January 28, 2012


Early Saturday morning we, along with the rest of our congregation, dawned the bright yellow vests that identified us as “Mormon Helping Hands” from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints and we headed out into one of the busiest outdoor markets in the area for a service project.

Sweeping around the chapel while we wait for more people to show up

These same vests are worn by LDS people all over the world as they render service in their communities or bring humanitarian relief to areas affected by natural disasters. Lady Hiva and I have cleaned up beaches, painted schools, and beautified communities on these projects. This time we were sweeping trash.

To give somewhat of a background here in the Philippines, at least in Manila, there is a serious lack of rubbish bins (sometimes I carry around my trash for hours  until I find one, and that is usually back at our house, because I have a mental block against throwing on the ground) so people just throw their trash wherever. Every morning there is an army of people that go out and sweep the gutters, the streets and the parking lots to collect the trash. I have made friends with the ones I see as I walk to work in the mornings; they are so friendly. People come to the market to shop or to catch a bus, leave more trash and the next day the sweepers do it all over again. So maybe not having rubbish bins is a form of creating jobs for someone???

Either way, we were going to do some service! Despite the busy area with so much going on, a large group of people clad in yellow with coconut leave brooms draws attention. The area we cleaned was near the chapel so that was nice. We walked, looking like a big yellow group parade, until we made it to the market area to start cleaning. People on buses waiting to depart found it highly entertaining to see us.

The Area we cleaned

The gutters...

The trash on the parking lot was easy to clean; the trash in the gutter was not. The gutters were full of foul smelling black sludge—I am not sure what it was and tried not to think much about it as we worked as it would not help the gag reflexes in any way. Soon after we arrived we started to have a crowd standing and watching. I am sure they were wondering why we were there to clean. After a while of trying not to wrinkle my nose to the smell or wince when some black mud accidentally splashed on my clothes (yes, we did use bleach when we washed) because I knew they were watching, I finally said to them (in Tagalog) “Why are you just watching?…Come help!”

They were kind of shocked into silence for a few seconds. Maybe because they could not believe I was speaking Tagalog, or maybe because they were surprised I told them to come help…I was not sure, so jokingly I told them again to come help and as some of the adults started to shirk away pretending they were not as interested in us anymore there was a group of kids that said, “We will help, we need a broom!” Sure enough they helped the whole time! And their grand prize was getting their photo taken! (Only if all kids were this easy to please when they did their chores)
The kids that helped us

Cleaning the trash pile on the drain so water could flow into the gutter.

It was fun to hear the different reactions of people. Some asked what church we were, others thought they needed to tell us where else we should clean, and some would help collect garbage around them so when we arrived to their area, it was already in a pile.

We had a good time; it is always enjoyable to get out and serve. It was hard work and I will understand more of what those sweepers go through every day from now on—especially when we drove by the area later in the evening and saw that it looked like we had not even been there!   There was so much trash again littered all over the street!
Some of the Crew

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