Foreigner finds hope in Pinoy spirit
MANILA, Philippines - He sold his construction business back in 2010 then bought a one-way ticket to Singapore, this move part of plans to “experience life.” There he found a job at a backpackers' hostel. In February 2011 he came to the Philippines on vacation -- and it changed the course of his life.
22-year-old Jeremy Smith of Albuquerque, New Mexico fell in love with the Philippines and saw the “great need for better access to clean water” during a bus ride in Masbate. Smith, who was backpacking through the Philippines, was curious why so many little kids were carrying what he thought were gas cans, only to find out they were shuttling clean water home.
“It broke my heart,” Smith says. A week later at the Tacloban airport, a man told him a similar story about how everyone in his village shared one rusty old water pump. That was the tipping point for him. “Hearing that story came the realization that not only should I do something about it, but I could.”
This prompted him to relocate to General Santos City and set up Hope Flows International, a foundation that installs water systems in local school districts in Saranggani province.
Soliciting contributions from Facebook contacts, Smith raised enough funds to live off.
The concept behind Hope Flows is simple. But it also addresses an oftentimes overlooked need: clean, running water in schools, not just for flushing toilets, but for students to wash their hands with and drink from.
To address this, the foundation finds low-cost means of digging new wells or creating connections to existing water sources. Their most recent project in Nomoh, Saranggani province cost about Php 16,500 and benefited 732 kids.
Last Christmas, Smith uploaded a video to YouTube documenting his trip to Cagayan De Oro after Sendong devastated the area. His piece, “Finding Joy in Cagayan De Oro,” struck a chord with users -- not only because it was a foreigner’s perspective on a local crisis, but because he touched on aspects of the story hardly mentioned by traditional media.
His piece about “Sendong” is a touching tribute to the Filipino spirit, determination, resilience, and ability to find joy and hope in times of disaster.
Smith, whose seven-month residence in the Philippines has allowed him to slowly learn Bisaya, hopes that in time, not just the language but the entire Filipino spirit will rub off on him.
“I find many positive aspects of Filipino culture that I hope to emulate,” he says, adding that “the strong emphasis on family, infectious joy, and a relaxed demeanor are all traits I'm learning while staying here.”
But he’s already more Filipino than he gives himself credit for. He’s already learned to eat balut and can already throw a couple of pick-up lines “Pinoy Style.” To top it off, on December 29 he had the sun on the Philippine flag tattooed on his arm. When asked why he, his answer was simple, “Pinoy Pride!!!!”
When not doing funny videos at Jeremy’s Motour (a play on the Pinoy slang for motorcycle) on Facebook, Smith is busy getting ready to produce an online TV show that will feature his upcoming 80-day cross country trip around the Philippines. - Rappler.com