VSO-ICS: Giving Opportunities to Learn Life Skills

“What’s the greatest decision you've ever made?”, the interviewer asked.
Working team and participants during the LTS

I have been itching to learn Filipino Sign Language (FSL) ever since I was in college. We once visited a Deaf school during my first year and wanted to explore the Deaf world and learn more about their culture. Unfortunately, no opportunities were available for me to have the chance to encounter FSL in a more intimate way. I am Francis and I'm from a newly formed city in Mindanao. I have been volunteering since I was high school - playing with the kids in a Gawad Kalinga Village of Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur.

It was a great opportunity for me to become part of the International Citizen Service (ICS) program which allowed me to volunteer in the Deaf community in Cebu City, work with Deaf co-volunteers, as well as, British volunteers. ICS is a 3 months program that allows you to work on a particular development theme and gain cross-cultural working and living.

I was placed with 1 Deaf Filipino and 2 British volunteers with the Cebu Association of the Deaf (CAD) to help them grow and develop as an organization. CAD conducts health education in different Deaf schools in Cebu City , and also, Human Rights Advocacy and the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. It was my first choice among the volunteer placements especially that I am so eager and really wanted to learn FSL and work closely with the Deaf community.

Our work placement is very challenging especially that we only learned the basics of FSL when we arrived in the program and it is very crucial and necessary to communicate to our 2 Deaf Volunteer Placement Supervisors (VPS). But, my worries slowly faded knowing that our VPS' were very patient and supportive with our progress.

One of the most unforgettable experience I had on my journey was during our Leadership Training Seminar we conducted wherein I made 4 Deaf friendly powerpoint presentations for our lectures and did a session on Events Management using FSL. It was almost a month since we arrived and started learning the language and it was a great achievement for me – truly I did improve.

I'm so thankful for ICS for this chance they have given me. It deepened my understanding of the Deaf Community and made me an advocate in raising more awareness to people who haven't heard about the Deaf Culture and the challenges they are currently facing.

After the program, I wish to visit different Universities in Mindanao to share about what I have learned. I want to go to Government Institutions especially in public schools to tell them the importance of giving the best Education for their Deaf students. I hope to tell story of my Deaf friends in Cebu and Manila who experience discrimination and explain to them what can they do about it. I want to show to the world how volunteerism can make a difference in the society and the world.
Now, I can say with confidence to myself that I am Deaf aware. 3 months is nearly over and soon we will be going home. My ICS journey have ups and downs but one thing I know – its the 90 days in my life that surely mattered – it gave me an opportunity to learn a life skill which is FSL that I can share to people I will encounter in my lifetime.

“Volunteering with ICS is one of the greatest decisions of my life”, I replied. And we all know that my decision didn't fail me.
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July 3, 2015 at 2:54 AM

This is a very beautiful experience. I hope I'd be able to volunteer anytime soon.

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