GX Team 71

26 12 2008

GX Team 71


Team 71 Signing Off

23 12 2008


In March 25, 2008 Team 71 was finally complete. In the quaint village of Goring in Streatley, 18 volunteers and 2 PSs got together, got oriented, planned their next 6 months ahead.

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A week after, off they were to Newham (east of London). Lived with counterparts in host homes and worked in various volunteer placements. Some worked with the elderly, the others with the Youth in Conflict; a couple did a documentary and another helped Fight for Peace. Refugees, mothers and volunteers were some of Team 71’s clients. But work without fun is boring, so on the side Socials was a main thing. Visiting sites in Central London, playing sports, and hanging out in Pubs were some of their activities.

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Soon it was their MidPhase Review and then quite quickly, before they knew it, it was Debrief of Phase 1.

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And then it was Philippines Phase for Team 71


In Iligan they had same counterparts, different work partners. Team 71 served the marginalised, the indigenous groups, those affected by war and the students who had/has the future in their hands.

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GCDs, CADs – Built Houses, Got close to some goats, Talked about the Environment and Peace Efforts in Mindanao… But partying along the way.

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But on August 17, 2008 – Team 71’s last 2 weeks in Iligan was cut short.

Bombings questioned the security so they had to be evacuated and eventually never allowed to go back. Good thing their workmates and host families decided to go all the way to Cagayan de Oro, to say their proper goodbyes.

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This was OUR STORY, Team 71 Story.

As the new year finally comes in, we close our story – but only of being together physically. On with our lives, we continue to be woven together by our desire to be more Active Global Citizens. We will continue the work that we’ve done- in our present respective communities, in our hometowns, in our respective countries. 🙂

This website will continue to exist but soon not as http://www.gxteam71.com but as http://www.gxpteam71.wordpress.com. And no news will be written anymore but we can all look back in the memories we built together from March – August 2008.

Thank you for joining us in our journey! 🙂

This is Team71 Aili, Ajeet, Becs, Catherine, Dom, Dee, Elbert, Ferg, Hannah, Jay, Joseph, Kang,  MehAnne, Pat, Rebecca, Ruth, Shaie, Tom,  Tonette,  and Victoria – signing off!

Wrapping Things Up Debrief-Style

15 09 2008

Ajeet Panemanglor & Kang Sonza

Before Team 71 headed off into the big bad unknown of life after Global Xchange, we had to wrap things up, talk things out, and maybe have a good cry or two before the inevitable goodbyes.

This phase’s debrief team of Dom, Shailoe, Dee and Kang had everything planned out well, and our unforeseen evacuation two weeks early to Cagayan de Oro didn’t mess much up for them.

First, the more technical sessions were gotten out of the way at SEARSOLIN, while the team was holed up there following the evacuation. Everyone took time out to sit down and evaluate different aspects of Global Xchange, including such things as the Global Citizenship Framework, the Global Citizenship Days, and the different materials we’d been using over the course of the exchange. There was also time for an egg hunt of sorts, where the team looked for plastic eggs assigned to them around the gardens of SEARSOLIN, and answered questions tucked in inside them. There were even special eggs, inside which different dares were placed, to the distress of those who’d found them. A few didn’t manage to do their dares though – like someone missed having his chest shaved, and another didn’t do her spiel in the middle of a famous mall in Cagayan de Oro. But Ajeet did manage to conquer his fear and lived up to the challenge of eating a balut. Just don’t ask how long it took him to eat one egg…

The sessions at SEARSOLIN were quite serious and more of an evaluation of the entire Global Xchange programme, and the reality of it ending and of the separation of ways was stressed by the first surprise of the debrief team – the half yearbooks. Everyone was given a yearbook with the team’s pictures and pages for everyone to fill in their messages. It also carried Team 71’s contact information to make sure everyone keeps in touch.

The team moved on to the Ridgeview Country Club after our time at SEARSOLIN, where the debrief proper took place. A host of activities had been prepared. Everyone got to sit down with their counterparts, talk over time spent together, and share messages for each other with the team. Everyone also got to sit down and talk about their goals from the start of GX, and how those had changed over the course of the programme. There was also time set aside to meditate on different aspects of the exchange, and share thoughts about this with the team.

But it wasn’t all serious business. The debrief team had prepared a lot of fun activities, which everyone happily got into. There was a riddle/obstacle race game where everyone was divided into teams, had to answer riddles, and get through a lot of swimming across pools, exchanging clothes with each other, and the like. There was also a small presentation time where the team exchanged funny poems and songs about each other. Impressions of everyone on the team came courtesy of the hidden acting talents of the debrief team. A harrowing chocolate-eating contest followed this, with everyone unleashing the hidden chocolate maniac within.

