From December 26 to 17 January 2016, 18 volunteers from Virlanie Quebec visited Manila for an internship. The mission was to make handicrafts in MIRC, a local jail that Virlanie partners with. This jail houses around 140 minors that are in conflict with the law.

Maxime Gomeau, Vice President of Virlanie Quebec explains the project:

Can you tell us more about this internship?

When Daniel Maheux, President of Virlanie Quebec, met Dominique Lemay, he was very interested in wanting to help the poorest of the poor. Right after university, he quickly crossed paths with Dominique due to his interest in child welfare. This started the whole process of crafting the Internship back in the year 2000. The main goal is to help very concretely, over a period of 21 days, (which corresponds to the Filipino Tourist Visa) disadvantaged children. The interns act as needed. In recent years, the emergency was on RAC (Reception Action Center) and the MIRC (juvenile prison). In early 2015, RAC was temporarily closed. The interns therefore focused their action on the MIRC.

Who are your “trainees”?

There is no specific qualification in order to apply. This year the youngest applicant was 18 and the oldest 65. We have interns who come back several years in a row, which gives real character to the group. Most of the time, people who apply get to experience their first humanitarian activity. Virlanie Quebec covers flight tickets and hosts the interns’ pre-internship training periods. Thus, each project requires preparation for 18 to 24 months. We organize courses every two years.

How is your presence there?

This year we accepted 15 trainees, and they are located in different homes and reside with the children. This allows them to understand the lives of children, the operation of the Virlanie homes, and gives them an opportunity to integrate into the local culture. In this way, the interns participate in a regular Filipino family life, and become natural ambassadors to Virlanie’s action for street children. Being able to witness the work done, and the impact being made in young lives gives these interns a sense of humility and privilege.

What help is normally given to Virlanie?

This year was a little special. Normally, our interns intervene in RAC and in MIRC, but since RAC is temporarily closed, and we faced challenges in reestablishing links with the new management of MIRC, we were not able to act as we desired. Fortunately, this gave them time to do work in the houses. We installed shelves and changed all the light bulbs used in the Elizabeth House.

And on the work of MIRC?

Because the internship only lasts for 21 days, we cannot really commit to a lot of major undertakings, but the goal remains the same: improve the environment inside the jail by bringing a little fun and a smile on children’s faces. We did general cleaning and repainted almost all cells. This was the biggest part of our work onsite. We also painted the infirmary, the office of the social workers, the common bathroom, and they courtyard.

This repainting will not only bring a bit of color for children in conflict with the law, but also for the teams on site. We believe that improving the environment of social workers, indirectly improves the children’s environment also. The children were very happy.

We know that this Internship project is mutually beneficial. According to our interns, they were delighted to work alongside these disadvantaged children, and seeing them smiling was the interns’ greatest reward.

See you in 2017 for the next project!