For those who personally know me, you know my last 2 years of my life has been life inspiring particularly since the birth of my son. In 2013, I was fortunate enough to visit the Philippines for a second time in my life. The first time I was on business for a For Profit organization, and was thrilled at experiencing the culture. So much that I even wrote about it in a previous blog on one of my business websites pointing out the level of service infused in the culture. This time it was in early February of 2013 on yet another business trip with the same company. But this time around, it changed my life. I wanted to share the series of moments that impacted my life and would lead to an incredible journey in the Non for Profit sector with Staging Changes.
Moment #1 – Homelessness & Unemployment
When I first landed in Cebu City I witnessed a 13 month old child sleeping on the concrete with his mom on the corner street from where I was visiting a call center for a major corporation. I didn’t quite understand it. After all, the Philippines is the #1 place for outsourcing in the world and some of the worlds largest companies do business here. Yet a young child was homeless and laying down on the pavement. This bothered me, and while I wanted to give this family some money – I was instructed not to do so. Doing so may encourage them to stay homeless and just beg for money, and it may also endager them and make them a target for robbery as others who are just as unfortunate look on. Never the less, I was bothered and had to do something about it.
Moment #2 – Meeting The Locals
Unlike my 1st trip to the Phillipines, on this trip I got to meet the locals in the Phillipines and visit local villages and provinces to see what real life is like in the Philippines. I visited to local villages in Mactan, Cebu City, and actually got to see the poorer areas of Manila. The impact was significant as I walked through these provinces. I was able to observe how simple yet happy the locals are here. They farm, they sell food or any home made items, and yet there is no electricity in certain towns and it is normal to see shanty houses that have roofs made of cardboard. I met a local by the name of Mich who took me through these towns and where I had some of the best fresh seafood and lechon. Meeting the locals opened my eyes up to how happy people can still be under the most toughest economic situations.
Moment #3 – The Need for Technology
Even as I sat along side customer service agents in one of the biggest call centers in the Philippines, it was clear that even the agents could use bigger monitors. They were squinting and looking at their 14 inch CRT screens. When I walked outside in Cebu City, I was warned not to go into Colon city which is one of Cebus oldest towns. In this town, walking with your cell phone would qualify you for robbery. An iPhone in the Philippines is worth enough to feed a family for 6 months with the money a person can get for it. In every province I visited, there was no evidence of computers in the household, and cell phones were extremely popular – but most people had cell phones that were old or were not turned on. I kept asking myself, how do we get technology inside the homes of these provinces? How do we enable internet access in the most remote places in the mountains?
Overall the experience was humbling, but it opened up doors for me to evaluate how we can meet the challenges of helping people in these underdeveloped communities and it gave birth to Staging Changes. How do you propose we help these communiites?