Evangeline Allen, a fourth-year management student specializing in human resources, was able to do the humanitarian work she’d always dreamed of doing with the help of a unique grant available for students who want to gain experience in a developing country. Best of all, she was able to help people in her homeland of the Philippines.
Allen left the Philippines for Canada in 1998 and now lives in Taber. She spent three months in the Philippines this past summer, volunteering first with a non-governmental organization called EVNet (Eastern Visayas Network) and then with the University of the Philippines. She also participated in Dr. Glenda Bonifacio’s Philippine field study course in Tacloban City.
“I’ve always wanted to work in international aid and I couldn’t have done it without the President’s Grant for International Community Engagement,” she says. “I have a much better understanding of the struggles of people who survived Typhoon Haiyan and I was glad to be able to help, even if it was for such a short time.”
When she worked at EVNet, Allen helped develop a proposal that would have provided training, jobs or home-based businesses for widows and widowers in Tacloban. Some had already received aid that many used to establish a sari-sari store, like a small corner store, in their homes. The problem, Allen says, is that neighbourhoods became saturated with sari-sari stores, making it difficult for them all to survive.
“I went there to help EVNet get the data about what these widows and widowers want to do in their lives and help them create a proposal for funding,” says Allen, adding she later heard the proposal had been turned down.
“It’s really sad because these mothers and fathers, all they want is an income so their children will not have to take jobs or become prey for human traffickers,” says Allen.She spent her final month as a student assistant at the University of the Philippines. She worked in the student affairs office helping process student appeals for socialized (subsidized) tuition, sometimes joining the co-ordinator on home visits.
Throughout her stay in the Philippines, Allen realized people are still traumatized by Typhoon Haiyan. She saw a need for emotional support and counselling, and public education about topics like disaster-preparedness and human trafficking. Being in the Philippines also made her realize how she’d adapted to living in Canada.
“When I went there it struck me that humanity is fragile, whether you are in Canada or in the Philippines. Sometimes, I think we have to have disasters to go back to our humanity. Sometimes we forget what we have and that a lot of people need help. Living here in Canada sometimes I forget that a lot of people don’t eat,” she says.
Allen is grateful for all the experiences she encountered in the Philippines, despite the overwhelming needs. She’d encourage other students with an interest in international development work to consider making use of the President’s Grant to work in the Philippines or another developing country.
“It will be a valuable experience because you will learn how to not take what you have for granted,” she says. “It will be hard but the experience you get is worth it.”
The President’s Grant for International Community Engagement was created to encourage greater understanding of less-developed countries. Students can apply for up to $5,000 in financial assistance so they can participate in international development work. Funding for the grant came from an anonymous donor, someone Allen would very much like to meet.
“I want to thank the sponsor for making this opportunity possible,” she says. “It was a wonderful experience.”