply forget about us the day after we leave, or maybe they won’t even care that much that we’re gone. These thoughts however, leave me conflicted on my impact on the local community in Tubod Mar – it’s so easy for us to come and to go, but it’s hard to truly understand the impact we have on the people we leave behind.
Playing catching in the basketball court with the kids
I believe that most humans act based on self-interest; I came on this trip knowing that the biggest impact I would leave here would be on myself.
I thought it was timely, for my last blog post, to reflect on the impact that I have left on the people that have themselves, left a huge impact on me. These people have opened their homes and their hearts to me, and I sincerely wish that my actions and words have left nothing but a positive impact on their lives.