A Warm Welcome to the Philippines

The last thing we expected when we walked off of the plane was a huge sign with our names on it. We aren’t famous, not even close, but we felt like celebrities.

Felicia Cantrell and I will be spending our summer in Dumaguete working with Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE). We will be doing anti-trafficking work and assisting in GWAVE’s community efforts and connections with the local law school.

When we arrived a few days ago, we were greeted by most of the GWAVE staff. They took us to breakfast where we also met the Dean of the law school at Silliman University. On our way to breakfast we drove past the law school, only to see another huge sign out front: “Welcome Krystelle Fernandez and Felicia Cantrell from ASU College of Law.” The spelling was close enough, because really, the thought was the ONLY thing that counted. We were welcomed to Dumaguete with open arms as they were all eager to share their work with us and collaborate to combat trafficking across the globe.

We’ve spent our first few days acclimating to the local cuisine, traffic, transportation, and even to the daily activities of the GWAVE staff. This morning we were able to participate in GWAVE’s Sunday morning radio show on human trafficking. They were given a one hour spot which they use to educate the community on trafficking issues and to answer questions texted in from listeners about the topic. We did our best to weigh in, which was a little difficult to do given that most of the show was in the local dialect, Visaya.

Tomorrow morning we head off to a local province for a court hearing with one of the GWAVE attorneys. They have many exciting opportunities for us to engage in the judicial system here and work alongside their attorneys, social workers and community educators. We are eager to absorb all that we can while we’re here.

We definitely stand out here – we’ve been the recipients of many non-subtle stares and even photographs. Hopefully, they’ll get used to seeing us around. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy our new celebrity status, it will be short lived.

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