Saturday, January 10, 2015

One too many mornings and a thousand miles behind

 Apologies to my incredible friends and family for waiting so long to write a blog. It’s been a quick and busy few months here in Santiago with a lot of new things going on.

In the processing center Dap-Ayan where I work, we are the only peanut butter processing center within the city of Santiago. The city hall here has tapped us for one of their livelihood projects for the city. With the help of a grant from world bank we will be able to increase the productivity of our peanut processing center, as well as add new facilities and new jobs. Additionally, there will be many farmers in the region who will be able to increase their yield and buy new land. There will also be improvements made to the roads between the farms and markets.
The people of city hall and Dap-Ayan have been working tirelessly to finish a business plan to present to the grant givers at world bank, the business plan now being finished, the presentation will take place very soon. Everyone pray that all the hard work pays off and the grant comes through.

I have also been informed that a new E-CARE shop will be opening in Halsema (about 20km from Baguio) and I will be helping to open it and run it. It is about 6 hours from where I am currently living and I believe the current plan is that I will be staying in Halsema about a week or so out of every month to help get everything up and running.

Also, over the past months, the Episcopal Church of the Philippines installed the new prime bishop. It was a wonderful service with many people present.

E-Care also had an end of the year meeting in Palawan where one of our new communities is. It was a great meeting and I loved seeing all the E-Care people again. I can see why Palawan is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (says the internet). At the end of the day after one of our meetings we went for a swim before dinner. The other YASCer working with E-Care and I looked around at one point to take it all in, we couldn’t believe how incredibly beautiful this place was.
I had a wonderful Christmas celebration here in Santiago with the people who live here and two other volunteers stationed here in the Philippines. We had a big American Christmas dinner and spent some time together relaxing and sharing stories from our placements. It was a wonderful few days to get to spend with friends.

For new year I met with the YASCers spread out across Asia. We went to Hong Kong for a week and got to catch up and enjoy one anothers company for a few days. It was so wonderful to be able to see all my incredible YASC friends again and to spend time learning about what we are all doing. We explored the city of Hong Kong, took a day trip to Macau, went hiking, and on new year’s eve we saw fireworks from a peak in the city.

It has been an incredible few months and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Up On the Hill

Over the past month I have been traveling around working with the youth, delivering rice and planting trees.

I had the opportunity to work with the SKEP (youth program) of the Greenfields Deanery. The Diocese here are split into deaneries similar to our convocations. I facilitated and youth community building activity one Saturday where I met some incredible youth from the Diocese. We played games, sung songs, and talked about building a community and how we are one body with many parts. We focused on Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 and Romans 12:3-8; 15:5-6. We had a wonderful time and I have really enjoyed getting involved with youth ministry again.  

Some of the work I am doing in the Dap-Ayan E-CARE shop includes rice trading where we buy and sell the rice produced by members of the episcopal cooperatives here in the diocese. The majority of the members at most of the churches here in the diocese of Santiago are farmers, and rice is the big cash crop. Growing the rice, drying it and storing it, requires several laborers and can be very expensive. Then, finding someone to purchase it at a fair price can also be problematic.  The cooperative set up by E-CARE is a way to get around some of these issues. The way this works is that members buy into the cooperative, then when their rice has been harvested Dap-Ayan E-CARE buys the rice at a fair market price, dries, stores, and sells it for the members using drying pavements and storage facilities provided by the parishes. Then we deliver the rice to the buyers, this gave me the exciting opportunity to see more parts of the Philippines. We went to Bagio, Bontoc and a few small places along the way to make deliveries. Bagio and Bontoc are in the mountains and it is absolutely beautiful, the weather reminds me of fall back home and the amount of vegetation on the mountains is unreal.

St. Joseph's being awarded $2,000 for tree planting
When I returned from a week of delivering rice, myself and the E-CARE project officers/managers from EDS took off for Baler, Aurora for a monitoring and evaluating workshop. Baler is on the coast, it was my first time in the Pacific ocean and the water is the color of blue raspberry kool-aid. The scenery from the mountains to the oceans is absolutely breath taking and still ceases to amaze me. The project managers conducted an organic farming implements workshop, where they taught local farmers how to make organic fertilizers to use on their farms. They make these fertilizers in mass quantities so they can sell them to other area farmers who are not members of the cooperatives or the Episcopal churches and otherwise may not be reached by our programs. After this we had a monitoring and evaluating workshop with members of Episcopal Relief & Development staff member and a staff member of the national office. These workshops show the project officers/managers how to implement monitoring tools into their projects to see how their doing and track what we have accomplished and what we still want to accomplish.

Planting trees with St. Joseph's Parish
I also had the chance to plant some trees. Episcopal Relief & Development has initiated a wonderful carbon offset program here in the Philippines. The ERD Staff has tried to offset their carbon output generated by their travels by giving the diocese opportunities to earn grants for planting trees. They have computed that to offset one year travel for one of their staff via plane, train, or automobile they need to plant 3,000 trees. When a church or churches gets together to plant these trees the ERD awards them the equivalent of $2,000 USD. We stopped by the Holy Spirit Parish to award them with their check and help plant a few of their trees up on the hill.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

And the Beat Goes On

The time has come the walrus said to talk of many things...

