Throughout the months of January to March, Stairway hosts various groups of international students in our many Youth for Change Camps. Students come to Stairway to interact with beneficiaries under the Family Home Program, who have wholly different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds than themselves; and yet, all of the young people will experience some form of transformation that transcends culture, language and background, that unifies them as one, and that will remain with them well beyond the five-day stay in Stairway.
A unique and life altering experience, we felt the need to extend the Youth for Change experience exclusively to our local Filipino scholars—both Mangyan and Tagalog. From an early age, the two groups attend separate elementary schools in their respective communities. They rarely meet or interrelate, until they merge to attend the local high school. It is at this crossroad, where cultural biases affect perceptions, objectivity and relationships—in both positive and negative ways.
Last March 16-18, 15 Mangyan and 25 Tagalog scholars joined children under Stairway’s Family Home Program for an unforgettable 3-day Youth for Change Camp filled with lots of fun activities, sessions about children’s rights and child protection, as well as an environmental themed treasure hunt. The last day of the camp, participants from Baclayan Mangyan School toured the premises of Puerto Galera National High School as part of their exposure activity.
At the end of the camp, students voiced their feelings:
“Salamat po sa Stairway dahil inimbitahan po nila kami dito sa camp. Masaya po ako dahil marami akong natutunann at naging kaibigan dito. “Thank you to Stairway for inviting us to join in this camp. I am happy because I have learned a lot and gained new friends. – Bernard Camo, Baclayan Mangyan School “
Natutunan ko dito kung paano magmahal ng kapwa” – I have learned how to love and care for others here. – Ace, Aninuan “
Masaya ako dahil nagkita-kita ulit kami ng mga kaibigan ko na taga Baclayan. Hindi na sila nahihiya makisalamuha.” I am happy because we met our friends from Baclayan again. They are not reluctant in socializing with us anymore. –Jimboy, Stairway Family Home Program
The Youth for Change Camp is a very good approach in helping young people from diverse backgrounds and cultures to bridge understanding and to foster lasting friendships. Stairway is committed to continue this significant summer activity for elementary graduating students of the community assistance program.
Contributed by Gheny Mae Lakiman, Community Development Officer