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Friday, March 24, 2000

Isle YMCA volunteers
head to Philippines

By Mary Adamski


"Pack work gloves" is the advice Honolulu YMCA President Don Anderson gave the travelers he's leading to the Philippines tomorrow.

The itinerary for their two-week trip includes roofing repairs, carpentry, cement work, painting and groundskeeping at Solangan Elementary School in San Juan, Siquijor Island.

Seventeen staff members and volunteers from Hawaii YMCA branches will join the Young Adult Work Camp, an annual project arranged by Anderson and his counterpart in Cebu, YMCA General Secretary Cris Caparoso.

They will be joined by YMCA volunteers from Hiroshima, Japan, Darwin, Australia and Kaoshung, Taiwan, as well as a Philippines contingent. Seven volunteer dentists from the Philippines will set up a free clinic in the small rural town as part of the work camp.

The YMCA recruits these volunteers carefully, and it's not just about bringing muscle to a worksite, Anderson said.

"The execs at our nine YMCAs pick the best young adults, people who will have a future in giving back to our community. We give them an experience that will change their lives and develop them," he said.

"It's the kind of experience we need to give our young leaders, especially in a place like Hawaii where we just look at each other a lot. It gives them a real perspective.

"It's something that gives people a good feeling about their place in the world, and how lucky we are, and the need for us to give.

"I always ask what did you learn?" said Anderson, who started the program eight years ago. "The answer will be 'I can't believe how happy people are out here although they have almost nothing. We have so much stuff and we are not happy.'"

Many of the Work Camp crew, who are between 18 and 30 years old, work in child care and A-plus programs, and some are program directors at YMCA branches. Honolulu businessmen Wally Amos, Earle M. "Les" Alexander III and Anthony Howard Good will be with the group.

It won't all be heavy labor for them. They also will be leading sports and recreation activities for the 450 students at the school. Each night's camp-fire program will be hosted by a different country, so the Hawaii folks will share island music and dance.

They will tour Manila and entertain youngsters in an orphanage there. In Zambales Province, they will visit community development programs for the Aetas, a cultural and racial minority living in forest areas of Luzon.

Besides work clothes and gloves, the Hawaii contingent is taking books, science-class supplies and sporting equipment for Solangan Elementary School.

But Anderson already knows from experience that no matter what the Hawaii contingent does or brings to San Juan, "They receive more than they give."

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