JSOTF-P Members Visit Special Needs Orphans

After spending the afternoon playing and swimming with local special needs orphans, members of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines, and staff members from the orphanage, take a moment to pose for a picture with the children. Members of JSOTF-P often volunteer to support local orphanage activities. (U.S. Air Force photo)

After spending the afternoon playing and swimming with local special needs orphans, members of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines, and staff members from the orphanage, take a moment to pose for a picture with the children. Members of JSOTF-P often volunteer to support local orphanage activities. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Members of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) recently invited children from a local orphanage to join them for a day of fun at Camp Navarro.  They spent an afternoon playing and swimming with the children at the beach.  The JSOTF-P Chaplain helped organize the outings.

“These kids are well taken care of, but don’t get out a lot,” said the Chaplain.  “By volunteering to support and helping the staff members at these institutions, we’re able to make an immediate and positive impact on their lives.”

JSOTFP- support for the local orphanages has been an ongoing effort for several years, and the impetus for this effort starts at the top.  As the Chaplain describes it, “when I arrived in October, Col. Robert McDowell, the JSOTF-P Commander, told me, ‘Chaplain, I want you to keep the orphanage trips going.  It’s good for the kids, and it’s a good morale booster for the members of JSOTF-P.’”  This top-down emphasis is reinforced throughout the JSOTF-P staff, especially the Marines, “with the help of the Marine Security Element, we do our best to improve the lives of those kids.”

In the coming weeks the Chaplain is planning a sports day and a pizza party for the children.  The money to buy the pizza will come from voluntary donations made by JSOTF-P members.  With strong command support, institutional appreciation, and willing participants from among the JSOTF-P staff, the effort to engage with the children will continue.

A boy from a local orphanage splashes in the water during an outing to the beach that was supported by volunteers from the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines. (U.S. Army photo)

A boy from a local orphanage splashes in the water during an outing to the beach that was supported by volunteers from the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines. (U.S. Army photo)

On the beach, the orphanage Head Nurse, Jessica Agustin, surveyed the scene with a smile on her face.  She looked on as the orphanage staff stands in the shallow water laughing alongside some of the JSOTF-P volunteers.

“The kids really love it,” said Agustin. “They run up, grab a military member, and drag them into the water. Once they start playing and splashing around they don’t want to leave the beach.”

The kids aren’t the only ones who look forward to the excursions.  For the members of JSOTF-P, spending time with these children is therapeutic.

“It helps us forget how much we miss our families and our own kids,” said the Chaplain.  Another JSOTF-P member said it opens your eyes to what you have.

“When you see others who are less fortunate than you, it makes you grateful for what, and who, you have.”

The positive impact of the volunteer’s efforts affects more than just the children and local JSOTF-P members.

“I’ve noticed how generous people are since I’ve been involved,” said the Chaplain.  “The JSOTF-P members who volunteer to visit these orphanages share the experience with family and friends back home, and the response is always the same, ‘how can we help?’  People end up sending boxes of supplies that the orphanage needs like baby whips, diapers, and children’s clothes.  It’s great to see how caring people are.”

For many of the servicemembers the greatest reward for volunteering is a child’s simple facial expressions.

“The excitement and smiles on every face is the best reward you can get,” said a JSOTF-P member. “The moment you walk in the door, or show up on the beach, it’s like the kids pick you.  They rush towards you and the first one to get to you wants to spend all day with just you.  It makes you feel special.”

Alumni Bring Water, Basketball, and School Supplies to their Communities

Participants from the recently concluded “Creative Writing and Social Entrepreneurship Seminar” sponsored by U.S. Embassy Manila’s Public Affairs Section, led outreach projects in General Santos and Basilan City upon their return home. During the seminar in Manila, participants were divided into groups and received small grants to implement community projects.  Two groups from Basilan installed water systems to provide access to potable water in two municipalities.  As a result, 350 households now have access to water.

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Padayon Mindanao Goes to Iloilo City

[Written by Peace Corps Volunteer Jeffrey]

“Learn, Exchange, and Continue” those three words sum up the goals of Padayon Mindanao held in Iloilo City last month. The team came together from the four corners of the Philippines to host a week long literacy summit for ALS teachers from Mindanao and Panay Island. Peace Corps Volunteers worked together for three days prior to the summit to prepare for the teachers arrival. The focus during the summit was to share with participants innovative and engaging ways to teach the ALS modules. It was stressed throughout the week to emphasize teaching techniques over content, and the teachers were placed into groups of participants from Mindanao and Panay to offer opportunities for cultural exchange and peer learning. Throughout the week the ALS teachers attended sessions on remedial reading, history, effective writing, math in daily life, and the environment; during these sessions techniques were shared on how to adapt the sometimes dense ALS modules into practical lessons that the participants would then be able to replicate at their site with their learners.

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U.S. Embassy Manila donates books in Iligan City

U.S. Embassy Manila’s Public Affairs Section donated English language teaching and learning materials to Iligan East High School in Iligan City.  The books were the first materials to be available in the school’s newly opened Resource Learning Center.

Cultural Affairs Officer Kristin Kneedler handing over the books to the administration of the Iligan East High School.

Cultural Affairs Officer Kristin Kneedler handing over the books to the administration of the Iligan East High School.

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U.S. Government Exchange Alumni Facilitate Street Law Seminar in Iligan

Thirty (30) students from  Islamic schools around Marawi City took part in the “Street Law and Developing Community Project-Part 2” workshop in Iligan City sponsored by the U.S. Embassy Manila Public Affairs Section in partnership with local NGO, Naawan Drug Awareness Support Group Inc.

The 3-day workshop, facilitated by alumni of U.S. government international exchange programs, focused on honing the participants’ English skills and teaching them responsible use of their freedom of speech. Materials included information from www.AmericanEnglish.state.gov, a website for teachers and learners of English as a foreign language managed by the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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