Building Streets on the Street, The Philippines

We recently returned from an unforgettable family trip to The Philippines, my wife Shana's homeland. I can only describe it as a sensory, visual, spiritual and emotional overload. Our youngest sumed it up perfectly one morning as we scootered along a country road surrounded by rice fields, coconut trees and a turquoise sea in the foreground. ‘Daddy I can’t fully process that what I'm seeing everywhere is actually real, it’s all too beautiful. I just want to photograph everything'. 

From the bustling street life to serene tropical islands, endlessly lush mangroves to breathtaking coral reefs, the bluest lagoons to the whitest beaches, and the people. Filipinos are the warmest, most welcoming, peaceful and hospitable humans you could ever wish to meet.

I brought a bunch Arckit on our trip hoping that we might get an opportunity to bring it into a local school or village community along the way. One morning while in Cebu, I went for a stroll into some of the back and side streets of the city. Having done similarly years earlier in Manila, I knew I would find a hive of bustling activity and smiling faces.
It was Easter time and so people were in relaxed mood chatting on their door steps, playing chess on corners, singing karoake in nooks and crannies, preparing food and fanning the flames of smokey grills (one man was cleaning out some chicken heads in his doorway, nothing goes to waste here), hair braiding and hair cutting under the scorching sun, shooting pool and dunking basketballs.
I stopped a while to watch a game on a court next to a little chapel. An inquisitive gentleman approached me wondering what I was doing in his neighbourhood, Citio San Roque. He told me that not many foreigners visit their community and expressed a genuine gratitude for doing so. I was taken aback by that and thanked him for spending time with me as we parted.
I continued on and came by a little shop. A man inside peered through a metal grill and smiled. LangLang asked where I was from and so we got chatting. Before long I was surrounded by children and their parents greeting me. I was struck by their enthusiasm and inquisitive nature. They all made great efforts to speak and their English was of a high level. All of a sudden I had a light bulb moment. Maybe we could do something on the street? They were familiar with Lego but didn't have any. I asked if they’d like to play with a similar product and they excitedly and simultaneously exclaimed ‘Yes’. LangLang said I could borrow his table and so I promised them that I would be back later. 
Myself and my daughter Sienna returned as the sun was going down. LangLang must have trusted me, he already had his table out on the street, positioned directly under a street light. As we spilled out the components, the children and adults started to gather around. Our first ever impromptu outdoor Arckit street work began, a workshop like no other. It only took a couple of minutes to give the children a brief intro before they were off.
Seeing these young minds immediately grasping the platform and freely expressing their creativity together, was a joy to behold, moving on so many levels. It just reaffirmed the fact that every single child is born with their own unique capabilities and the potential to realise their dreams given the opportunity and a little bit of luck along the way.
While families may live relatively simple lives in the eyes of others, the profound feeling I got in the heart beating streets and villages all across The Philippines, was the deepest sense of community, unity, friendship, caring, gratitude and above all, happiness and contentment as expressed on the faces of the people. Priceless!
At the end of the workshop, the children tidied up and displayed their wonderful work. You could sense the pride of the parents in their childrens achievements. Before we left, we promised them that we’d be back another time before we returned home.
A similar moment occurred on another morning out walking in the village of Pina Ungon on the Island of Boracay. A lady was standing at her door together with her children. We greeted one another and I asked her if the children had a day off school. She said they did and she did too.
Catherine told me she was a teacher in the local school. We spoke about education and when I told her about Arckit she said 'it sounded like a great idea for helping students with critical thinking'. If I'm honest, I wasn't expecting her to utter those words, 'critical thinking'. She instantly understood the value of hands on learning and I instantly understood that even in the the most remote locations around the world, educators like Catherine realise the importance of teaching these skills to their students today.
That afternoon she gathered some local children in their church and our second impromptu workshop began.  Some were a little shy to begin with before Shana put them at ease and their confidence quickly grew as their creativity was revealed. The outcomes were truly amazing and they each presented their designs in the end. It was thirsty work and so afterwards we all enjoyed a well earned drink from the village shop. 
Before heading home to Ireland, we made another trip to Citio San Roque, Cebu to run one final street workshop as promised. It was a delight to see LangLang, Rubie, Reign, Andat and everyone again. This time we had some new comers at the table and our daughter Robyn was busy helping out with the youngest of the architects.
It was another unforgetable evening of building and bonding. Before leaving, we gifted the components to the community and Rubie, the Youth President in the area said that he and the children now familiar with Arckit, would share them with lots of other children in the community in future. 
Maybe it was the uniquest of settings or the happy faces building or the enormous gratitude expressed by the children and parents  as we parted or perhaps it was just the whole shebang entwined that has left a lasting impression on me. 
Since we've returned home, Rubie has sent some images of more Arckit workshops he and the community have been running. 
Imagine if children across The Philippines and beyond had access to tools like Arckit to spark their imaginations and instill a confidence they might not yet know they have.
If we can start by inspiring just a few, who knows where it could lead.
Video Links - Building on the Street
Video Link - Building in a church