Lastly, there was an awards night, where everyone on the team was presented with humorous awards. The debrief also gave their surprise present to the team which was the first-time screening of the goodbye interviews video they had made of everyone while at SEARSOLIN, where everyone talked about the high points of their GX experience, things they would miss, and so on. Some of the Filipinos decided to get all dressed up and broke out the Filipiniana wear they’d lugged half-way across the world and back, without ever having put them on before. Even Dom got into the spirit of things, putting on the barong he had received from his host home. And how else did the night end? Why, with picture-taking, of course, as Team 71 took advantage of the country club’s grand staircase as a backdrop for yet another series of spectacular shots.

All in all, it was a fun end to the grand adventure we’d had in Mindanao, and it certainly served to prepare us before we boarded the plane to Manila, and for the goodbyes that were soon to come.

Total Rinse Out!

13 09 2008

— Kang Sonza

The country management team and the main office of VSO were apprehensive to let us do this. They were majorly concerned about safety, which was understandable. But it was kind of disappointing in our earlier days evacuated in CDO, when we weren’t given hope that we could do something fun.

Staying in Searsolin and going to the nearest mall, SM, wasn’t exactly exciting. Furthermore, it wasn’t very sociable as a social activity.

We weren’t given a serious response to their change of mind (and perhaps heart). Some said they pitied us because we weren’t allowed to go back to Iligan anymore; a couple said they felt nothing will match the danger of our experience during the heat of the armed conflict in Iligan, so rafting sounded safe enough already. But we didn’t need explanation, we were just glad to be allowed to do it!

Even those who were quite afraid of the idea did it. And even if it meant sacrificing a big chunk of our allowance, we opted to do it as a team.

It was the last, literal Team 71, Rinse Out!

We got oriented thoroughly

Off we go!

And look, as promised we’re all safe and still alive from doing it! Yohoo!

Team 71 Takes on CDO

29 08 2008

We may be down but not out.

Although Team 71 was forced to evacuate its host community Iligan City due to the conflict in and around that area, our time away was far from unproductive.

The team was evacuated to Cagayan de Oro, a nearby city, and stayed at the South East Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN), a unit attached to the local Xavier University. Here, we took some time to debrief from the evacuation and take stock of what we were feeling and what we could still do.

The team had a session to discuss feelings and many on the team expressed frustration at being pulled out and not being able to say proper goodbyes to people, as well as worry for host families, work supervisors, and other people still in the city. After this was done though, everyone sat down to talk about what we could do with the time we had left in Mindanao, and the help we could extend to Iligan though we were not there anymore.

The team’s communications committee came up with plans to get everyone on the team who wanted to to write to their local newspapers to spread the news on what was happening in Iligan. The committee drafted letters to be sent to both Filipino and British newspapers (one of which is on the website). Several other team members also sent letters and articles to their local newspapers and news services in Britain.

The team’s CAD committee got in touch with several organizations to help get the team involved in the relief effort for the conflict areas. The whole team was able to go to Xavier University, where, over two days, in coordination with the school’s social action office, everyone went around the school in pairs, guided by student volunteers, to talk to different classes about our time in Iligan, what we had done there, as well as to make a call for continued assistance to the relief effort through donations and spreading the word about work being done.

The team was also able to visit Balay Mindanaw, which is also where Aili works, where they received a talk from different people who were involved in the peace process and were knowledgeable about the conflict and its causes. This was especially beneficial to the team, giving us further understanding and insight into the things that had happened so far.

In addition to this, several volunteers sent e-mails to friends and family back home, asking for help for the relief effort. Overall, Team 71 was able to raise P25,000, which will be turned over to work being done in Iligan and nearby areas affected by the conflict.

Our time at SEARSOLIN also gave everyone the chance to catch up and spend some time bonding in the last few weeks we had together as a team. The team got some time to go out and explore Cagayan de Oro. In addition to the souvenir-buying and assorted shopping, we also had some time to explore Cagayan de Oro’s nightlife, ably assisted by Pat and Aili, who are both from the area. Needless to say, (loud) fun was had by all. The team was also able to share in many meals together, movie nights, even a Ligretto competition organized by the socials committee. Ligretto, for those not in the know, is the official card game of Team 71.

As Aili and Hannah’s Pinoy Pub Quiz, a fund-raising activity they had planned for their volunteer placement in Iligan, had not pushed through because of the evacuation, in its stead, a pub quiz (minus the pub) was held for just the team. Dee and Hannah came up with a variety of questions about Iligan, music, Filipino celebrities and the team. Everyone was divided into three people per team, and much fun was had by all.

