Jian Li Yew - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

Just like many people, I want to discover new places and meet new people. However, personally, I want to find out who I am when I am out of my comfort zone and what I am capable of without the help of my loved ones in my home country. Ever since I have started to develop my own thinking, I am very passionate about giving back to the community! Seeing the smiles on the people I serve, it motivates me so much.

A vehicle owned by the Tacloban City government, Philippines

Tacloban City, Philippines

Why did you choose Volunteer for the Visayans (VFV)?

I am determined to have a career in the NGO sector in the future. However, I did not know which area I was most interested in. With their broad based social welfare programs, volunteering with VFV gave me some general insights on the overall operations of a non-profit NGO. The nutrition project was one of the stepping stones in finding out where my passion in the social workforce really lies.

What was your favorite part about the Philippines?

To me, it’s always the people! Filipinos are very friendly and helpful. Some would go an extra mile to help you. It was also about learning from their experiences and stories to share. Not only do they learn from me, I have learnt a lot from them too!

What made your experience abroad unique?

The best part was truly interacting with other volunteers, finding out how they came to volunteer as well as learning about their lives.They have taught me so much, from current happenings in their home countries to identifying stars and planets in the night sky. Simply by communicating with them, they allow me to experience different cultures and traditions; different insights and perspectives from them allow me to open up my mind. With different views and ideas, we experienced the Philippines together!

A market in Palo, Leyte, Philippines

A local market in Palo, where we did daily grocery shopping.

How did VFV’s local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff were very approachable and helpful. They are very passionate about their work and that energy is contagious! They are like a big family, supporting each other regardless of the position they hold. They always try their best to provide answers to our questions and are always willing to lend a helping hand.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I had stayed in the Philippines for a couple of extra days, specifically to travel. I assumed there would be time to travel during the weekends, but time is often too tight to go anywhere far, and it was best to focus in helping out the organization whenever possible.

Describe a typical day in the life of your volunteer work.

During weekdays, we started the day by traveling to the Palo market with a jeepney to do grocery shopping for 40 children. Next, we would go on a habal-habal (modified motorbike taxi that fits more than two persons) to the nutrition center located in Cangumbung. With the help of local nanays (mothers), we prepared the ingredients by cleaning, cutting, etc. We would then start cooking for the children! After lunch, the area would be cleaned and we would play some games and activities with the children, and then travel back to Tacloban.

Children and teens at a community center in the Philippines

Fun time with children and teenagers!

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy participating in other programs provided by my host organization during my free time! A few highlights would be dancing with teenagers during the boys and girls club sessions and helping out swimming instructors in swimming programs. Besides that, we spent some relaxing time at the beach too!

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

For my entire trip, I lived in a homestay together with the host family. The accommodation provided was simple and basic. Traditional Filipino food was prepared for me daily and it was delicious! To mix things up, my nanay would serve some Western food occasionally as well. I liked that I could truly experience the living conditions and lifestyles of the people living in the area.

What is one thing everyone should know before volunteering in the Philippines with VFV?

Prepare yourself psychologically and physically! You would need lots of energy to make full use of your time there. You will definitely miss home, but appreciate the time you have in Tacloban.

Do not only consider volunteering, do it!

View of Palo, Leyte, Philippines from a mountaintop

Morning hike with local teenagers for this amazing view overlooking Palo and beyond.

How has your time in the Philippines impacted your life?

The local people are very contented with the little they have, and we often take for granted the many that we possess. I've gained a new understanding and appreciation for what I have. I have also realized the importance of the people I have in my life. I start to value every person in my life more than I used to, as they are the ones who grow and support me. I am no longer afraid to show my appreciation to the people I love explicitly.

Would you recommend VFV to others? Why?

Definitely! The programs, excursions, and local staff support offered by VFV are fantastic! The close proximity of different homestays to the VFV office allows you to meet and connect with local staff and other volunteers easily. Their staffs work in unity, are enthusiastic, and dedicated to their work. VFV is very generous with opportunities to take part in their community programs as well. They also take you on a tour of the different project sites, so you gain some understanding of different programs as well as where your donation goes to.