Sholing students make ‘monumental difference’ to lives of typhoon victims

Kind-hearted students from Sholing will be heading out to South East Asia this Easter to end a decade-long mission to make a ‘monumental difference’ to the poorest parts of the Philippines.

The project began in 2008 when students from Grove Park Business College travelled to Tondo in Manila to build a playground. Groups from Sholing Technology College then continued the work, with visits every two years.

In 2013, super typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, killing 6,000 people and leaving more than half a million people homeless. This year the team, compiled of 25 former Sholing Technology College students aged between 16 and 21 and seven leaders, will head to Tacloban and Tolosa – the worst hit area – to continue their mission.

From their base at the Kids International Ministries – The Lighthouse near Palo Bridge – the group, which leaves on Good Friday for two weeks, intend to run summer activities for the children as well as a feeding project for the local community.

Chloe Switzer, 18, said:

‘We do it to be able to see the children’s faces when they arrive at places like Nomads Sporting Club and see grass for the first time, taking their shoes off to feel the grass in their toes. Something we take for granted.’

20-year-old Michiela Bradbeer added:

‘You will never see happier people. They have nothing, yet still they appear to have everything. That’s what makes us go back time and time again, just to make at least a small difference to their lives and see them smile.’

Under the leadership of Dave Berry, they will also undertake a house building project to provide accommodation for those still living in temporary shelter.

Dave said:

‘What we do is a little drop in the ocean but we do what we can.’

The team held a number of events to help fund the trip including two race nights, a quiz night and a charity golf day. The final fundraiser took place this month at the Skylark Golf and Country Club in Fareham where they raised £4,000, smashing their target of £15,000.

This money will enable them to build three houses while they are there and provide the funding for two more, to be built by the locals after they have left.

The team has also sent out a container full of donations, with support from Ready Steady Store. The Eastleigh storage facility provided free storage for three months and allowed the group to use its land to load the container with 2500 ‘Gift of Joy’ shoeboxes that had been prepared by school and youth groups in and around Southampton as well as School in a Bag and Literacy in a Box sets.

While the project makes a huge difference to the lives of disadvantaged children in the Philippines, it is also beneficial to the British students who take part.

At the final fundraiser, one former student told Dave the trips had changed his life. Dave said:

‘It has made a monumental difference to the lives of so many children in the Philippines but what you forget – or it is easy to forget – is that it has actually made a big difference to the lives of an awful lot of young people who maybe are less selfish and more aware of the world as a result of participating in this type of project.’

This is expected to be the last year of the project. Dave said:

‘Every time I say this will be the last time and no one believes it but I will, by the time we go on this trip, be 75 years of age and the amount of work to set this up is immense. However, I have a feeling we will end up going out one more time to build another playground.’