Imagine getting on a flight to move halfway around the world to a place you have never been. It was scary, really scary. However, despite that fear, I knew I would find a home serving in the Philippines for a year through the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC). I have always found a home within The Episcopal Church for my true joy in service and passion for learning about new cultures. With this desire to serve in a new culture and in an Episcopal community, my faith grew bigger than my fears and I was able to make that faithful journey for my year of service. To put it simply, I’m so glad I did.
I am serving in the Episcopal Diocese of North Central Philippines volunteering with Episcopal Community Action For Renewal and Empowerment. E-CARE is focused on using asset-based community development to create livelihood opportunities and economic empowerment. The E-CARE Foundation partners with these communities, implements training and aids in mobilizing their resources to engage them in community development projects. It is an amazing organization that I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with. The main way I serve is through aiding in the marketing of the livelihood goods made by E-CARE’s partner communities. While in the Philippines, I have assisted in the opening of a new marketing center for partner community goods. At the center, we help market all our community goods from handicrafts, such as traditional hand-woven bags, to organically grown vegetables.
While I have loved helping the communities with marketing, my favorite part of volunteering has been going on community visits. Most of the communities within the diocese I serve are in rural areas. When I go with the development officers to these communities, our travel is packed full of beautiful views. When we arrive, we are greeted with warm welcomes and hospitality. It is incredible to see and be a part of communities that are so passionate about learning and growing together through asset-based development. In my time here, I am constantly reminded of how much you can learn from the people around you; they are a wealth of knowledge. This has been especially true during visits. I have spent time learning and creating strong relationships with people in E-CARE’s partner communities. I’ve been able to learn their stories and then share them with people who come to the marketing center.
I have loved to do this sharing, but I don’t think that’s where my work ends. As my time here is coming to an end, I believe it is important that I remember these stories. When I leave the Philippines, I want to pack up all I have learned and share it with everyone once I’m back in America. I fully believe I can continue to serve by sharing the wealth of knowledge the people here have so graciously shared with me. I look forward to doing so with you, and I feel so lucky to be a member of a diocese that I know will welcome me back home with open ears, ready to listen to my many blessings throughout this journey.
Written By: Catherine Belous, who served as a Young Adult Service Corps missionary in the Philippines with the E-CARE Foundation from September 2015-September 2016.