HKIS students take on the Young Life camping program to give back and grow

HKIS students take on the Young Life camping program to give back and grow

A HKIS student trip to the Philippines brought a whole new meaning to feeling thankful, writes Grade 10 student, Varshika Kanthadai

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HKIS student Rachelle Lui bond with a young girl at a Philippines kindergarten.
Photo: Ilona Ho/Ellis Holcombe

"First-world problems" is a term used when complaining about phones running out of battery, or not having our favourite snack in the house.

The phrase highlights how much we take for granted.

I heard about the Young Life camping program when my friend showed me a flier advertising "Young Life Expedition - Dumaguete, Philippines".

Young Life works with the International Care Ministries (ICM) faith organisation to reach out to young people through organised activities, such as the camps, and give them the opportunity to help others while themselves learning.

A friend had been to Dumaguete on a similar expedition with ICM before, and described the experience as life-changing, so I quickly signed up.

We would head to Dumaguete for four days, two of which would be spent working in schools founded by the International Christian Mission.

We'd be playing, singing and doing crafts with young children, as well as contributing to building projects providing community meeting spaces and improving the school environment.

During HKIS' holiday at the end of September, a group of us were whisked off to the Philippines.

On the first evening, we watched ICM choir perform, and were introduced to the organisation's mission.

HKIS student Alexander Lam reads to children at the kindergarten.
Photo: Ilona Ho/Ellis Holcombe


As part of its Jumpstart Programme, it founded more than 90 kindergartens for the children of the poorest families in Dumaguete and the Philippines.

We watched a video showing everyday clips from the lives of the children we'd meet in the coming days.

Each kindergarten was attended by 30-40 children, some of whom we'd be getting to know during the trip.

On Monday morning, our group was split into three smaller groups of around 20 people to head to different kindergartens in the small, southern city of Dumaguete.

After a short drive, we arrived at one of the kindergartens, where the kids were as excited to see us as we were to be there. One group stayed indoors while we went outside to work on a building project. It was scorching hot, and made me think about how tough it would be to work outdoors every day.

When we went inside to sing and play with the children, we noticed how differently each reacted. Some were extremely talkative, and others were shy but soon warmed to us.

We sang, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and This Little Light of Mine. We made paper flowers and played Fruit Ninja. We had a great time, and the experience had a real impact on me.

When walking through the small villages near the ICM schools, my eyes were opened to how it's still possible to be happy without the everyday luxuries we overlook.

Many people lived in little bamboo houses with dirt flooring, no air conditioning, and no children's toys.

Yet they took pride in their sense of community, their beautiful surroundings, and their hope for the future.

We all took time to reflect on the experience, and what it meant to each of us individually.

HKIS student Brent Hensley giving one thing every kid loves: bubbles!
Photo: Ilona Ho/Ellis Holcombe

"Despite having so little by Hong Kong standards, the five-year-olds radiate joy as if they had everything they dreamed of," Brent Hensley, Grade 12, remarked.

Grade 10 student Michelle Wong said: "This experience made me think about how lucky I am, and how thankful I should be. I saw that they have dreams, too, and I want to help them strive for their dreams."

Jocelyn Landes, also Grade 10, felt the trip made her feel grateful. "Humility plays a big part when it comes to service and life in general," she said. "We get caught up in our daily life that we forget to be grateful for the things we have."

Another Grade 10 student, Alexander Lam, added, "The children's energy rubbed off on us", while Grade 11 student Amos Cha described the Dumaguete trip as a great, "community-building experience".

Lastly, Jaikar Chawla, from Grade 12, summed things up by saying: "The Dumaguete trip expanded and explored my relationship with myself and the world, myself and my role in helping the world."

Overall, Dumaguete was an amazing experience, and made me stop, think, and be more thankful for all the things I have.

It has made me realise that we at HKIS should value the lives we have and do as much as we can to try to make the world a better place.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Reach out and grow

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