Boat Making in the Badjao

Ciara Sheehan

The Badjao are a plethora of amazing things, strong, caring, smart. They also happen to be exceptionally skilled Fishermen and boatmakers. Once a nomadic sea tribe they settled in Cebu in the 1960s and have since remained on land. However they have not forgotten their roots and still rely heavily on the sea as a source of income and food.

received_490594808424369One of the Fishermen and boatmakers, Mohammadjani sat down with me and explained the boat building process. A buyer approaches him and they decide on the size and price of the boat depending on its uses. Then a ritual called Janji is preformed by one of the elders, usually Mohammajani’s mother. The buyer of the boat will bring a downpayment of 3000 peso. The money is blessed and handed over. The boatmaker is also blessed and a piece of thread is placed on his wrist to ensure he will be safe and healthy while building the boat.

Next the materials which are usually just plywood, wood and nails are bought from the local market. It begins with the bottom or hull. The shape is carved out of the plywood usually with some sort of wood planer. It’s then cleaned polished and sanded. Following that step is Giyak. This consists of thin wooden strips being placed perpendicular to the hull and spaced out evenly along it. This is the foundation of the sides of the boat and is what will support the plywood on the port and starboard sides. Subsequent to that is Rerhyan or raghan. These a big wooden connectors placed on the inside of the boat which will be nailed to the plywood to ensure it stays in place. There is a lower and upper strip which run parallel to the bottom of the boat.

The last basic part to the process is Palomar. This involves the construction of the head and foot of the boat which can be as plain and embellished as the boatmaker decides. A camonote is also assembled. This is a little engine room which covers the engine keeping it dry and can store equipment and fuel. The barsan or propeller is usually sat about three quarters of the way back in the boat. The whole process usually takes about half a month if you are building everyday.

IMG_20190801_093758The boat owner, who is someone within the Badjao will paint it themselves. Sometimes there can be a ritual performed that will bless the boat and ensure secure fishing trips. The boat is tied to the house of the owner as the ritual takes place. If you the boat is well maintained it can last about 3 years.

As well as a talented boatmaker Mohammadjani is an accomplished Fishermen. The Badjao are exceptional pana(spear) fishers. They dive with flippers and spear guns. The can go up to 30 feet under water and can go an impressive five minutes holding their breath. They dive for a type of fish called Tanigue and sometimes, depending on the fisherman you will pray that the dive will go well.

Before Fishermen could stay near Cebu and catch many fish. Unfortunately due to water pollution the men can’t dive beneath the plastic to catch the fish and there is no fish left in Cebu as waters are so uninhabitable. As a result Fishermen have to travel further out to sea to reap their rewards. The nearest fishing spot is now located in between Cebu and Bahal, another island. Each journey uses approximately fifteen litres of petrol. They are gone for at least a day and possibly will have to sleep on the boat in order to catch enough fish to reap a profit. Usually they catch on average two to three fish in one trip. The fish are then sold at a a local market called Pasil.

From my time in the Badjao I’ve learned so many things about myself and the people in this wonderful community. Even though fishing and sea life is such a huge part of their culture it does not define them. They are some of the most amazing, strong and intelligent characters I’ve ever met and I feel very privileged that I was welcomed into the beautiful community.


Where there is a will there is a way

By Zara Hennigan

The journey began on July 10th as I set off for Bangalore, India, with seven other Serve volunteers. Our minds filled with curiosity of the Indian adventure that awaited us. We all have preconceived notions about places we’ve never visited before. Ever since studying India in Leaving Cert geography, I’ve been completely fascinated by this immensely populated, exquisite land. Travelling such a distance undoubtedly evokes some nerves and apprehension, but this is when you need to remind yourself to be grateful for getting the amazing opportunity to volunteer overseas.

The first few days in Bangalore can only be described as utterly chaotic as we grappled with the cultural shock. Yet before long, the pungent smells and bombastic commotion of the streets started to become less daunting and more familiar. The funny thing about travelling is that no matter how foreign new surroundings seem at first, you can surprise yourself at how quickly you acclimatise yourself to the environment.

