A GROUP of students swapped leavers celebrations for a cultural trip to the Philippines.
Years 11 and 12 students from Swan Christian College in Middle Swan and Ellenbrook Christian College were among a group of nearly 50 people who took part in the annual Leavers 2 Leaders program in December.
The students spent two weeks taking part in cultural exchanges at Philippines schools, volunteering in remote communities and learning about life in a developing country.
Run by Swan Christian Education Association (SCEA), the program allowed students to be immersed in the culture and work of local people.
“By participating in livelihood projects, they saw what local people did to make a living and how hard they had to work to earn in a week what some students would earn in an hour in part-time jobs,” projects and initiatives manager Giles Creelman said.
“This counter-cultural program operates over the traditional ‘schoolies’ weeks, and provides students the opportunity to be other-person-focused and give back at the end of their schooling.”
They met students at the Visayan Maritime Academy Global Training Centre in Bacolod, visited Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) staff at the Australian embassy in Manila and one student even appeared on a local TV morning program to talk about Leavers 2 Leaders.
In the second week, students split into groups to spend time in different communities.
The Swan Christian College contingent visited Sagay, where they fished by hand, ploughed fields and dug holes for a future sewerage pit.
In Cabacungan, Ellenbrook Christian College students helped in sugar cane fields and rice paddies, at local schools and with food distribution.
“What we’ve found is that the community has really blessed us and taught us more about ourselves through this experience,” teacher John Taylor said.
Mr Creelman said the program would continue.
“This trip continues to grow and we look forward to providing our senior and graduating students the opportunity to make a difference in the Philippines in 2016,” he said.