Our day in the Philippi Township was spent helping build at the children’s center. Philippi was about a 45-minute taxi ride from our hotel and during the ride it was crazy to see the drastic change going from office buildings and shopping malls to shacks stacked up next to each other like dominos ready to fall with a simple push. I had been looking forward to this day before our trip was even underway. I have never been in an environment that was anything like the Philippi Children’s Center (PCC) so it was all a new experience for me. For such a small Children’s center there seemed to be so many kids, and so little resources, but it was amazing how everyone pitched in to provide in whatever way they could to support these children. From a student standpoint I loved how we were all split up into teams based on what we would most likely be able to do the best based on physical size, etc. Men did most of the heavy lifting while the girls did painting and similar tasks. My team was team swole patrol, and I had a bunch of studs. We were given the task to take care of and unload all of the concrete needed for a foundation and a sidewalk. At the end of the day my team moved 12 metric tons of concrete, most of which with small wheelbarrows! It was almost like a game to see how efficient we could get things done on the site. There was hard, dirty work that needed to be done and I think that we rose to the occasion in many ways. I loved every minute of seeing PC students working side by side to better the Philippi Children’s Center.
From my point of view we were not taken in very easily at first by the workers that were already there, and for some it stayed that way for the rest of the day. It seemed like we (PC students) were doing a good service and really helping these people get some work done to speed the building up. But one of my teammates pointed out one very good point: How about we look at it from their point of view. We probably looked like a bunch of white foreigners who randomly showed up for a day and then were gone in the blink of an eye. Yes we got some work done but…..Did we really do the work right or did we mess things up? Why were we there working and not someone they know from the Townships that is in desperate need of a job? Were we taking the initiative to work out of their hands?
These questions are extremely difficult to address and think about. At the end of the day I was so thrilled we got to help on the site. But my feelings along with the rest of the PC students aren’t the only thing that matters in this world. These thoughts that have been lingering in my head are no doubt a product of the book that we had to read before we left for the trip called Toxic Charity. Because of the examples and lessons learned from this book I am looking at charitable giving in a whole new way. Trying to ask myself the hard questions and think with my brain, not just my heart. What is the best, and most logical way that we could help PCC? Did we optimize that when we helped on the site?…It is questions like these that I am beginning to see will help a non profit succeed and truly start to make an impact in the world.