After completing the Higher School Certificate, seven teenagers shared a unique life experience, immersing themselves in the culture of the Philippines.
Former St Mary’s College students Leah and Penny Broekman, Mayah-Bourke-Tindal, Whitney Mansfield, Rebecca Etheridge, Krystal Jauja and Hannah Breneger returned to Australia’s shores on Sunday after spending 10 days on a Catholic Mission Immersion trip.
The youth were accompanied by teachers Theresa Boyd and Karen Mooney and stayed in the village of Malbago.
During their time in the country, the group gifted funds to the village for a children’s playground and helped begin the build. They also helped plant vegetables and constructed a chicken coop, which they then purchased chickens for. Other activities included karaoke, a water-sculling competition, a survivor challenge on Virgin Island and an education in how to do the Nutbush.
Mrs Mooney said the youth interacted greatly with the village teenagers.
“You were living in the village for a week,” she said.
“You really got a taste for it.”
The girls said they made many new friends during their time there.
“We formed really close bonds with the people there and it was really sad to say goodbye,” Rebecca said.
Whitney said it was an eye-opening experience.
“It sort of gives you a new perspective on living here compare to there; how lucky we are,” she said.
“I feel like you grow more as a person.”
“[A highlight] was experiencing all the love and acceptance they have. They’re such gentle people.”
Krystal said it didn’t seem to matter that they were strangers in the village.
“They accepted us even though we come from a more privileged country,” she said.
“They invited us into their homes and their lives.”
Mayah said it was a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience and the happiness of the Filipinos despite adversity stuck with her.
During their time at Malbago, a number of the group decided to commit enough funds to send a village youth to university for four years. The impact was immense.
Mrs Mooney is already discussing plans for a 2018 immersion trip with students who are currently in Year 11.