After such an exciting trip, I was anxious to catch up on some much needed rest. Yet, here I am at around 8am EST wide eyed due to an off balance sleeping schedule. I figured this would be the perfect time to reflect on my experience as a GLOBE Fellow. Before divulging all of you readers into my experience, I would like to again thank Dr. Sama and the Steering Committee of GLOBE for allowing me the opportunity to partake in a trip that I will remember for a lifetime.
So, what was it like to be a fellow? Honestly speaking, the experience started out a little tough for me. I had graduated college the day before and with little time to celebrate with my family, I was thrust into a group that I had only met twice (aside for Dr. Sama and Alina) for about a week. I selfishly wanted more time to celebrate a moment I worked so hard for. However, hindsight would prove that it was my nerves more than anything that trumped my excitement. Aside from our itinerary, I didn't know what I was about to experience. Furthermore, it has always been in my nature to want to know the outcome of things before taking the next step. But with all things, you never know the outcome until you began. And so, it began.
Here I am, sitting in a local village in Manila after a quick meet up with Girlie from Habitat for Humanity. Girlie and Greg would be our guides for the day. As I am sitting in the meeting of women who had borrowed micro loans from Habitat to rebuild their home, it hit me, "I'm not in New York anymore" I said to myself. I was directly in the poverty that I read so much about. A shack with enough collected debris to make a rough. As I swatted at the flies surrounding me, I let the stray dog pass my feet. I looked around at this group of women. So beautiful to the eye with warm spirits that did not speak to the conditions in which they lived. It would be their sense of humor that kept me upbeat when in that moment I wanted to cry.
When I left them, I sat in the back of our van in deep thought as we made our way through the traffic of Manila. I held back tears and wanted the day to end. I wanted to go back to the Hospicio and reflect on what I had seen that day but unfortunately we had to make our way into the city. Imagine leaving the poverty of Manila to drive into a city that is a completely different world. The world of the working class who enjoyed the local shops as they moved quickly up and down the street with their Starbucks coffee in hand. I felt guilty and sick to my stomach. Here we are eating our food and all I could think about was how this level of poverty is so ignored? I was frustrated to say the least. But more than anything, it made me reflect on my life, where I had come from, and the importance of humility.
A girl from the inner city of Philadelphia, my family and I used all the resources around us so that I could have an opportunity. I had made it out of my own impoverished neighborhood to be at a University in New York city. However, along the way I lost my humility. I forgot that I had to work twice as hard to get where I was coming from a family that was low income. Not to mention, being a black woman in America. There was no silver spoon. Yet here I was in the slums of Manila, realizing that my own story had come full circle. I watched the people around me and in a way they reminded me of my family. Of course their conditions are far worst. However, I can recall that at my families worst, we were happy to just have one another. That is what kept us going and what allowed our financial circumstances to change for the better. I felt the same vibes from the women I met that day in Manila and all of the borrowers I encountered during our trip. They were happy to have each other. That is how they make it through the tough times.
What will I remember? I will remember Iloilo where I met the mother of Sr. Corrie who made me think of my great grandmother whom I did not meet but paved the way for my grandmother who paved the way for my mother. I will remember Legazpi where I witnessed the borrowers children speak on behalf of their parents in attempt to help their family. We would later plant mango trees together. I will remember the Batangas where I stayed in my first beach hut and ate fish fresh from the sea. I will remember the other fellows that pushed me out of my own shy comfort zone. Through their conversations of being abroad, I realized that I still have so much of the world to see. Lastly, I will remember that meeting in Manila that changed my outlook on the world forever.
By the end of the trip, I would describe being a GLOBE fellow as honorable. We traveled together on a mission to have an impact that is much greater than us. It is an experience you can't completely put into words. However, I hope that this post sufficed.
Forever in my heart and prayers, thank you to the Philippines.