By the time Monday came around, we were more than ready to get stuck into our work placements at Morning Star and the Association of People with Disability (ADP), respectively. Two of the girls set off for Morning Star, an orphanage for boys 30 minutes away, where they would stay during the week before returning to our accommodation again on Friday. Meanwhile, the remaining three of us were working nearby at APD. The Association of People with Disabilities is an NGO based in Bangalore that was set up in 1959 with the aim of transforming the lives of those living with a disability or from impoverished backgrounds. ADP run extensive programs in rural and urban Karnataka to enable, equip and empower children and adults with a range of disabilities. Types of disabilities catered for in ADP include spinal cord injury, locomotor, speech and hearing, cerebral palsy and mental health issues. On site in APD is an integrated primary school, early intervention unit, physiotherapy, speech and language, occupational therapy and a training centre for adults with disabilities. There is also a horticulture centre as well as workshops for modifying wheelchairs and making ankle-foot orthotics.

Having studied Primary Teaching in college, I was eager to develop my knowledge and experience in teaching children with disabilities, while also gaining an insight into the Indian education system. It didn’t take long to realise that it’s difficult to draw any fair comparisons between an Irish and Indian classroom. While children diagnosed with certain disabilities in Ireland are likely to be entitled to a Special Needs Assistant (SNA), teachers in APD may have one teaching assistant for a class of 30+ children with disabilities ranging from mild to severe. Thus, it’s no surprise that the classroom organisation, behaviour management strategies and teaching methods used are markedly different to those used in Irish primary schools. Despite the lack of sufficient support and resources, the teaching and learning I observed during those first few days did not fail to absolutely inspire me. Written across the top of the blackboard in one classroom is ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. The resilience and motivation to succeed among the children with such debilitating conditions is evidence that this phrase permeates the school. Seeing a physically disabled child manoeuvre himself across the classroom floor to his chair independent of any help is a sign of mental strength and utter determination. An underlying sense of tenacity and empowerment in APD makes it clear that the extraordinary abilities of these children are so much stronger than the severity of their disabilities.

“Rehabilitation is a Bridge Spanning the Gap”

By Sile Byrne

In the lead up to departure my mind danced with expectations of what my placement in APD would entail. I was experiencing a cocktail of emotions, from nervousness and doubt, to eagerness, inadequately and excitement. I wondered what I could bring to APD, what expertise I could offer to enhance the educational experience of those belonging to the community.

As I sat in the reception of the Association for People with Disabilities and took in my surroundings, a plaque caught my eye, it read ‘Rehabilitation is a bridge spanning the gap- Between uselessness and usefulness- Between hopelessness and hopefulness -Between despair and happiness.’ It was then I realized that I was to become part of something incredibly valuable.
I quickly began to adjust to the exuberant disarray that was the Indian classroom. The children’s joy and playfulness permeated the atmosphere in the school, and was echoed in the easy attitudes of the teachers and other staff.
Within minutes of our arrival to APD I was confronted by the wide range of abilities and disabilities of those attending. I was moved by how they were being empowered through the education and therapies they were afforded. I began to imagine what it would mean to be an educator there and quickly became overwhelmed, to cater to the needs of all the children and adults in the classroom was a task I couldn’t fathom.
I found myself endlessly thinking about what inclusive education meant and in turn realized my passion for providing it. It became my goal as a volunteer to contribute to the social and academic flourishing of all children in APD, regardless of their abilities and disabilities, as best I could. I was indignant on behalf of those who were not being fully supported and was struck by how deeply unsettling I found it.
‘I have studied economics and I hope to become the manager of a company’, ‘I have studied education and I will become a teacher’, ‘I hope to have a family and get a good job’. These were just some of the responses from the young adults in the training centre in APD when asked about their future goals. As I reflect on the privilege of having spoken to these people and had them share their hopes and aspirations with me I am overcome with emotion. Many of them experienced disappointment and discrimination because of their disabilities, yet they stood full of confidence and hunger for the future as they spoke.
APD is a step on the ladder to equality for children and adults with disabilities. Their abilities are emphasized, their aspirations nurtured and their needs and happiness as a person are prioritized. The organization has made great strides towards inclusive education and has inspired in me the desire to do the same in my classroom on my return home.
As my second week in ADP draws to a close I have truly come to understand the fact that inclusion in life and education is a right for all, not just those for whom it is easy to provide.

