a bit of a long one…

looking to see where i’d left off in my last post about volunteering stuff, i was blown away – first to realize that it had been a month since i’d written, and then to process the fact that in total, that would mean we’ve been here more than four months now.  time just never slows down.

and, thankfully, the rhythm i’d started grooving to when last i wrote has kept up, and i’ve kept pace with it for the most part…i’ve finally put my pictures up in our office, which is ridiculous considering the amount of time i spend in here.  chris signed us up for an internet provider that happened to be offering free printers for new customers, so that rocks…we’re getting pretty efficient over here!

so the good news is that there’s no bad news.  my tactic with N at organization B seems to be working, although i’ve had neither the chance nor the need to be as explicit as i’d thought would be necessary when last i wrote.  i’d like to say that i’d somehow, by virtue of my incredible nonverbal communication skills, tacitly communicated all of this to her, but that’s not the case, either, i’m afraid!  i think that this is a mix of so many vital things coming together…not sure i’m conscious enough to recognize all of them, but this is what i’ve got so far:   i’ve lost some of the ego i was clinging to with regard to my work…i’ve always been really reliant on positive feedback, and in turn have let a lot of my work rely on that as its fuel.  it’s not that i’m not getting the feedback – it’s just that it doesn’t come right away…i’m not a manager here, and my contribution might be helpful, but there are a million other things going on at any given time, and i just don’t really take priority.  that said, the more i accept that, the more it starts to feel like we’re getting somewhere.

N has been a lot less vague and scattered in her communication, and i’ve been able to listen with a lot less static…by that i mean, i’m not letting the little things that aggravate me so much…well, aggravate me.  and i’m finding that her comments are really insightful when she takes the time to clarify them properly.  and i’ve really reassessed her professionally overall as a result…my assessment now is that she is a thinker and a creator (i.e., executive director, ceo, etc), and she’s trying to do the job of an organizer and planner (i.e., manager).  i can now see a blatantly obvious staffing gap where before i just saw the lacking competency…the woman needs a manager to carry out her dirty work!  all the staff complaints have come into perspective as well – these are the complaints they should be making!  but they should have a layer of separation from N, such that it’s a bit more difficult to personalize them.  either that, or N has to change her modus operondi…and i really feel that if one of those things doesn’t happen, there is truly a ticking time bomb…some of the staff have already said they’re considering their options…and it’s really not a big team.

but my exciting news (wait for this one…it might just sweep you off your feet!) is that i’m developing a booklet – which is slowly morphing into a book – inclusive of a conceptual overview on planning, monitoring and evaluation, the various forms i’ve created (of which several are already in use by the team), and policies and procedures i’ve written for the implementation of the forms!  that may sound geeky as all get out to most of you, but i assure you, the fact that N is on board with all of this speaks volumes as to the progress we’ve made in our working relationship.  i’m also working on a couple of other bits, editing, article writing, the website, etc…

as to organization C, we never did make it to the landfill, as the social worker, L, simply forgot about it entirely…no hard feelings – the woman’s got enough on her plate – so i’m still hoping that comes up soon.  we did, however, make our way to the prison.  cagayan de oro city prison is located in barangay lumbia, as are we, although it’s quite a big barangay – it takes about 15 minutes continuing along the highway once you pass our place before you reach the turn-off to the prison.  it’s split into two sections – male and female – and all minors are in the female wing, although the boys sleep separately.  no one under 15 would be given a prison sentence; instead there are a couple of homes – tahanan and boys’ town – although i’ve heard both referred to as “boys’ town,” so i’m not 100% on this.  info on the web isn’t great – can’t even find you a decent link.

