Yesterday, I joined one of my closest friends in celebrating her twenty-somethingth birthday in a cemetery.
Yep, you read that right: in a cemetery. Before you get some crazy ideas in your head, I’ll go right ahead and tell it to you straight. We spent the afternoon hanging out with a big group of kids in a cemetery as part of ATD Fourth World‘s Festival of Learning.
When my friend Cel first told me about ATD, I was completely clueless. All she said was that they are an international nonprofit organization that worked with the less fortunate–in this particular instance, kids. I looked them up online and discovered that ATD stood for “All Together in Dignity,” and that they’re one of the groups fighting the good fight against poverty. They started in France in 1957, and have gone on to spread to over 30 countries, including the Philippines. Their name is perfect given their cause, because at the root of it, what they really want is to restore everyone’s dignity.
Cel was very excited about the Festival of Learning because it centered on exposing kids to storytelling and arts and crafts. Since our barkada (Filipino for group of friends) leaned more toward artsy things — we came together in our high school Glee Club, even before the TV series Glee became popular — the activity sounded perfect for us.
And that was how my friends and I ended up in Manila North Cemetery one hot Sunday afternoon.
We began by reading picture books with the kids, which was followed by a quick round of singing and dancing and a group storytelling session. Then we broke up into small groups and conducted our own workshops.
Cel, Macy, and I had decided on a combination art and music activity. We helped the kids make personalized shakers out of toilet paper rolls and taught them a native song entitled Leron Leron Sinta.
At the end of the day, we performed it in front of the entire group, after which the kids dominated the stage–so to speak–with energetic dances. Some of them even sang Frozen’s “Let It Go,” and one child did Katy Perry’s “Roar.” How awesome is that?
It was a tiring experience, but it was definitely memorable and rewarding. I could see how excited the kids were to have us spend the day with them. Their enthusiasm and joy for learning something new was so heartwarming, especially when I watched them trying their best to read the stories out loud or write their names on their artwork. And most of them spelled out their names in full, taking pride in their creations.
When a little girl clung to my leg as I was teaching her to sing, and when a boy wriggled his way up my lap and entwined his arms around my middle, I couldn’t help but feel a mixture of joy and sadness–the former, because they gave their affection so freely, the latter, because I could tell how hungry they were to receive attention. It reminded me how easy it was to brighten up someone else’s day–I just needed to choose to do it.
The people at ATD really inspired me with their passion and dedication to their cause. Most of them have been there with the kids for the entire two-week duration of the Festival of Learning, and even though they’re surely tired, I couldn’t tell it by their unflagging smiles. The positivity in the group was infectious, and I hope to join them again soon. I can’t imagine a better way to spend Palm Sunday or a better set of people to spend it with. Thank you, Guy and the folks at ATD-Philippines. And of course, thank you to my two gal pals, too!
We just had to sneak in a selfie. 😛
If you want to find out how you can support ATD-Philippines, check out their Facebook page here.