Of July this year I travelled over to the Philippines to work with the urban poor of Manila. It was my second time. And I don’t think I could love anything or anyone more, then I do these kids and the communities we worked in.

Manila has changed my life in so many ways, and I am so very happy with the person I have become. But it’s the children and their families we do it for. This has been my second time, I did the same thing last year, but as a pilgrim, this year I was a leader. And I am afraid to say that I let my peers down by not acting like one and giving it my all. But I was there for a reason, I had to remember that.

It’s hard work, hard work and love. That’s all you can do. The children are little terrors, but the most gorgeous things to ever take a place in your heart. The mothers treat you like one of their own, and the fathers are willing to learn. The determination in these people’s eyes is endearing, and I admire them all so much. I want to say that they are happy despite the extreme poverty, but they’re not. You can see the pain in their eyes as they tell you they may not be there for much longer and the hope when they ask if you will ever be coming back. And when they hug you, its like they will never let go.

Us being there makes a difference, because we are there, the children get fed, because we are their they are reminded that someone cares. The Australians came, the Australians love them.

And its always heartbreaking to say goodbye. To think you may never see them again, or that if by some miracle you come back, that they may not be there anymore.

But it’s the sense of community that draws me back, and it’s a sense of community I long for.

Most people will talk about the emotional and spiritual gifts they received while they where away. And don’t get me wrong my spiritual journey has grown in ways I could never imagine, but this year I was given a painting by the senior warden of Payong. I have a admires his paintings since I first saw them, they are pure beauty and talent. This painting was meant as a gift fora significant figure that came with us, but this significant figure chose to give it to me, for my work on the Aboriginal art, we where completing for the EDCP. This, in the simplest terms, has inspired me.

From Manila, 13 of us, along with 3 Phillipinos, traveled to The community of Taize, in France an Canterbury, UK, where we had the pleasure of meeting the Archbishop (who quizzed me on Sci-Fi authors, but that’s a story for another time). Taize is wonderful. Its a community run completely by youth, where you have prayer three times a day, reflect in your own time, or share in your bible groups. What happened to me in Taize I couldnt tell you, Im being called to something. And I’m still trying to figure that out. One day I will get back.

I loved this trip, and I did not want to go home. Pilgrimage is special, and when you’re with people you love, its magical.