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SIS News Archive

High School Students Build a House and Character
Posted 11/17/2016 08:32AM
A group of 6 High school students (Se Jin Park, Yoojong Kim, Kiho Park, Alejandra Livingston, Clemens Whitman, Joschua Mueller) recently participated in a housebuilding excursion in Manila, Philippines under the supervision of HS teachers Edwin Bywater and Alexandra Michaels. The build was in conjuction with the Philippines based Gawad Kalinga (GK) (, a group initiated in 2003 with the goal of alleviating and eventually ending poverty. Not only do they build homes, but the homes are constructed as a community, including livelihood, self-governance, and often a pre-school, health care center, and a basketball court.

This year's group set to digging the foundation for what will be a small apartment-block which will hold 14 homes. The SIS students and teachers worked alongside several of the beneficiaries of the building, as GK requires "sweat equity" of those who will receive homes (almost 3000 hours of work on the house or elsewhere in the community). After 12 hours of digging, the small group managed to dig about 35 meters of trench about 3/4 of a meter deep. As is common with organizations like GK, this was done using only shovels and metal rods to loosen the earth. All in all, they dug up and moved about 18 tons of dirt, rocks, and freakishly annoying roots!

The trip with GK included a cultural component, part being that lunch and dinner were always typical Filipino foods. The students ate everything from the popular chicken adobo and fried banana turon to more interesting things like sisig (fried and seasoned pig lung) and balut (hard-boiled partially-incubated fertilized duck eggs)! In addition, every day the students led a 1 hour activity session with the 30 or so children that are living in the parts of the village built so far (3 other buildings). They played games, taught origami, and danced with the kids, sharing typical activities from each other's cultures. In addition, on the last day, participants were given a tour of a GK village on the outskirts of Smokey Mountain, a huge landfill. Students were able to see the effects of the GK community which included several small businesses (making clothes, bags, etc) and opportunities for the village children to participate in sporting and singing competitions, among other things.

The trip served to help those in need and also to help our students learn the reality of the world around us. They described the trip as, "eye-opening, mind-blowing, and unforgettable." They saw in the villagers that happiness does not come from material possessions (a common topic of discussion during the trip), and that material objects are often a detractor from real happiness. They learned that hard work could be both exhausting and rewarding at the same time, and also that they could push through physical pain and discomfort when they focused on others and a set goal. The trip built much more than the foundation of a house, but also built character and more open-minded students who will look outward to serve others for a long time to come!

Check out the video that was filmed and put together by Joschua Mueller:

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Shekou International School

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