(by Carlotta Pasion)
To heed Pope Francis’ call to care for the environment, Iraya Study Center organized an EcoCamp on May 12-15, 2016 with the aim of transmitting the message of Laudato Sí, his 2nd encyclical. With the constant exposure of young people to gadgets and the digital world, seldom do they get a chance to contemplate the beauty of nature, much less appreciate and care for it. We had 3 goals for the girls who joined it: read Laudato Sí, appreciate nature and care for our common home.
We decided to organize a weekend camp where we could achieve our aims. We explored the possibility of offering volunteer work in a conservation and nature park about 100 km north of Manila. The upland area is also the ancestral domain of Aetas. The owners of the park agreed to take us on over a week end to do whatever jobs in the ranch they could give us. The girls were excited about the novelty of volunteer work to do jobs they never did before. During the pre-camp, we explained the objectives of the camp and showed them short videos as learning guides of Laudato Sí which we got from the internet. Another preparatory instruction given to the girls was to try their best to read the encyclical before the camp so taht we could have an exchange of ideas during the workshop.
As soon as we arrived at our lodging, a house not very far from the ranch which was lent to us by Iza’s grandfather, we started our volunteer work of cleaning up the house, making the beds and scrubbing the bathroom. Iza and Eunice took care of doing the grocery before the camp and we all took turns in preparing our meals. For Rocio, a high school student, what stood out for her was the chance to minimize energy consumption with the use of bikes as the group’s means of transportation during the camp whether going to church every day for Mass, seeing the sights or going to the park to do volunteer work. On the very first day, we had to bike 28 km to a church to attend Mass and back. As soon as we got to the ranch, work awaited us: sweeping the grounds, vacuuming the swimming pool, plant grafting, potting of plant cuttings for sale, as well as kitchen and alundry work.
Everyone agreed that care for the environment has to start with oneself. The workshop generated personal resolutions like being more conscious of what they throw in the trash bin, having a small garden at home, sharing learnings about care for the environment with others, etc. Interaction with the local indigenous people who worked at the park helped the girls appreciate and understand those with a cultural background different from theirs. Kristin met people who do not have cars, electricity and have limited water supply. Her experience with preparing plant cuttings for potting made her see how much time and effort it takes to rebuild nature that has been damaged. All these learnings made her think more about how she could help save up and conserve in small ways. In the Center too, we have started the campaign for waste segregation and have been able tos ustain it with the cooperation of the Administration staff and the new residents, Andee and Iah.
After work, we spent the rest of the day with doing mental prayer, spiritual reading, contemplation of the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, etc., sightseeing, and in the evening, a talk on the encyclical was given by one of the girls. Iza was taked to give a summary to the other participants and for that, she had to read it in full and looked for relevant materials in the internet to make the talk interesting.
When more girls wanted to go to a similar camp, we organized a 2nd one where apart from the things we did in the 1st one, we also visited a small community of 40 Aeta families. With the donation that Lieserl had asked from her father, we were able to prepare some grocery items as well as some used clothes that the girls brought which we gave to the failies. When Lieserl was tasked to give the talk on Laudato Sí, she did it very systematically that after the camp, she was invited to give the same talk in a seminar for students of KALFI LEAD.
To second the Pope’s call during the Year of Mercy, we have since gone back to the Aeta community to organize more outreach projects with other friends and their families who were moved by our stories from the 1st outreach. Mikha, who joined the 2nd EcoCamp, got her friend Clarizz to help her ask donations from their schoolmates to buy school suplies for 40 Aeta school children. Viea, a psychology student from UST, and her friends who heard about it too, provided the prizes for the fun games we organized for the kids in one of our visits. Andrea sent 2 boxes of clothes while Gigi, a Cooperator, prepared 40 food baskets which we distributed during a typhoon that struck the community. So far, since we made that 1st camp in May, there had been 28 girls who had joined our trips and took the call of the Pope to assist those in need.