Education is the most powerful weapon

By Aisling Moran
My hands are clasped by two boys while “aunty look! aunty look!” rings in the background. I look around and see the eyes of 20 beautiful boys glancing between me and the plane that flies above our heads. “Airplane aunty! you fly to Ireland!!” they say. I take one look at the plane and I am reminded over the sorry fact that some day soon I will be leaving Morning Star and heading back home.
Nelson Mandela once said “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world“. The SDG goal 4 ‘Quality Education’ is centred around achieving inclusive and universal education standards. Quality education acts as an armour and a sword, defending those who may not have the financial support to have a golden gate built around them. Unfortunately, the reality is that over 264 million children and adolescents worldwide do not have the chance to enter or complete school. Without the basic knowledge or literacy, children can become easily victim to the profound effects of poverty, discrimination, and organized crimes.
1 in 4 girls in developing countries are not in school. Despite the fantastic efforts by feminist movements, we must not forget our fellow global sisters. Although Morning Star is a care home for boys and men, the lack of education for women has a prevelant tear drop effect on these boys.
Seeing the school boys walk in to Morning Star at 3.30pm every weekday reminds me how important quality education is for these bright boys. Morning star offers a home, a safe place for children and adults to learn and grow in all directions. Many of the children and men who have disabilities are given the opportunity to live a life filled with joy and peace. Education in Morning Star is seen as a mode of transport from challenging pasts to brighter futures. Each child is given their own school bag with their school supplies making sure they are prepared for any task.
I write this as a privileged human who has had access to good education since I was a young toddler. Not having an education was never an option for me, but it is for many others. Quality education requires a unified dance between places like Morning Star, understanding teachers, and individuals who push the boundaries creating an equal space for women and men. When I glance into those boys’ eyes as they stare up to the airplane, I hope that someday they will be able to successfully fly their ambitions and goals way above the sky. Armed with their wisdom and knowledge, these boys will become pilots of their own lives.

A Personal Reflection of my time in Morning Star

By Amy Considine

It began with a simple idea months ago. That idea became a Skype interview, an excited acceptance, and many fundraising ideas. But now that I have flown across the world, now that I have settled into the mad streets and smells of Bangalore, now that home time is coming closer, the depth of the experience is starting to hit me.
While I was fundraising, one person told me that the people I encounter do not need me, they just need my money. I found this dispiriting and it made me believe that was the sole purpose of the trip. However, spending time in Morning Star Ashram, a home to young boys and men, has changed my perspective entirely. Learning the little boys’ personalities and sitting to paint with the men – many of whom have varying disabilities – has shown me that while I am not changing the world, I am forming positive relationships, and memories built to last.
Morning Star, set in the countryside, is as peaceful as its name suggests. Even with the little boys and their big voices, there is a sense of calm that falls over the care home. In the many times I travelled on the dusty road back to Bangalore city, I thought that it is so much more than an orphanage. It is a home.
The routine in Morning Star keeps me busy and I have tried, at all times, to be present with each person I have met. I realise the importance in the power of connection with each passing day. All the boys want is fun, so holding a cockroach and playing hide and seek in the rain are parts of the daily routine I surely did not expect!
The health and well-being of the boys and men is of absolute importance. Morning Star has created an environment that promotes a balanced diet, a connection to nature and prayer, as well as focus on studies. It is a routine that is paving the way for them to be well-rounded and happy individuals. The personal challenges the boys have faced are far greater than what should be experienced at such a young age. It is because of this that they fully appreciate the life they now lead.
Many boys, I noticed, were quite small for their age. Compared to the children in Ireland, I was surprised that boys who looked six or seven, were infact much older. Malnourishment and poor diet at an early age led to their small stature, but since moving to their new home, they eat healthy meals made with fresh ingredients.
Once homework is finished and uniforms have been cast aside, it is time for play. Combined with eating well, exercise is built into their day. From soccer to cricket, relays to roleplay, the boys’ voices fill the playground.  They challenge each other’s imagination and learns key skills of resolution – with truces being called at dizzying speed – all mixed into the joy of play.
The work has tested me, but aren’t the best things in life the ones that take you out of your comfort zone? Many lessons have come to me during my time here. I realised that people are more alike than they are different; these boys and the people who raise them are just the same as you and I. Our skin many be different, our accents may vary but we are hurt and healed by the same things. There is a common humanity in is all, and sharing a smile extends far beyond any language.

