Week #8: Playing for Change

Yesterday we covered the mushy topic of living love. While I’m not typically a mushy person in particular, I’m do get super excited about people who are living intentionally in order to help others.

When I started my #give10 search for people and projects who were changing the world, I accidentally surrounded myself by a whole lot of this kind of people. And you know what, they are contagious.

Today I want you to meet my friend Cecil, she’s one of these crazy infectious people who knows how to dream.

Cecil’s dreaming started decades ago as a young girl in a small village in the Philippines called Lamba. Though she doesn’t look old enough for the story she tells, Cecil remembers when her village school got their first and only piece of playground equipment decades ago- a rough cement slide. Today that same slide, worn slippery from bottoms of playing children, is still the centerpiece of the school yard.

Cecil has always dreamed about her school having swings and a proper playground so she’s finally taken the matter into her own hands to make that a reality for the school’s 600 current students. 

As part of our 52 weeks of #Give10 part 2, we asked Cecil about the Lamba Central School Playground Challenge and what she believes about the power of small givers.

1. What project accomplished are you most proud of this year?

I’m very proud we started this playground project and that the teachers in the school share my excitement. Little by little we are making this happen and we’ve been able to finish part of the playground by our goal in December!

2. What are you most excited about in the year to come. 

I am excited to see the rest of the facility get set-up this year. Even though we haven’t raised the funds to build the whole playground at one time, we are committed to build it piece by piece.

3. Last year #give10 supported the playground with $10. How do small donors make a difference in achieving your mission?
A small donation is big enough because it shows that there is someone out there who believes in our project, cares about our village school, and shares our dream of providing a better world for our children.

4. What is one thing you wish you could tell to the people who give to your cause?
I would tell people to follow their heart and give, because nothing is impossible when you give with love – it multiplies to others and spread the blessings. When they give, they open up an opportunity to one child – and this school has 600!

5. What do you think stops people from giving to a charity?
People who don’t give might not have heard of the cause or have other things they are passionate about. But I believe, every person likes to give and feels good when they do. It is just a matter of time and chance.

6. What do you think motivates the people who do donate to give again?
If people see that their donation made a difference, then they keep giving. If they know that other people’s lives got better, then they give again. Knowing that their donation is valued and used accordingly is very important.

7. Doing world changing work isn’t free. Can you explain the model that your project uses to cover its operating costs?
The funds raised are covering the actual construction of the playground facilities. The rest of the work has been happily undertaken by the school committee to be a “bayanihan” which means they will be working for free as a part of their donation for this project.

8. What do you think is the role of the individual who can only make a small donation?
Every person makes up a hundred and a thousand and a million. So one person plays a very important role. He/she completes the whole of the dream and final effort. No help or support on this project is small – every effort counts.

9. What project (other than your own) would you would want other donors to support?
The Ardee Smile Kidz, a small (and the only one) advocacy project in my city, that provides free therapy to children with cerebral palsy and educates parents on how to properly handle them so they grow loved and cared for.

10. How can people learn about and contribute to the Lamba Central School Project?

Twitter: @cblaguardia

Facebook: LambaCentralSchoolPlaygroundChallenge 


“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson 

#7 souvenir scars & doctors on motos::

I’ve been hanging out in Manila and beyond recently, so it’s fitting that our next travel story, and a fairly recent one at that, comes from the Phlippines. The telling of this story often starts after someone gets a look at the frankenstein scar on my left knee. Sure, travel scars do tell stories, but sometimes it’s much less painful to buy a souvenir. Here’ s the tale:

In January of 2010, freshly back in Asia, and geared up to hit some new countries I ventured over to the Phillipine’s Palawan island to rendezvous with some traveling companions for a few days in paradise.

And a little bit of paradise it was. Crystal waters, uninhabited islands, formations of limestone jutting from the translucent turquoise seas. There were secret lagoons, underwater caves to explore, white sandy beaches and hammock hanging rocks. And if the blues above weren’t enough to soothe the soul, beneath the seas’s crystal surface were millions more wonders. Clown fish wrapped in swirling purple anemones, king size shelf corals, polka dotted starfish, and nudibrinch so small and intricate you can’t help but be reminded that God doesn’t forget details.

Back on land, homes still outnumbered guest houses, rice fields still outnumbered dive shops, and l village families still lived with an ocean view. The place was perfect. Fond memories of this beautiful place aren’t all I have from this special trip however. I’ve got scars that forever remind me of this beautiful island.

After a full day of diving off the coast of El Nido my travel companions and I spent our last evening sipping sundowners while watching the sun sink into the sea. As dusk set in, so did hunger, and we ventured down a windy path leading to El Nido’s beachfront.

Along the path at a rocky point, a guard house stood sentinel, and just outside the hut was a fancy tree trunk carved into a bench. We’d walked this same path many times in our days there and I’d never been lured to sit on this bench before.  Howver, on this night with the abandon of a weary traveler, exhausted from diving, I unsuspectingly laid down on this tree bench to rest. I don’t actually remember any of what happened next, but eyewitnesses claim that the bench tipped over with me on it and I smashed my knee and face on the rocky ground.

