Service to others leads to a 'truly remarkable' learning experience
Photos by Daniel J. LaSota.
Daniel J. LaSota, who earned a bachelor’s degree in residential construction technology and management in May, spent 16 days helping to build a boys’ dormitory for a deaf school in a largely undeveloped area of Palawan Island in the Philippines. The former boys’ dorm was destroyed by a storm, and while the school’s administrators made temporary accommodations, the school was in danger of being shut down without a replacement building. LaSota – who received credit for the work in an independent-study course titled “Construction: International Field Experience” – asked friends to teach him American Sign Language before leaving in order to communicate with the school’s students. Once there, all language barriers quickly crumbled as he worked and played with the school’s students. “All of the experiences on this trip made it unforgettable – and truly remarkable,” LaSota said. He shares a glimpse of his experience on the following pages.
“This was my first impression of the camp. I was walking down the path, and this dog came at me, and (a man was) holding a machete.” LaSota explained that the school grows its own food, and the man with the machete, Felix, takes care of all its farmland. Felix and his family – except for one of his sons – are deaf. “The machete was his main farming tool. Everything was done by hand. Even the rope in his fence was made from vines.”
“This is a hand sifter. They sifted the sand to mix with the mortar to make concrete, which is very hard to do; it’s very time-consuming. They were very resourceful. They made their own axe handles, their own tampers – they made a lot of their tools.”
“Coconuts are probably one of the biggest products on the island. This is one of the coconut groves we passed.”
“This is how we got lumber sometimes. Most people didn’t have cars. There was a government ban on wood. You weren’t allowed to cut any new wood down … so they had to go into the woods and find dead trees wherever they could. They cut everything by chain saw, so that wood may look really bad (rough cut), but that entire load was cut with a chain saw, so it’s actually pretty good. It was unique in that aspect, dealing with lumber and construction in that way, because everything was cut by hand. It’s just very different from how we’re used to it.”
“These are some of the deaf children. Those two guys really helped us a lot; they really wanted to be involved. It truly wouldn’t have gotten done so quickly if it wasn’t for the students. You could easily tell them what to do just by showing them, and once they had a task to do, they got right to it and made sure they did the best they could.”
“Our group bought the pigs, and they had a pig roast in our honor. They eat meat like this twice a year, so it was quite the celebration. This was to thank us for the project. Nothing went to waste, so there were a lot of unique meals made.”
“That’s Mark (holding baby). He did everything with us. We really got along with him.”
“There was no running water, so they would pump the water for the day, carry it in buckets, and then put it in these big barrels. They would use that to wash their clothes and wash the dishes.”
LaSota’s group took a day to visit remote mountain villages. “This is on the way to the mountains. The cows traveled from field to field, and they had the right of way, so we had to wait for about 10 minutes for them to move.”
“We could only drive so far and then we had to walk up a path to get to the mountain villages. This is some of the village locals washing their clothes.”
“We had enough wood to make bunk beds. We completely ran out of wood at the end of this project.”
“This is the finished product. The dorm was a 20-foot-by-60-foot building. About 20 to 25 boys attended the school and stayed there.”
“This was taken in the morning. This is what we had to put up with for the few days we were there.”
“This is a group shot of mostly the boys. (LaSota is wearing plaid shirt.) Five of them are showing the sign for ‘I love you.’ That was different there, because the first minute they met us they were doing that. So it wasn’t the same as here. They were very friendly people and very open, and for them to just sign to you ‘I love you’ wasn’t the same as America would take it, maybe. It was really genuine how close they were with people.”
"This is just a sample of the beaches. LaSota’s group drove to the beach – about 2.5 hours from the school – for a day of relaxation.
"This is just outside the door. These insects were around everywhere."
"This is another form of transportation. We have horses over here; they have water buffalo."
"All the bugs were BIG." (Holding the creature is Matt, another volunteer for the building project.)
Local children pose for LaSota’s camera while playing on the beach.
"This was one of the alleys at night."
LaSota photographed this woman, who worked and took courses at the school for the deaf, in her kitchen. "It pretty much was a pot and a very small fire."
"These are the three boys who I hung out with a lot and I really got to know throughout the trip. (LaSota is wearing plaid shirt.) We did a lot together. We cut all the wood … They helped me, and we would play basketball and do a lot of other activities together, too."
Daniel LaSota, a Lake Ariel native who earned his bachelor's degree in residential construction technology and management in May 2009, has completed several volunteer construction trips both inside and outside the United States. He is an estimator for Construction Specialties Inc. in Muncy.