From left to right: Marshall McLuhan students Meghan Musngi, Hannah Fabro, Camille Silverio and Ninivette Vergara. Photo by Linda Izzo

A Filipino Christmas wish

  • December 13, 2011

TORONTO - This Christmas season, a group of Toronto Catholic students will be living Jesus’ Gospel of love and caring for others by helping to build homes in the Philippines.

From Dec. 27 to Jan. 10, 18 students will take part in the Philippines Study and Leadership Experience. The trip is being run by Adventure Learning Experiences in partnership with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School, Loretto Abbey, Cardinal Carter and St. Michael’s Choir School are some of the eight  schools taking part. One student from the York Catholic District School Board will also be going.

“They’re taking that Christ child to places of darkness and bringing light,” said Linda Izzo, chaplain at Marshall McLuhan, which will have four of its students participating.

Aside from helping to build homes, the group will be cleaning the “squatter” areas where the poor live, said Hannah Fabro, a Grade 12 participant from Marshall McLuhan. “A huge number of people in the Philippines live in poor conditions and some of us have been to the Philippines and know the living conditions and how difficult it is,” said Fabro.

Even though she could spend her Christmas vacation at home with family and friends, Fabro wanted to help out those in need.

The school has a strong Filipino demographic, so this mission of generosity over Christmas really resonated with students, said Izzo. “This is going home for them but through the perspective of a very new way of seeing home because there’s poverty and homelessness that they will now touch firsthand.”

“Being able to help out my people is a great opportunity,” said Fabro.

The group will also be engaging the younger children and teaching them to read and write, said Ninivette Vergara, another participant from Marshall McLuhan. “One of the main reasons I wanted to go is because it’s been almost five years since I’ve gone to the Philippines and it’s my home country,” said Vergara. “I’ve been teaching children at Kumon and this is another way to enhance my people skills and help the community.”

But the cost of the trip has been quite a burden on the students, said Izzo. The trip costs each participant about $4,000 and the students have been fundraising to pay their way.

“When we put the word out, six students were very keen,” she said.

“What greater gift can anyone give at Christmastime than to open their heart and to make the Gospel values real, tangible and touchable?”

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