Written by Phil McCarter
I like to think I have always been at least somewhat altruistic, having donated to various charities here and there since I was quite young. While I knew such acts were having some form of positive impact, no matter how small, a desire to actually go and physically make a personal difference had been mounting in me for some time. I wanted to go beyond sitting at a screen and pledging support. I wanted to see the people on the other side of the ‘donate’ button. Surge for Water finally gave me that chance to spend my hard earned personal funds on a volunteer trip I believed in.
I chose a water-based organisation because I believe that, at a fundamental level, water is the most-important thing you can give someone. Water is life, and without proper access to it in a potable form, progress in any other domain can be almost impossible to achieve. Water quite profoundly acts as a catalyst to all other forms of development. And so, on January 19th 2015, I set off to join execs Shilpa and Marita to begin our work in the Philippines …
The Philippines is a country I had always wanted to visit. I think this is largely because I have felt somehow loosely connected to it due to the many interactions I’ve had with members of the huge Philippine diaspora in Dubai. I was eager to see the place where all these people were coming from. Funnily enough, one of the very first interactions I had was with the taxi driver collecting me from the airport, who, lo and behold, had a daughter living and working in Dubai!
Our first couple of days were spent in the capital city, Manila, with the aim of fostering ties between Surge and the Philippine Centre for Water and Sanitation (PCWS). They do amazing work throughout the country, which we had a chance to see first-hand when they took us to view some completed projects in a small town in a suburb of the city. They had constructed rainwater harvesting tanks, water purification filters and biogas digesters, which convert all kinds of organic waste into usable cooking gas. It was great to get the chance to speak to a number of the recipients, who spoke highly of the impact the projects had on their everyday lives.
While in the city, we also took advantage of an opportunity to teach Surge’s signature WASH training for the first time (of what would be MANY!) on the trip, at a school in a disadvantaged area of Manila. Tinajeros National High School had been badly affected by two large floods in the past decade, causing widespread damage to its property. Nevertheless, you would not have been able to tell judging from the attitudes of the students and teachers, who welcomed us with rapturous applause and wide smiles.
We delivered the training twice to two very enthusiastic audiences, once each to year 7 and year 8. It was a great experience, and we could see just how much it meant to everybody at the school. The students particularly enjoyed the interactive, game-based nature of Surge’s signature training. They were reminded about how simple hygiene and sanitation practices can keep not only themselves but their entire school and community healthy.
Phil McCarter is a member of Surge for Water’s volunteer team in Dubai, where he grew up. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from McGill University. He says of his reason for working with Surge, “ I have always wanted to give back to those much less fortunate, whom I differ from only because I had the luck to have been born into a more privileged life, and nothing more. With Surge, I finally had that chance.”