We have arrived! We landed here in Manila late on Friday night and got going first thing Saturday morning. We spent Saturday morning and early afternoon with Project PEARLS. Their site is located in a small squatter community in a neighborhood of Manila called Ulingan. The community is literally located in a garbage dump on the shore of the ocean and the main source of income for most families is coal. They make the coal themselves by collecting scrapwood and burning it in homemade furnaces. The men collect and burn the wood, the women bag it, and the children go through the ashes for nails that they can then sell by the kilogram. needless to say, they lead lives of great hardship.
The children rarely have shoes that fit properly, or any shoes at all. Their food source is mainly scraps of bones from the garbage dump that they boil down to create soups and their homes are regularly flooded during heavy rains. PEARLS runs a feeding program for the children as well as a scholarship program. The litclub serves the older girls in the program. Pam and i got to observe the club which is run by a group of four young volunteers who are fun, excited and passionate about our work.
I was personally shocked by the amount of garbage, mud and intense coal fumes in the community, but Pam said it is actually very similar to Kibera in its look minus the fumes. Something we both noticed is how much people work in this community. Everyone is doing something productive, there were very few people just sitting.
After the program we went to a local fast food chain to celebrate the August birthdays. The kids LOVED it. They got to play, eat and be children. Melissa, the director of PEARLS, said that often the kids can't come to program because they are working, so it was a joy to see them actually have time to just play dance and sing. At the same time, they are all so mature. They helped clean all the tables voluntarily, and they all brought some food home for their families in doggy bags as many of these young children are the sole caretakers of younger siblings.
The people of the Philippines are generous, kind, light-hearted and believe in the power of good work. The work of PEARLS and Real Life is incredibly thoughtful, and it shows in every detail of their programming, which fits so perfectly in to the needs of the communities in which they are located.
The second week of LitCamp was Mad Scientist week, and everyone embraced the theme wholeheartedly. During our Tuesday morning meeting, each bunk – a group of five children and their LitCamp leader – created a Curious Commercial. The commercials advertised an original invention based on pictures of random items, which in all honesty, didn’t appear to have any practical use or purpose. Of course, the creative LitCampers eagerly tackled the challenge!
My group advertised Don't Touch Me Hands, for those times when you have to be polite and shake hands but the other person isn't your favorite (Lokie and Ironman from the Avengers show how useful this invention would be). Salpi's group had a genius idea, and made the Zipchine, which monitors the oil levels and heart functioning of the mechanical Venacafians, who inhabit the country they created during International Week. Eric's group introduced something I definitely need: a voice-activated key holder. The "O Key C" can give you the key to whatever you must unlock, for just $19.95! Finally, Lizzie and her group showed us the Magic Doorknob that can take you anywhere – oh the possibilities! All the campers did an amazing job, committing to their performance and chasing their curiosity.
We also ran some great classes during the week. We had the usual favorites like newspaper and pool (this time called "H2O" to keep with the Mad Science theme). Additionally, we had some new options like Animal Behavior, Space and Disasters, Edible Experiments, Mad Arts and Crafts, and Brainiacs Attack. Nina, a great friend of LitWorld, even led a forensics class!
A major highlight of the week was our trip to the Museum of Natural History. We got to see some really cool exhibits. The bioluminescence exhibit was a crowd favorite! We got to see all kinds of plants and animals glow, from fireflies to jellyfish. We also learned a lot about space, and how the universe has changed and will continue to change. We stood around a massive round screen to watch a video on the Big Bang Theory which really made you feel like you were moving through space. After, we had so much fun wandering among skeletons of a Brontosaurus, T-rex, and other huge dinosaurs.
Overall, the second week was a smash! Everyone got a taste of what it would be like to be a mad scientist. Everyone had a chance to learn something new, whether we were making fingerprints, constructing a volcano, or eating an edible cell. Mad Scientist Week was a wacky, wonderful success!
- Aimee, LitWorld Intern
One of the most fantastic moments that I have had all summer, as an intern at LitWorld and as a LitCamp counselor, happened during our first week. The international theme (a shout-out to the upcoming Olympics) gave me the privilege of teaching International Craft Shop during to a wonderful group of enthusiastic campers, and with the help of a fantastic teen leader.
I started my lesson on origami with a story about a Japanese Zen cat, followed by a discussion about creativity, and what it means to be creative. LitCampers Raj, Natanya, Mahamadou, Abdul, and Safi all had very insightful comments, and we decided that creativity applies to more of life than just what we call “art.” Creativity is essential in anything one does during the day, including making your boring chores more fun, tackling small challenges, and thinking of ways to spice up everyday tasks.
Then it was time for the real crafting: origami! Everything was going swimmingly, the children were chatting and having fun as they folded their paper... until I realized that I had left out a step and didn’t know how to finish the box! I sat on the picnic table and told the faces looking up at me, “Guys. I messed up.” I didn’t know how to help them fix their boxes, and the plan I had crafted in such detail would go to waste.
Mahamadou was my saving grace in that moment. “No, it’s fine!” he told us, and proceeded to take over my lesson. It turned out that he knew how to fold the box better than I did, and was kind and generous enough to help each person make the last, difficult fold of the box. As we opened them up and the campers marched back to Broadway Housing, I couldn’t help dwelling on how well they had all worked together, in crafts, conversation, and cooperation. Moments like this came up many times throughout the week, especially during the classes run by our wonderful counselors which included: Global Gourmet, Power Poets, Interactive History, World Music and Dance, International Sports, and more.
On the first day of LitCamp, we grouped the children into “bunks” that consist of five campers, one or two teen leaders, and one counselor. Each bunk created a new country in honor of International Week. The countries that make up the World of LitCamp are named: Lucky Land, LIME, Vena Caf, and Ghanadancelandia. Each has their own national anthem which we heard performed during our Olympic Ceremony.
When it was time for the Olympic Oath, we decided that the real Olympic Oath didn’t really fit with our values for the LitCamp. Our own Oath, signed and subscribed by everyone at the LitCamp, now hangs on the wall in Broadway Housing:
“In the name of LitCamp, we promise to be friends, to be loyal, to have respect, to have fun, to learn new things, and to have the best summer ever!”
We are well on our way to completing the last task and the LitCamp has only just begun!
-Salpi, LitWorld Intern