Series 4/5 - Artwork Inspired in the Philippines: "The Christmas Parties"

 Series 4/5 - Artwork Inspired in the Philippines: "The Christmas Parties"

"Each year, {Extreme Response Celebrates} Christmas with thousands of the poorest of the poor. These celebrations bring hope to the hopeless, build trust and cultivate relationships that Extreme Response has developed with those who have been forgotten by society. Christmas Outreach Teams serve with Extreme Response staff members, partners and local volunteers by providing gifts, food, games, crafts, face painting and lots of hugs."

Our team did 7 parties in 5 days and WOW - was it hard work. I didn't know what to expect, as this is my first humanitarian trip with Extreme Response, and well - ever, but I suppose doing double duty volunteering and photo-documenting the whole trip proved for really hard work.  Each party consisted of a similar agenda; our team would get there early to help set up several stations of games and activities, then there was an opening - complete with a skit or song of some sort that the children performed, our team member did a magic show, the kids were dismissed to play as we worked at different stations and game set ups, then in closing each child received a gift bag and a hot meal.  

It was exhilarating, difficult, heartbreaking and so incredible heartwarming and rewarding all at the same time. The first party we helped with was for the 10 boys who live at the Extreme Response, Manila Children’s Home (MCH), and was like no other! After introductions, greetings and reunifications for many, the ER Christmas Team showered the boys with individual backpacks filled with lots of practical goodies, toys, treats and great recreational activities for the home. The boys expressed their gratitude and also performed a song for us too. We received a tour of the home where the boys live and also the office upstairs where all the planning, case management, and logistical stuff goes on. I was particularly interested because my first job out of college was working in a group home and there’s a special place in my heart for those at risk children. I learned a lot about their program and was really impressed with it al

After the Christmas party in their home, we all drove over the a pool house, (literally a house rented for the day, with a pool) and were pleasantly surprised with the most beautiful display of a traditional celebratory meal, called Kamayan.



A kamayan dinner is a Filipino feast in which you eat lots of food off banana leaves at a communal table, without any utensils. What! An! Experience!  It was delicious meal enjoyed with the boys, the Christmas Team, MCH Staff and some ER staff too.  We had a wonderful time with the boys and it was so heartwarming to see the joy and laughter on their faces that day.


I learned a little bit about the boys, their heartbreaking past as well as their progress while living in the home and felt compelled to do some research and find out more. The Extreme Response website states the Manila Children’s Home mission is to “care for at-risk children, particularly 6- to 18-year-old boys who have been neglected or abandoned to live on the streets… The first six boys to take up residence (in 2014), ranging from 4 to 13 years old, were indicative of the children the Manila Children’s Home (MCH) seeks to impact. The three oldest are brothers who were abused by their father before being placed under government protection. The three younger boys were found on the streets by government social workers, unable to speak and apparently abandoned.”

It was beautiful to see the staff interact with the boys; their love for their work and for the kids really shined through! One of the highlights of my trip was meeting this inspirational woman, Gela. She is the Program Director and has done a stellar job at creating an effective and efficient system to run the home. Something else she does, that I love, is literally documenting and celebrating the accomplishments! I learned so much from her during my trip, this is one gem that I will really take to heart and start incorporating more in my life! All the staff and volunteers at every party exuded love and dedication to their work, it was beautiful and so refreshing to experience.

Gela’s husband, John, is the Executive Director of MHC and has the best smile and laugh you’d ever experience! He laughed the entire week as he helped us with the other Christmas parties too. It was an inspiration to witness the joy and love that they have; serving the needy, at risk and vulnerable children of their community. It’s hard work! But their faith, love, devotion, calling and obedience to divine guidance has led them to this ministry and made a difference in countless children’s lives.

MCH is funded by donations and if this has touched your heart, or peaked your interest, or you would like to know more about supporting this wonderful organization and cause… please visit their website @

You guys!!! That was just the first party...we helped with 6 more throughout the week and each one was just as unique, impactful and special as the last!

One of the last parties we did was at the Philippine General Hospital and it was for a non-profit called "Shelter of Hope / Silungan ng Pag-asa", which serves as "a temporary shelter for Poor Children with Cancer from far flung provinces. A resting place where hurts and pain were ease until their next check ups". This non-profit was started by a husband and wife who experiences this need when their own child had cancer and was being treated. They were such an incredible couple with hearts full of love for what they are doing. Here is just a peek into the beauty of that party...

After the party, we were given a tour of the hospital. I've never been to a hospital in a third world country before and it was an overwhelming experience for me. It took all my might not to take pictures and document all that I was seeing - but out of respect of the patients and the pain and sickness, I held off and kept my camera in my bag.  We were taken up to the pediatric cancer ward - which was really just 1 large room with several beds in it. I get emotional every time I think about it, and find it hard to type through the tears right now. During the tour they rolled a bed past us, covered with a blanket as it had a child on it who had just passed away. That memory still impacts me and has come up in my life a few times when I saw a table with a blanket on it. I didn't take pictures of inside the hospital, but I did take 1 picture outside...

This trip was a life impacting experience that I will definitely be doing again and can't wait until that opportunity comes!  I want to encourage you get out of your comfort zone and think about how you can help out and contribute towards something you are passionate about! Maybe visiting a convalescent home, baking cookies and delivering at a homeless shelter, collecting blankets and bringing to a pet shelter... the opportunities are endless and the impact can be life changing - on both ends! Two really incredible things happen when a person selflessly serves - they feel am incredible joy and fulness with their service, AND they contribute positively to our society - win! win!

If you want to see more about the Christmas Parties, the children, the work and the trip, you can check out this slideshow below: