An Oamaru family had their lives changed during a humanitarian trip to the Philippines three years ago and now they’re going back.
The Botting family; Nicki, Paul, Courteney (19), Joshua (18) and Brinkley (15), will be part of a group of 12 people from Main Street Youth Weston, a youth group, who are heading to the Philippines next Saturday.
The group, led by Oamaru Hospital chief executive Robert Gonzales, will be involved in medical missions, rebuilding and a programme providing food for undernourished children following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
The Botting family were also among about 20 people, again led by Mr Gonzales, who went on a similar mission to the Philippines in 2012.
Mrs Botting said they decided to go as a family in 2012 because they wanted to experience a new place and culture but the trip completely changed their lives.
“It wasn’t until we were there that we realised that this was the most amazing place.”
The family now don’t take things, such as regular showers, for granted as much and the children have changed their whole way of thinking, she said.
“It’s really easy to say you can’t do something but you just have to have the heart and passion. You can make it happen.”
Mr and Mrs Botting are hoping to work in the Philippines for a few years once their children finish school and also plan to do other similar aid trips.
Courteney had always wanted to be a vet but when she went on the first she decided to become a nurse and has just completed her first year of a nursing degree at the Otago Polytechnic.
Mrs Botting said they had been preparing the group members, eight of which are returning from last time, on how to handle themselves emotionally during the trip because it would be a lot harder than 2012 because of the devastation caused by the typhoon.
The trip would not have been possible without the help of Weston Church, the Philippine community, the Oamaru community and a donation of $10,000 from the Oamaru Rotary Club, she said.
“We’re extremely grateful.”
Courteney said she found the first trip really humbling and is looking forward to going back.
She also hoped to go back more often as a nurse once she finished her qualification.
Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded; at least 6,300 people were killed in the Philippines with thousands more reported missing.
Widespread devastation in Tacloban City was caused by the storm surge and 1.9 million people were left homeless across the country.
The group, who will be based in Tacloban, will leave New Zealand on January 17 and return on February 7.
By Ruby Harfield
PHOTO: RUBY HARFIELD – Nicki (left) and Courteney Botting holding group t-shirts and fun activities for children in preparation for their trip to the Philippines.