Sunday, May 24, 2015

I am Gladiator - Volunteering in the Philippines

I arrived in Tacloban, Philippines, on the island of Leyte, last Monday. This stage of the project/journey is a five-week mission to help some people in the nearby community get back into homes after the devastating Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan in 2013. I am on a team called "Gladiators," and we supply the various sites with the heavy materials. Rather than bore you with the details of my new daily workout regimen, I thought I might share a little of what I rediscovered here on my third project with All Hands Volunteers.

There is something special about a volunteer - whether a coach, a Marine, a tutor, or someone else stepping forward to give their time and talents - who essentially works for little more than doing what they believe is right and necessary. The people with whom I work are unique in that they bought expensive plane tickets, left jobs and families, and traveled to another country to do a job no one in their right mind would do on vacation. This is not about me, I'm talking about a team - constantly with members coming and going - that is undoubtedly a force for good and has a spirit that I rarely see elsewhere. I work with Germans, British, Belgians, Aussies, Chinese, Israelis, Americans, and more. We delight in discussing our little differences, yet everyone here is the same in that all have a drive and enthusiasm for working, sweating, and bleeding so that some stranger might have a better life.

Now, everybody sacrifices for something. Parents do it every day for decades, without a day off. Military members and police officers risk their lives, often for ungrateful people. Priests and nuns give up the right to ever marry and have families. Volunteers are everywhere, and we're no better; that's not my point. What strikes me as magnificent is the indomitable force that is created by ordinary people - from multiple countries - born simply from the desire to be good and work for positive change in the world while they put their own personal home lives on hold.

The bottom line is that while there is plenty of bad news out there to make you wonder how we have managed to exist as a human race for so long, there are gladiators out there fighting for the reason why we should.

Video: Mark and All Hands Volunteers in Tacloban - "Leyte Arrival"

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