Olan… GO!

By: Geneviève Bisson

This boat is rocking and its on ramp was no less sketchy, to say the least. I’m on my way to the island of Olango, just off the coast of Cebu. Olango has a population of 30,000 – well, this is my personal estimate after Wikipedia saying less and the locals saying more.

One thing for sure is that the population is very young. The island is infested with kids. Not sure if infested is the right word, but you get the idea. Moving on….

What brings me here, besides the boat that I already mentioned, is the possibility of initiating some of our new projects. The island has very little NGO presence. However, it also has a good manageable population that I think would be impacted by our outreach efforts. The residents also seem very open to innovative ideas. Olango, all in all, seems like a perfect starting location candidate.

Jay, whom I met last week, is coming to get me at the ferry terminal. He was the one who originally sparked my curiosity and triggered my desire to go see Olango. He currently lives there and understands the need for project like ours. He has been very helpful and has already set up meetings for me. I’m meeting with a school principal to see if they would be interested in collaborating with the Foundation on a garden project and also discuss doing our first Design for Change activity there.

We have decided on the projects we want to create and at this point we need to make connections, network, and evaluate where to start. Therefore, I’m looking forward to seeing how this trip turns out. So, let this sketchy boat ride begin….


I just returned from Olango and must say it was a productive visit. The Grade 6 class was very welcoming; I loved being in the classroom.

Afterwards, I was able to meet the school principal. Here is a short excerpt from our conversation.

Me: Hi! (shakes Principal’s hand) My name is Gen and I’m the Philippines Director for Pandoo Foundation a…
Principal: When?
Me: (look of utter confusion)  Euhhh… What we would like to do is a leadershi…
Principal: When?
Me: When would be a good time?
Principal: Next week?
Me: That was easy.

Well, easy in the sense that I thought that one of the biggest challenges was going to be finding the first schools to partner with us. As it turns out, it will apparently be more like recruiting, especially in the rural areas. This is wonderful especially since I would much much rather spend my energy creating the projects than “selling” them.

The rest of my time in Olango was fantastic. I had a nice dinner with Jay’s family, great conversation, and even was surprised with a dance performance by some local school girls. This was one of those amazing moments that reminded me how great it is to travel and how wonderful those small,unexpected, and simple moments can be.

So now, if you are like me and love to look at maps, find Olango and picture a few extra gardens and terrific additional projects in the works!