By: Crystal Leung
"Good afternoon, Ate Crystal!" chirped the voices that greeted me each day I stepped into the Pandoo Club. On my first day of volunteering at the beginning of August, I was met with wide pre-adolescent eyes staring at me, timid, and curious about why I was there. By the end of the month, I could hear in their voices and see by their expressions just how excited the kids were to see me everyday. It is truly amazing how quickly bonds can develop in a short amount of time.
I came to Cebu to volunteer at the Pandoo Club to make a positive impact in the lives of less fortunate children - those who live in slums, come from broken homes or do not have the same access to opportunities and resources that other kids may take for granted. I'm a firm believer that being surrounded by positive influences at a young age will help keep you steered in the right direction; having a sense of belonging in a community is critical for kids who may not have the financial means or a strong support system at home. This community is what the Pandoo Club provides to many children in Barangay Kasambagan in Cebu City - a place for kids to go with educational and athletic resources, friendships to be made and teachers and staff that are role models and care deeply about their well-being and development.
During my time in Cebu, the concept of "impact" was a recurring theme. What impact does a non-profit organization have? How is it measured? Pandoo has the numbers to show its impact - 290 kids reached, 2600 meals served, etc. But what can't be quantified are the individual stories and moments of pure joy, laughter and smiles that really make Pandoo's impact apparent on a daily basis.
A couple memories stand out, such as on my first day drawing with a brother and his sister - the brother was deaf and mute. Despite me not knowing sign language, we were still able to communicate, and he showed me how much he loved the creatures of the sea. He repeatedly tapped on my arm and pointed energetically at a book filled with pictures of fish, sharks, whales, octopuses and more, motioning and imitating each one of them. He could tell I was listening to him. The spark in his eyes and the grin on his face were priceless and unforgettable.
Another notable memory was during our daily “sports hour”. Most of the kids played volleyball, but one high school girl always asked me to play badminton with her. We were probably equally matched in skill and worked up a sweat most days rallying back and forth. While it was great exercise for both of us, it was during these regular badminton sessions that we bonded. She opened up to me and shared her dream of becoming a doctor and helping people, but her family could not afford medical school tuition. I encouraged her to identify the steps she needed to take to reach her goals (including looking into scholarships for financial assistance), to work hard and, of course, to keep dreaming big.
I am humbled by my brief time spent with the Pandoo Club and grateful to experience firsthand the tremendous impact it has on these children every single day. Whether we were participating in a spelling bee, playing volleyball or singing about the pride of the Filipino people, the expressions on the kids' faces showed how happy they are to be there. And the reality is that not everything in life can be measured in numbers - sometimes it is simply the moments of joy that matter the most.