"Family week” at Casa Bayanihan in Manila was a GREAT experience for my wife and me. It allowed us to see first-‐hand what our daughter Jillian was experiencing and it also provided us an opportunity to go places and see things we’d likely never have done otherwise. We were able to attend all of our daughter’s classes and meet the wonderful teachers and program leaders, along with other students. It was such a diverse group of wonderful people and those interactions provided some of the most enjoyable and memorable aspects of the trip. We were also able to travel with our daughter to her praxis site one day and see first-hand where she was going, what she was doing, and meet some of the wonderful people at the site. It was very humbling and rewarding for us to not only see the site, but to see our daughter’s interaction with and love for it all.
In addition to following Jillian’s typical routine, there were several planned events…to further mingle with the group and experience additional social and spiritual aspects of the program. …We learned more about the program, those participating in and leading the program, and some of the motivations and emotions of the participants that brought them to the Casa...
Everything about the week was well done and enjoyable. The scheduled activities filled a good portion of the week, but there was adequate free time to visit, tour and do things aside from the Casa.
Actually being there in person and experiencing it all first hand, gave us far better insight into and appreciation of what our daughter was experiencing. There would have been no way for us to envision or appreciate it all, without attending family week... And since we traveled so far to attend, after family week concluded, we took the opportunity to visit the islands of Palawan and Negros to assure we saw more than just Manila.
We HIGHLY recommend anyone with a student at the Casa to attend family week. They are experiencing a wonderful opportunity and this is your opportunity to enjoy it directly with them.
Transforming Power of Casa Bayanihan — as seen through the eyes of a Casa
I accompanied my daughter Teresa to the Philippines and…must confess I had my early apprehensions and doubts — these Casa participants left their comfort zones and lived simply for four months without air-conditioning, television, microwave oven, washing machines, and with very limited access to the Internet.
I saw only happy faces and lively spirits, and that made me at ease…I gathered that they found the program fulfilling in how they've made attachments and built relationships with the less fortunate, underprivileged and marginalized communities. On the last day before their final retreat and departure for the US, feeling their sadness and heavy hearts, I thought I could console them by saying
"you can now go back to your places of comfort". Greg said, "That's
debatable". Wow, that said everything!
Teresa took me to Tahanang Walang Hagdan during Family Week. I was so touched seeing people with disabilities having to do work repetitiously for hours on end. Teresa then took me…to the Calatagan fishing village where their group spent five days in March. I found Teresa's words to be true, that these families of fishermen were warm, all-welcoming, all-giving and joyful despite hardship. I was surrounded and immersed in friendships and love. I did not want to leave — I was soaking in the beauty of the place and the beauty of their hearts. Little did I know that I would be transformed myself through my daughter's Casa experience!
I am so proud of all 13 Casa participants. I congratulate and commend them for
what they've been through and what they've accomplished. On that last night,
I addressed them as the "group that will shape the future". Cristina said, "You're our number one fan!" I sure am a Casa advocate!! God bless all of them for taking the plunge and coming out of it with such a rewarding experience.
As a family who has travelled very little outside the US, we had a sense of apprehension when Erin decided to participate in Casa Bayanihan in the Philippines…there were many unknown factors, not the least of which was our daughter being on the other side of the world for 6 months.
We gradually came to realize the depth of preparation, thought, and concern that Father Mark, Heidi and Grace put into the development of this program…in terms of housing, food, transportation and overall safety. The real value of this program is the way that they extend beyond these basics to introduce the students to new experiences and relationships and then reinforce what they have been exposed to in class work, group projects, retreats, one on one discussions, etc. This program really seems to focus on giving the students a means to reflect on all they have experienced and to provide them with the tools they need to understand their own role.
It was our Family Week visit to the Philippines that provided this insight. It created a shared experience with Erin and was very important to help our understanding of the mission of Casa Bayanihan. We sat in on classes, ate meals at the Casa houses with the students and other visiting families, travelled on Jeepneys with the students to their praxis sites and spent two afternoons talking and eating with their friends in these communities. To walk in Erin’s shoes for a week, doing the things that she and the other Casa students do every day made a world of difference in our understanding of their experience.
One thing that I didn’t realize until we visited was how important the students feel it is to share their new world. There were many moments of “This is the person I was telling you about” or “Remember, I told you about this place.” You could sense the enthusiasm as we made these connections. Another bonus…was bringing our 13-‐year-‐old son along and exposing him to this entirely new culture. Watching Erin introduce him to her host family and seeing him share his own toys and books that he brought from home was a great memory from the trip.
If the students that we met this semester are any indication, the Casa program really does attract special people. The students we met were open, friendly, inquisitive and very committed. I felt like they were becoming global citizens in such a way that gives me a lot of hope. I can’t say enough about them and their inspirational efforts.
Thanks to all the Casa staff for taking care of our kids, opening up their minds, (and ours!)
and inviting us to participate in this memorable week.