The Bishop's Tour

(Bishops Pictured: Luis Ruiz, Res. Bishop of Central Ecuador, Julio Holguin Bishop of Dominican Republic, Orlando Guerrero Bishop of Venezuela and Curacao, Francisco Duque Bishop of Colombia, Victor Scantlebury Bishop of Central Ecuador, Alfredo Morante, Bishop of Ecuador Litroral, and Lloyd Allen Bishop of Honduras) 
 This past week I had the opportunity to see new parts of the Philippines when I joined a group of the Bishops from Province IX (Central and South America) on a tour of various development sites supported by the Episcopal Church of the Philippines. The goal of the excursion was to view different projects and learn how the Episcopal Church of the Philippines has become self sustaining. On Thursday seven Bishops came down to the Episcopal Diocese of Santiago to learn about the rice trading Cooperative and the Foundation of St. Mark's. The foundation of St. Mark's gave a wonderful presentation about who they are and what they are doing for the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Santiago then we had a Welcome dinner and celebration. 

The next day we visited some of the cooperatives and the churches who run them, the Bishops asked many questions and all together seemed very excited about the work happening in EDS and how similar projects could be implemented in their own Dioceses. 

We also took a brief trip to Upi in the Southern Philippines where Bishop Dani of EDSP and Sir Bong an E-Care project officer showed us their rubber tree farm. (a brief commentary: the trees don't actually bend like rubber at all and I believe the name should be changed to tree with sap that makes rubber, it would be much less deceiving) We spent the afternoon viewing their farm projects and the evening with a presentation from the diocesan staff and the young people of St. Francis School. A unique part about the Rubber tree cooperative is that the church en-cared the project to the St. Francis school so all the profits go towards its funding.   

I had a really great time with the Bishops and it gave me an opportunity to dust off my Spanish....which became really confusing since I am currently trying to learn Ilokano.  

Office activities:

After being in the Philippines for a little over a month I am finally really learning about all the incredible things that are taking place here in the Episcopal Diocese of Santiago. I had a chance to orient with all the departments of the Diocesan office. I spent a few days with the Foundation of St. Mark's which provides general productive loan assistance, micro financing, cooperative assistance, organic farming promotion programs, and relief programs. 

I also spent some time with the Christian Education office where I helped plan a youth leadership day for their youth program here called SKEP. After morning prayer, there was a session on developing leadership skills within the church, we played games, learned new songs, and in the afternoon had an acolyte training session. The youth are so fun and energetic and always sang and danced with all their energy. 

There was a house blessing in the community on the same day as the SKEP conference so all the youth were invited to attend the lunch. When a priest blesses a house there is always a Eucharist and a fest and the entire community is invited. This particular feast was for a house/office building for a family who is closely linked with the foundation of St. Mark's here at our office. 

Harvest Time:

One of the major business of Dap-Ayan and the Foundation of St. Mark's is rice trading. Many of the people here in Santiago are farmers and the main crops are rice and corn. The St. Mark's foundation with the help of Dap-Ayan (the E-Care shop here) buys the rice from the farmers who are members of the cooperative at fair prices. Dap-Ayan dries, stores, and later sells the rice. For small farms it can be hard to find space to dry and store the rice as the spaces are very limited and become very expensive around harvest time. 

Most people are only left the option to use the side of the highway which is not technically legal though it is usually allowed because many farmers just cannot afford to rent the spaces and availability is often limited around harvest time. Because the crops are such a large part of the livelihood of most of the people, the Highway patrol usually chooses to look the other way...usually. 
This morning when the manager arrived at Dap-Ayan he found a new sign erected in front of the store which reads "Notice Drying of Paylay and corn strictly prohibited along the road way. Penalty: Fine P2,000 and improsonment of Six months.   
A few things to notice in this picture: The wonderful Dap-Ayan store to the immediate left of the sign, St. Augustine's Cathedral beside it, the sign declaring the illegality of paylay (rice) and corn drying, oh and the corn being dried directly under the sign. And the beat goes on. 


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Wait, I've been here how long?!

My reaction today when I looked at the calendar and realized it is September....

Hello friends,

My wonderful front porch. 

This time I am writing from Santiago City. My New home for the foreseeable future! I have a wonderful house on the compound of the Diocesan Office here in Santiago.I have friendly neighbors who all have young children that like to hang out in my hammock. I attend Sunday Services and am now a member of the St. Marks Cathedral.

I spent about 2 weeks in Manila before heading to Santiago. I got to meet some incredible people and learn about the organization I'll be serving this year. I am working with the Episcopal Care foundation, an Asset Based Development Program focused on helping communities become self sustaining. For a week while I was in Manila I worked with Jenny Ong who runs the E-shop at the National Office of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. The E-shop sells organic locally grown fruits and vegetables, locally processed snacks, and other goods. I worked for a few days in the store learning about the products and where they come from. I also attended a four day conference for the E-Care foundation. We talked about the Asset Based Community Development Program run by Episcopal Relief & Development as well as some workshops on how to monitor and evaluate the programs that are being set into place in the communities here.
Photo: Goat for lunch!
At the end of the conference myself and four others rode together to Santiago, I think I enjoyed the scenery and the people too much to even realize we'd been in the truck for about 12 hours by the time we reached our destination. One of the stops we made along the way was for lunch at a little place we found called saGoat Kita Though I've had goat before, this was my first experience with goat intestine soup. I rather enjoyed it, and would probably eat it again.