Thanks to a mild concussion all I remember is coming back to my senses in a small café where they served me a lot of tiny bananas, and a village doctor arrived on a red motorbike and sutured up my knee by headlamp as I lay stretched across three chairs.
The next day I watched the waves from El Nido’s seaside nest with a black eye and an elevated elephant-size leg before dragging my bruised body with matching bruised ego off the island and into my first airport wheelchair, heading homeward to mend.

As always the lessons I learned were many.  First, beware of trees posing as benches.  Second, if you’re a clumsy traveler, remember that it’s always a good to have friends from the medical world. I’ve had many a  triage over skype video, and am ever grateful to my travel companions who carry things like clean needles and suture kits and know how to use them. And finally, motor-tricycles make good (albeit a little bumpy) wheelchairs if you happen to wreck yourself in the Philippines.

If I had the choice to do-over, I’d certainly pick a string of Palawan pearls over six stitches to remember my Philippine adventures. But stories still make the best souvenirs.

What stories do your travels scars tell?

sunsets and sutures ::

It started as a beautiful evening with the sun slipping behind the dots of deserted islands and melting into the horizon off the tip of El Nido.  The sky grew majestic in hues of orange and magentas – the colors made only more amazing by our vantage point where we relaxed in wicker hammocks and sipped roman cokes.   We grew hungrier and hungrier, already ravished after a long day of diving, and began what became the fateful walk down the treacherous path leading to El Nido’s beachfront.

The dirt pathway weaved its way through a village and past a rice field edging its way closer and closer to the coast, hugging a rocky point before it dumped its followers into the sands of the beach.

Just near the rocky point, a guard house sat along the way.   Just opposite of the guard house was a bench that had been carved from  a tree.  I’m not sure what purpose this exact bench was there to serve- a resting place for the weary villager to stop along the way and watch the sunset?  A place for the guard to sit in case he forgot the keys to the guard house?  Or maybe it was placed there as a trap to injure unsuspecting tourists?

We’d walked this same path many times in our days there and I’d never been lured to this bench before. Perhaps I was weary from the long walk, or probably more accurately, just being stupid, but for some reason, I decided that I needed to try out this bench.

Now, a tree bench isn’t exactly something you’d guess to possibly be unstable.  It isn’t like a hammock that you test to make sure it will hold you before you plop down.  With the abandon of a weary traveler, exhausted from diving, hungry for dinner and full of roman beverages, I unsuspectingly laid down to rest on the aforementioned tree bench.  And then the disaster occurred.

The rest of the story goes something like this:

  1. bench tips over
  2. tipped bench propels weary traveler into the rocky pathway
  3. weary traveler somehow contorts herself to take the impact of the ground with the right side of her face and her left knee
  4. weary traveler sustains multiple lacerations and goes to the nearest café for treatment
  5. traveling companion assumes role of trauma nurse and performs emergency triage
  6. café staff provide first aid kit, and a whole lot of bananas to treat patient
  7. random surgeon who lives in the village shows up on a motorbike with a medical kit
  8. patient stretches out across three chairs in the café while American nurse and Filipino doctor perform surgery by headlamp
  9. patient reads Chinese magazine while lidocane shot into knee takes affect
  10. patient survives and watches the emergency medical team tie off four sutures holding her knee together
  11. motorcycle with sidecar shows up to transport patient back to guesthouse
  12. patient eats fried rice and tylenol for dinner on the guesthouse porch right back where the sunset story began.

And that my friends, is how the story goes….  With a bruised face, a black eye and a severe limp, I hobbled onto a plane flew far from the Philippines, back to work, bandaged in bangkok, and finally heading home to mend in the penh.

The stitch is lost unless the thread be knotted. – Italian Proverb

palawan pearls ::

There is something that brings me great joy about meeting up with people from my life in random places.   The constant of companions somehow familiarizes the most unfamiliar territory. Whether the meet up is in the airport of Dayton, Ohio, or the port city of Malaga, Spain, random rendezvous have a way of linking my life pieces and reminding me that it is all connected.

This month’s meet up was Palawan island in the Philippines, rendezvous point Puerto Princessa-  very aptly named because I was to meet my dear friend Princess Kristy and her traveling companions for a few days in paradise.

And a little bit of paradise it was. Crystal waters, uninhabited islands, formations of limestone jutting from the translucent turquoise seas..  There were secret lagoons that you swam into through a hole, underwater caves to explore, white sands and hammock hanging rocks.

And as if the blues above weren’t enough to soothe the soul, beneath the seas’s crystal surface were millions more wonders.  Clown fish wrapped in swirling purple anemones, king size shelf corals, polka dotted starfish, treasures hidden in oysters, and nudibrinch so small and intricate you can’t help but be reminded that God doesn’t forget the details.

Back on land, I loved that the tip of this princess island still belonged to the people despite the beauty drawing more and more  travelers to its shores. Homes still outnumbered guest houses and rice fields still outnumbered dive shops and dive bars. Local children played on the beach, and the village families still had the best ocean views.

And what made all this beauty more bountiful was that it was shared.  Like pearls of life, another memory added to my beautiful moments strung together by the thread of friendship.

No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent. – John Donne