basically, this is what i can gather of the justice system – bearing in mind that i’m none too impressed with the u.s. approach to justice for children OR adults, so this is not meant to be a criticism of the philippines – just of the way we as humans treat those who commit crimes.  if a child under the age of 15 has been abandoned, abused, neglected, or is otherwise unable to be raised by their birth parents or appropriate guardians (relatives), they can present themselves to the department of social welfare and development (DSWD).  until such time as they can be referred to foster parents or officially adopted (which is significantly rare, particularly considering the number of children here in need of homes), they are housed in boys’ town or tahanan.  but this is also where children under the age of 15 who are convicted of committing a crime (children in conflict with the law, or CICLs) are sent…i’ll leave the math to you.

if, however, a child is over 15 years old when they commit a crime that warrants incarceration, they are put in the women’s wing of the prison.  assuming they have been given a finite sentence (this can take ages – the judicial system is not fast, and the lawyers assigned to these kids are…well…not really present a lot of the time), when that sentence is up, if no one comes to get them – that is, if they are still minors, and no one comes to “claim” them, they’re left in the prison until they’re 18.  so say a 16-year old commits a crime – say (s)he is repeatedly convicted of theft and is finally sentenced to three months in prison.  say that 16-year old’s parents are fed up anyway, and decide not to come for him/her.  that kid could be stuck in prison for two years.

and while the prison doesn’t bring to mind images of midnight express or broke-down palace (both have been accused of massive exaggeration – i’m not gonna judge…wasn’t there), it’s not great.  there’s an open courtyard with lots of trees, but nothing to stimulate – no books, no games.  they can’t have pens or pencils because they “could be used as weapons.”  at any rate, they’re only allowed 3 hours outside anyway.  the rest of the time is spent in their cell – that’s right – one big cell for everybody.  the ladies get beds, although i’m not sure they’re what anyone reading this would call a bed, but the boys…just…don’t.  apparently the bed structures themselves could also be used as weapons, and the mattresses that have been bought by charities (including organization C) disappear when the inmates leave, because no records are kept of where those things come from.  so they sleep on the floor, every night.

if i communicated all of that properly, it should be pretty heavy…and i guess i haven’t gone there yet with this blog, so i realize that may have caught some of you off-guard.

as it turns out, L had a plan for me from the outset – albeit not explicitly (or implicitly!) communicated – to run a literacy course with her support.  well, since she’s got about a gazillion things to do already, i’ve been developing this course myself…bearing in mind that i’ve never taken a TEFL course or anything similar – i’m just researching online for ideas and piloting as i go along.  i’ve also got some theories about teaching language that i’m getting the invaluable opportunity to pilot, but not in a really scientifically meaningful way, as there will (hopefully) be a lot of turnover in our students, and the most important thing is that someone is there putting them first for a couple of hours.  it’s expensive to get out there…not a lot of jeeps run that far, and they only run a las pono, or when they’re full, so if we need to be there for a specific time, we’ve got to go by taxi.  as it’s so far, we have to pay the driver an additional amount (special price) to take us, and even just coming back, between two jeeps and a motorella for both of us…so we can only go fortnightly (that’s every two weeks, my compatriots).  but i’m really excited by the whole thing…and something else came out of this…

when i left the u.k. i was all about wanting to work with younger kids.  i thought – all my adult life, i’ve only ever wanted to work with street children…i mean, seriously – everything – every serious job i’ve had, my education, all my volunteer work – it’s always been about this.  and that’s true!  but sitting with these young people, with their snarky comments (i asked them to write a sentence in their aptitude test about themselves.  i gave the example, “i am tall.”  one of the boys replies, “i have penis.”) and their tough-guy attitudes…and that thing that teenagers have – that last, defiant spark, that somehow begs grownups to make it right…to make the fire of hope burn within them again…paired with their incredible potential (which i would say from personal and professional experience, the vast majority don’t for one tiny second acknowledge), it is an unspeakable privilege to be working with them again.

there’s a bit more, but i’ve droned on too long – will add a bit about a great day with the little ones under a few of my paborito things…if you’ve read this far, thanks for keeping up with my journey…more soon.

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