Several of our host families also managed to visit us at this time, and we managed to get in goodbyes (as well as things we had left behind).

One of the most touching moments during our time at SEARSOLIN was when we had our community farewell. Although Cagayan de Oro is almost two hours away from Iligan and that, given the conflict, it was not the safest time to be travelling, almost all our host families, volunteer placement supervisors, and other people who had been part of our time in Iligan made the trip there to say goodbye. Team members and host families and supervisors went up in front to say words about the team’s time in Iligan, and Meh-Anne rendered a song that had many people in the room in tears. Definitely, more people came then we expected and to say that it touched us all deeply is an understatement.

People say that when life gives us lemons, make lemonade, which is cheesy, but quite true. The evacuation was a big lemon in our GX experience but, somehow, we managed to make it work and we’ve come away from it with yet another unique Team 71 story.

– Ajeet Panemanglor

Our Letter to News Editors

22 08 2008

Dear Editor/s,

Mindanao is not a war-zone.

Yes, there was fighting. Yes, there are evacuees. But to us, Mindanao was our home for almost three months, and it is so much more to us than a piece of news on the television.

We are Global Xchange Team 71, a group of eighteen young volunteers, half from the Philippines and half from the United Kingdom, managed by Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) and the British Council. For the past five months, we have been working in two communities, almost three months in Newham, a borough of London in the United Kingdom, and about the same time in the City of Iligan, in Mindanao, working in organizations promoting peace and development.

It has been a rewarding experience living in Iligan for us. We have been exposed to people and communities we would never have known otherwise. We have worked with Muslims and Christians. Good people from all across the community took us in, let us live with them, taught us their language, their customs, took us out for food, sat with us and watched television, shared their lives with us, basically. This is the Iligan we know. This is the Mindanao that was introduced to us.

We are saddened that all of this has been affected in so short a span of time. Our wonderful time in Iligan was suddenly cut short when we were forced to evacuate in the face of the fighting. We did not want to leave so abruptly. Certainly, we did not want to rush off without proper goodbyes to the people and to a city that has given us so much, taught us so much. It pains us to sit and watch on the news as people flee fighting they are not a part of, that they barely understand the cause of.

Our time in Lanao del Norte, in Mindanao, taught us that there is so much potential here, that there are people who are tired of fighting, and more than willing to work for peace. War is not a natural state of mankind. Ironically, in what is perceived as one of the most conflict-ridden areas of the Philippines, this is where we were taught about peace. This is where we learned what peace truly means, how important it is.

There is conflict in Mindanao, and it needs our help, our attention, and most definitely our recognition as an equal part of the rest of the country. Mindanao is not Another Place, something we just see on the news. Living here has made it real for us. This is also the land of our brothers and sisters, Muslim or Christian. We urge all parties concerned to fight for peace, instead of land, instead of political agreements that have so little to do with the day-to-day struggles of Mindanawons.

Mindanao is not a war-zone. For many people, and for a short time, for our team, it was home. Let not fighting take this away from everyone.

(Because of the recent conflict, thousands of families have lost everything. If you want to help, you may course donations through our mother organization VSO Bahaginan. Contact them at +632-374-6450 or 0917-7878887, or visit their website at http://www.vsobahaginan.org.ph.)

Global Xchange Team 71

Evacuation from Iligan

21 08 2008

Team 71 has been safely evacuated.

This last Sunday, August 17, several bomb blasts hit Iligan City. It was decided then to temporarily evacuate Team 71 to a location outside the city where it would be safer. Everyone was gathered early the next day, August 18, and proceeded to leave. As we reached our destination, it was learnt that the situation in Iligan City had escalated. Troops of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim separatist rebel group, had taken over key sites in several nearby municipalities – Kolambugan, Linamon and Kauswagan – and were believed to be moving in on Iligan City itself. Government troops had already begun to clash with the MILF troops. As of this article, around 28 civilians have been killed in the fighting, and 44,000 have been evacuated. While the MILF troops have retreated, and the government has managed to restore order in these areas, it was decided that the evacuation would be permanent, and that Team 71 would not be returning to Iligan City.

We are deeply saddened by the violence, as well as having to leave the good people of Iligan City, especially our host families and everyone at our volunteer placements so abruptly. We are truly grateful for everything we have received from the people of Iligan and the whole of Lanao del Norte; our hearts and minds are with them in these tense times.

We will be writing more as we settle into our new situation and finalize our new activities. In the meantime, the following website will have more information on the MILF and the situation in Iligan City: www.inquirer.net