Dear Friends, new and old, and Family,
I hope that you are doing well! I'm Lauren and I would like to invite you to learn about my journey here in the Philippines.
Most people receiving this letter are friends or family members, but allow me to introduce myself for anyone else reading this. Currently, I am a proud member of University Church in Hyde Park, Chicago, which is a part of the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ denominations.
I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio and after receiving my Masters of Divinity degree in May 2017 from McCormick Theological Seminary, I decided to become a YAV or Young Adult Volunteer through the Presbyterian Church USA. As a result, I have a dual appointment with Global Ministries and the PCUSA. By the way, this is my second time visiting the Philippines. Thanks to a research grant awarded by McCormick, I visited the Philippines in January 2016 in order to complete research on anti-human trafficking work and during that time served as a Short-term Volunteer with Global Ministries.
As a YAV, I reside in the Visayas region in the Negros Oriental province. I'm located in a city called Dumaguete. Dumaguete is a small yet bustling city and is well-known throughout the Philippines for Silliman University, a world-renowned university. For better or worse, it is also the 7th best place in the world to retire, and the increased foreign presence is noticeable.
Part of the YAV program is learning about the history of the Philippines and understanding its culture. In what we have learned, the Philippines deals with many interlocking issues including white supremacy, colonization, and poverty. One of my memorable experiences thus far is visiting a city called Escalante, where I witnessed a contingent of people resisting the oppression they've faced due to the aforementioned issues. Each year, for more than 30 years, the city of Escalante commemorates the massacre of poor youth that happened in the 1980's. The commemoration includes a reenactment of the massacre and utilizes art (visual, musical, performance) to represent the people's resistance of ongoing oppression. Despite the challenges, people still believe change is necessary.
My volunteer placement is with two organizations, Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA), and Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE). They each do great work to empower women and young adults. My volunteer work with YATTA includes serving as the unofficial chaplain. I've attended some of their performances. They are so talented and creative. Not only that, their work is based in addressing justice issues.
With the other part of my time, I spend it with Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE). They do amazing work to advocate for abused women and children in court and outside of it. I get to attend court hearings, programming, and home visits. One of the most inspiring parts of working with GWAVE is that the survivors attend court hearings with other survivors. Can you imagine how powerful that can be if implemented in more cases in the US? I am gaining a lot of ideas in terms of best practices that I hope to implement in the anti-human trafficking work that I want to do in my future.
I am very grateful for what I am learning here. Thank you for reading my letter and thank you for your prayers and support.
Kitakits! (See you soon)
Lauren Robinson serves with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Her appointment was made possible by your gifts to Disciples' Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.