Photo: St. Mark's Cathedral where I am now a member.
St. Marks Cathedral EDS
My first week here in Santiago, I spent touring the offices of the Diocese (Christian education, Finance, Development etc...) and attending another conference for the Episcopal Diocese of Santiago. I had the opportunity to have some meeting and fellowship time with priests from around the diocese as well as other diocesan employees who are working towards implementing Asset Based Development Programs in their own communities. I have visited one of the SRI Farms(System of Rice Intensification) near the Cathedral and I have started working in Dap-Ayan, the E-shop here in Santiago.

I also visited a neighboring Diocese (EDNL or Episcopal Diocese of Northern Luzon) I met with the Bishop there who is retiring as bishop of EDNL in October and will become the Prime Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Philippines.  

Tomorrow is Sunday and the only thing on my schedule is mass and rest! Then more busy, wonderful, and exciting things to come.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Feet on the Ground

Hello friends,

I am in the Philippines! I arrived safe, on time, and with all of my luggage, I count that as a victory.  
For the past few days I have been staying in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. It is a big city with traffic that would even frustrate a native New Yorker. The weather is mostly warm and/or rainy but that really isn't much different from when I left South Carolina.
I've had some time to explore and get a bit more acclimated to my new home. I visited one of the two malls that are very close to where I am staying here in Manila, It has a cinema and one of my favorite clothing stores. I even went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles last night and let me just say the cinemas here have the right idea. First of all, the seats are actually super comfy living room reclines and each comes with pop corn and coke and you can bring in your own food without getting banned for life. Cinemas are just better in the Philippines.    

Quick update:
My placement has changed a bit from the Micro-finance program I was originally going to work with. I will now be working with Episcopal Relief & Development, specifically with their Episcopal Care Centers that are scattered across various parts of the Philippines.

Getting down to business:
For the next week I will be staying in Manila to attend a conference for the Episcopal Care Center, or E-Care. I will learn more about what the E-Care Center does and how it operates, as well as meeting people who work with different Centers across the Provinces.

After the conference I will make my way up to Santiago City, my new home for the next few months!


Friday, May 9, 2014


Dear Friends,

After the discernment weekend is over, the MPO begins to place the young adults in various ministries around the world. Placing 27 or so young adults in those ministries based on their respective skill sets and hoping they correspond with the needs they may have, as the MPO puts it, "is an art not a science," and I must look rather abstract.

I'm a Certified Nursing Assistant with a lot of experience working in a Hospital, I have a Business degree, and experience working with youth and various different music ministries. So where do I end up? Where does that put me in the masterpiece that is YASC. In the Philippines of course!

8,537 miles from the upstate of South Carolina, lies Santiago City near Luzon which is on one of the 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines. The Philippines was a Spanish colony for more than three centuries until it was taken over by the US in the 20th century, and gained its own independence in 1946. The islands are spread over 115,831 sq miles and populated by about 96.5million people. Filipino and English are both official languages of the Philippines though their are 12 other languages that have official status on the regional level.

After having conversations with, what I've been calling "my handlers" at the MPO there are still some uncertainties with my placement. I will most likely be in Santiago City working with St. Mark's Episcopal church. They have various micro-finance projects that help locals get business loans to start their own businesses and help build a foundation for a stable and sustaining local economy. And I've heard from the YASCer who is there currently, they have a McDonald's that delivers. There is still a chance, however, that I end up in the southern Philippines working with some of the local farmers.

Wherever I end up, I have put it in God's hands, I'm trying to "let go and let God." I have prayed that wherever I may end up, it is his will, and I can serve God's people and see God's love in a new community.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Dear Friends,

As I hope many of you are considering embarking on this journey with me, I wanted to write a bit on what the Young Adult Service Corps is and how the whole process actually works.

The Young Adult Service Corps, or YASC, is a unique opportunity to be in relationship with people from a different culture in a different part of God's world.There are a variety of opportunities including; teaching, working in agricultural development, working with refugees and migrant workers, working in medical settings, and working in the provincial offices of the Anglican Communion.

I began the application back in December 2013 and attended a discernment retreat in February. During the discernment weekend, the applicants came together and talked about mission and the calling to serve God overseas. The weekend included one-on-one and group conversations with people from the Mission Personnel Office or MPO. They took the time to get to know all of us; what we like and don't like, what we're good at or not so good at etc. Then, after the discernment weekend the MPO works on placements based on your skills and what they learned about you during the weekend.

I found it very comforting that the MPO took time to get to know each of us individually before choosing a placement. I am looking forward to the opportunity to get to live and work in a different part of God's world.

Kayla Massey