The social projects of the German European School Manila are part of its mission and school program. The projects teach our students social competence and tolerance as well as the practical ability to plan and carry out projects thoughtfully. Every project is an exchange between people. Through working on such a project, our students learn to better understand the people of our host country.
At the same time, it helps our partners to understand us better. Our actions are in harmony with the Foreign Cultural Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany, which explicitly welcomes the cultural and social exchange of German schools with the host country. Our self-image in social projects is therefore not primarily the role of the charitable helper, - after all we are not a development organisation – but the role of a partner, in conjunction with the Philippine reality of life. If, after all, after the successful completion of a project banners with the words "Thank you German Friends" are to be seen, as it was observed after the Typhoon Yolanda at the turn of the year 2013/14, we like to acknowledge this with appropriate modesty, but also nevertheless, with pleasure.
There are many situations in which GESM inevitably becomes a helper. A short drive through Manila is enough to convince oneself of the poverty of a large part of the population. "Slums", consisting of corrugated iron and plywood cabins and shacks, are part of the cityscape. And as if that was not enough, the Philippines are regularly hit by natural disasters. If we plan an aid project against this background, we always consider the socio-political structures as well as personal sensitivities, because in the Philippines the harmony between all participants is highly valued. Meaningful help is a balancing act that requires a sense of proportion and experience.
In the event of natural disasters, we have the advantage of being able to respond flexibly and quickly, often faster than larger organisations. We were able to prove this at Taifun Ondoy (Ketsana) in October 2009, where undoubtedly we were able to help people directly and quickly, because the help from other organisations was delayed. In the case of typhoon Yolanda (Hayan) in December 2013, which hit the island of Bantayan more than 500 km away, our help was aimed more at sustainability, including assisting schools with repair works. The island of Bantayan has been a partner island since 2007 (until today) because our students carry out scientific experiments on Bantayan every year. The personal connection to the local population is thus assured.
In addition to a lively exchange with our Filipino partners and engaging with the other culture, our students learn how to create meaningful projects. They get a little insight into the work of international organisations. Perhaps one or the other student choses a corresponding professional career.
The projects at our school are organised across the grades, from primary school (for example, our annual spaghetti party in a poorer neighbourhood) up to secondary. There, the social activities of the students are an integral part of the IBO (International Baccalaureate Organisation) and are summarised under the name CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service).
Projects include joint sports events, visits to and from poorer neighbourhoods, construction of wells for people without access to water, assistance in the construction of housing for former slum dwellers (in coordination with the organisation "Gawad Kalinga") with subsequent contact between the adolescents, and the already mentioned disaster relief, which unfortunately is needed regularly. The participation of our students is of importance to us. For example, as part of a construction project, students can help paint the walls and later contact the young residents of the settlement to start their own smaller projects. At the GESM Christmas party in December 2015, children from a poorer neighbourhood presented a piece of music. Students of the GESM (and two teachers) had rehearsed the performance with them on site.
In general, any activity in the social sphere stands or falls with the initiative and interest of our students. As the coordinator of social programs at our school, I would like to praise our students for having been unbelievably open to new experiences in this fascinating, if sometimes not easy, area.
Dr. Christoph Grandt
Head, Sekundarstufe 1