Opening new doors in the Philippines

Opening new doors in the Philippines

By Dona LeyVa

Family: Suzy Lambert '12 and Thelma, her mother away from home. Photo courtesy Suzy Lambert '12
Introducing Casa Bayanihan—a place to learn, work, and be changed forever.

Early in the day 10 students from Santa Clara and other universities stateside head to class at Ateneo de Manila University. They hike up a 94-step staircase from their Barangka neighborhood in Quezon City. The day is hot, humid—par for the course in metropolitan Manila in October. As the students climb, to their left lies a lush green belt that serves as a dividing line of sorts between two drastically different cities: one pristine and full of promise, bustling with commerce; the other tattered by the effects of severe poverty. The juxtaposition is a key reason the students are here, the first cohort in a program that integrates classroombased learning with the realities of community-based living experiences among people in need.

Casa Bayanihan: See a video and photos by SCU students.

Casa Bayanihan is the program, launched in autumn 2011. A collaboration among three Jesuit universities—Santa Clara, University of San Francisco, and Ateneo—it is modeled on SCU’s more than decade-old Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador. And it’s the second project in a planned educational network with a global reach.

“One of the things that is so promising about the Casa network is that we can enter into collaborative partnerships that allow us to share our expertise across borders,” says Mark Ravizza, S.J., M.Div ’99, associate professor of philosophy at SCU. Long based in El Salvador, Ravizza now serves as the Jesuit in-residence at Casa Bayanihan and teaches at Ateneo.

Heidi Kallen ’05 and a USF colleague co-direct Casa Bayanihan. Prior to the program’s launch, they received on-the-job training in El Salvador, learning how to establish relationships with the community and set up partnerships for “praxis” sites, where students work and develop a deeper connection with Filipino people and culture.
 

“This is where I need to be.”

In addition to serving with a community-based organization, students take classes, meet to reflect and share insights and concerns, and are tutored in Tagalog. But this is not an off-the-shelf program. What students learn and experience has remarkable breadth, depending on where they’re working in the communities.

Kyla Moran ’12 is majoring in anthropology and environmental studies. The Oregon native worked with a Filipino nongovernmental organization to build housing for the poor. “Everything is about sharing,” says Moran, who says rolling up her sleeves and getting dirty helped build trust. “People survive through collaboration, and we are there to accompany them.”

Economics and studio art major Luke Kantola ’12 worked in an impoverished farming community with no access to potable water or electricity. The program put the Northern Californian face-to-face with some of the harder aspects of the human experience. “We planted rice, plowed fields with a carabao [a local water buffalo],” he says. He also turned a dilapidated cement wall at the end of a deserted street into something beautiful, by creating a mural.

Rhode Island is where psychology major Suzy Lambert ’12 calls home. But this fall she worked with a nongovernmental organization serving street children and providing a microlending program. She spent five hours twice a week with the community, primarily with children; but she also bonded quickly with Thelma, a mother who lost her 19-year-old daughter to a spinal-cord condition shortly before Lambert arrived. "She was so vulnerable, so honest," says Lambert. "Never in my life have I felt that strong a connection." And, she realized, "This is where I need to be."

comments powered by Disqus