Expectations of Vietnam

By Friedrich Hanrath
Before I came to Vietnam, I expected it to be a poor and inefficient country shaped by agriculture and some tourism. The only time I really heard of the country was in school, when we were covering the Vietnam War. I knew it was a Socialist ruled country. Despite social and economic liberation and deregulation, I still expected an underdeveloped country.
 However, when I arrived in Hanoi, I was immediately struck by the excellent infrastructure. The motorways and main roads are in excellent condition. They could easily compete with roads in “developed” countries such as Germany and Ireland. However, this is probably the case because the roads in Vietnam were built very recently.
The quality of Vietnam’s infrastructure, even in a rural area, like that where we are staying, exceeded my expectations by far.
I was struck by the diversity of products and the market competition. This was not only the case in a shopping centre in the capital of Hanoi, but in rural areas as well. In our village the main road is edged by many little shops next to each other. I was so surprised by the competition of the Vietnamese market.
I was expecting a central super-market with fixed prices and products. I also expected a lot of visible poverty in the form of, for example, slums. I didn’t know that the percentage of people living in poverty dropped from almost 60% in the 1990s to less then 3% in 2015.
It is also worth-mentioning that everywhere in Vietnam, no matter where you are, there is a high density of construction work taking place. I observed the construction of industrial facilities, housing, electrical services and roads. This construction boom is one part of Vietnam’s rapidly growing economy. The country has enjoyed high annual growth rates in the past 15 years (6.3% in 2017).
After our arrival at the airport, we exchanged Euro to the local currency, the Vietnamese Đồng. We were all very surprised to be suddenly millionaires! After the Vietnam War, the country suffered from recession and hyperinflation. This is why the Vietnamese Dong is so “weak“ today (EUR1 = Dong 26.000,00). However, the inflation rate has stabilised (4.4% in 2017). Another important aspect of the economy is the low unemployment rate (2.3% in 2017). However, statistically the productivity in Vietnam is very low.
During our time here, we travelled by bus through the country. The landscape is intensively used for agriculture, especially rice. When we drove to the sea, we witnessed examples of aquaculture along the coastline and river deltas.
Vietnam has transformed greatly in in the last 30 years from one of the poorest countries in the world in the early 1990s, to a lower middle-income country in 2014. I wasn’t aware of this remarkable progress the country has made before I came here. However, it must be mentioned that the environment paid a terrible price for this rapid economic improvement. Hanoi, for example, has been ranked the second most polluted city in South-East-Asia. Besides, the Vietnamese government has not really taken action to tackle the such pollution.
To conclude, Vietnam happened to be far more advanced and developed than I thought it would be, albeit it still has a long way to go.
It has been an eye-opening experience that my expectations of Vietnam differ so significantly from what I am actually experiencing. My perception of the country was and still is influenced by a Western stereotype. My month of volunteering in Vietnam has showed me how biased and limited my knowledge of the world actually is.