It’s More Fun with Casa Bayanihan
By Michelle Fernandez
It was 2011 when Casa Bayanihan (CB), an alternative study abroad program of the University of San Francisco (USF) which was based in Ateneo de Manila University coordinated with Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, Inc. (TWHI) to be one of their Praxis community sites. It was a program that sends students from the US and Ateneo de Naga to different partner communities for four months to experience the realities of life especially those of the marginalized sector. The spirit of bayanihan shows the Filipino concept of helping each other without asking anything in return.
Over time, TWHI became a part of the students’ transformation as they engaged themselves to the lives of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). Students had a regular schedule in TWHI which was twice a week. They immersed in different activities and work inside TWHI.
At first, the language barrier was a challenge for the foreign students. However, they managed to connect with the people of TWHI and started calling us Ate’s and Kuya’s. Similarly, we would interact with them in English, and we always say jokingly “nose-bleed” (meaning it is difficult to speak and understand the English language).
Daycare kids were excited every time the CB students were assigned to them. They played, helped in feeding, and prepared activities for the Day care kids. They also observed and assisted students in Special Education (SPED) class.
It was an eye-opening for them to learn how the PWDs live their lives as they experienced working in metalcraft, carefully cutting canvasses, assembling wheelchair spikes and even welding. In woodcraft they smoothen wooden pieces through sanding, assembling and packing educational toys. In sewing they cut muslin cloth, threads and put label tags. In medicine packaging they cut, count, insert, and pack medicines in boxes.
The CB students opened their hearts and deepened their understanding about the struggles and challenges of PWDs as they listened to heartwarming stories from their Ate’s and Kuya’s. Eating meals together, playing basketball wheelchair, riding the PWD tricycle, visiting the TWHI Housings and homes of PWDs were just a few of the activities that the CB students like during Praxis weekends. And at the end of every Praxis, an outing for TWHI with the CB students was excitedly anticipated.
Although the USF officially ended the CB program last July 2017, TWHI will always be grateful for the great partnership shared over the years. It has brought great memories, shared cultures, wisdom, hopes, friendships, humility, faith, love and the true spirit of bayanihan in the community.
Thank you very much CB for entering our humble home. To the support, generosity and dedication of great coordinators, Ms. Heidi Marie Kallen, Ms. Grace Salceanu, Ms. Sullivan Oakley, Fr. Mark Ravizza and to all who had been part of this wonderful journey, a BIG THANK YOU. Indeed, it was more fun working with Casa Bayanihan To God be the glory!
Note: Michelle was a former coordinator of CB. She works as a Supervisor in IT. TWHI also paved the way for CB and other universities for immersions and volunteer work.