My name is Lucine, I am 20 years old and I went to the Philippines for six weeks, in the small town of Montalban, near Manila. When I arrived, I was welcomed by the RSCJ and the small team composed of the teachers who attend to the children and the staff who work in the St. Madeleine Sophie Foundation (SMSF) Center. Spending all my days with this small team, sharing our meals and times of prayer together, taking care of the children, sharing difficulties (illness of a loved one, misunderstandings due to cultural differences) -- all these constitute our community life... a life in which engaging with others enriches us and makes us grow.
My desire to have a strong experience in faith was fulfilled in an unexpected way. In addition to the very festive masses that bring together all the people in the town and the prayers shared with the RSCJ, there were other strong experiences during which I felt the presence of God: the permanent smile of this little girl who comes to school every day even without having had a single grain of rice in her bowl when she wakes up; the little hands of the children joined together in prayer every morning when they thank God for what He gives them, despite the little they have.
I came with the desire to make myself useful, and I was ready to roll up my sleeves and achieve something concrete. But I quickly realized that I was actually there to give joy... to share moments of life, to discover another culture, another way of understanding and living the faith. All I was asked to do was to be present. Playing with the children, comforting them in times of great sorrow, reading them stories... Having a child sit on my lap, watching him hand me a little book with a smile, filled me with joy. This was the key to the experience I had: giving and receiving joy. Learn, discover, marvel at having touched the unknown, and come back different.
I was incredibly fortunate to have had this experience. I have met caring, generous, and loving people. I left full of memories in my head, joy in my heart, and the word "thank you" in my lips: Salamat po.