A youth aid mission to the Philippines earlier this year was emotionally draining but very successful.
A team of 12 people from Main Street Youth Weston, a youth group, led by Oamaru Hospital chief executive Robert Gonzales, returned from a three-week mission to the Philippines, mainly based in Tacloban City, on February 7.
The group was involved in medical missions, rebuilding and a programme providing food for undernourished children following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
Mr Gonzales said the trip was difficult and emotional for the group but very rewarding and he hoped to organise another one in two years.
The group held a debrief on Sunday where all the members said they felt positive about the trip and the majority indicated they would like to go again, Mr Gonzales said.
“It was an incredible trip.”
When they arrived in Tacloban City they were given a gruelling tour by an American ex-marine, involved in body retrieval after Typhoon Haiyan, who pointed out many locations where bodies were found.
“That was hardest for us,” he said.
The first part of the trip included creating a toilet and show block at a Youth With A Mission (YWAM) facility for aid groups coming to help.
By creating a nice facility, it meant the volunteers completing difficult work in the community could come back each evening to a place where they could be clean and relax, he said.
“That’s the value of what we were doing.”
The group also made beds for the facility.
Another part of the trip included medical missions and a food programme at schools and around the area.
They also went into the community and profiled survivors of the typhoon for YWAM.
“They were amazing stories to hear,” he said.
Following their time in Tacloban City they visited Bantayan Island in Cebu for a school rebuilding and medical mission.
When they arrived, 70% of the school had already been rebuilt and a donation from the Oamaru Rotary Club funded the remaining 30% of the rebuild, which is nearly complete.
During their time in Bantayan Island, Mr Gonzales purchased much needed equipment for a local health centre including stethoscopes, blood pressure kits, a glucometer, a haemoglobinometer, two dopplers and batteries.
Oamaru resident Nicki Botting, who was involved in the feeding programmes and medical missions during the trip, said they were hugely successful and extremely rewarding.
“I think definitely the highlights were seeing those kids get a really good meal for the day and watching their parents’ relief.”
The trip would not have been possible without the help of the Weston Church, the Oamaru community, the Oamaru Rotary Club and the Philippine community in Oamaru.
By Ruby Harfield
PHOTO: SUPPLIED – The group from Main Street Youth Weston helped rebuild a school on their trip to Bantayan Island.