We recently sent a small team from ACF to the Philippines to do follow-up on previous water filter projects, set up new filter stations, hold a hygiene training, and visit potential locations for future projects. One of our trip objectives was to also visit Canlaon, where we are helping to fund the construction of 4 working toilets along with sinks and the necessary plumbing. With construction set to begin in March of this year, we were initially expecting to visit around the halfway point of the process. However, due to design changes, construction was postponed a bit and is set to begin at the end of June. Though we did not get to see the progress for ourselves on this trip, we did get to learn even more about the community and spend time with the children who will benefit from the project.
An early-morning flight and a 3-hour drive led us far from the busyness of Manila and up the mountain towards the Canlaon Volcano to the child development center, where we were greeted with an awesome performance by the students. In addition to the 57 preschoolers who attend school there daily, there are 390 students under 18 who attend weekly learning activities. Through one of our partner organizations, Compassion International, these children receive medical attention and assistance with school supplies, learn about hygiene and other life skills, and so much more.
In a town where drug use is an issue affecting many fathers and teens, the center hopes to create a safe place for the youth in the community - not just the sponsored children - to play as well as learn. In addition to the playground and classrooms, bathrooms (or “comfort rooms” as they are known in the Philippines) are an integral part of what the staff wants to be able to provide for the youth. With many families living as squatters in the main city portion of Canlaon, there are a number of children who practice open defecation, and will soon have the dignity of proper CRs in their community.
The school and center facilities are currently equipped with one boys' and one girls' restroom, but these are often locked up and remain unusable due to issues with water not reaching the facility. There are also one male and one female CR at the adjoining church (pictured above), but as the pastor told me, “our comfort rooms are not comfortable.” While it is not uncommon to see seat-less toilets like this in communities throughout the Philippines, they require a faucet with running water and a bucket so that people can dump water into the bowl to “flush”; without running water available, the latrines are rather unhygienic. In fact, when we first arrived to the center after 3 hours in the car, I immediately mentioned needing to use the restroom, at which time one of the staff members instead brought me to a nearby home where a family graciously let me use their toilet. “You can see how much we need toilets here!”
This construction project, which is set to take about 6 months, will provide 4 toilets, along with adequate water lines and hand washing facilities for the kids to practice their proper hygiene training. These CRs will be accompanying new classrooms that the center is fundraising for on their own. They have already prepared the lot where the construction will take place; on my last trip, this space was instead an outdoor classroom space.
We had so much fun singing, dancing, and hanging out with the kids there, and we are so thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in this community! We can’t wait to go back once construction has been completed and be able to see the center and the children in Canlaon again.
-Kayla Schlaich, Project20 Manager