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Building in Philippines by Bushra Ahmed

Why I chose this project

Building volunteers with the toys they donated to the kids

When I first decided on studying architectural technology, I began to form an understanding of not just buildings but homes, intricate designs, drawing construction lines for a geometric composition and most importantly, analysis of space and human interaction with what we create. I was eager to see how different people live, particularly those beyond our tall skyscrapers and innovative structures. I wanted to understand and learn more about a different kind of architecture and be someone who provides shelter for those who need it most, not just merely for investment purposes. That is why I signed up with Projects Abroad. I knew this would be a fantastic opportunity to witness how people over ten thousand kilometres away live.

Bushra at her Building Project in the Philippines

Arriving in the Philippines

Bushra with the kids in the Philippines

I travelled to the Philippines to work in areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, alongside a local tradesman to help repair and renovate a house that belonged to a lovely old lady and her son. When I arrived, I was given an induction of what my tasks would be and where I would be working. I was also given a tour around the area I would be living in. Projects Abroad did all they could to ensure my safety and make me feel comfortable with my surroundings. I felt at ease straight away. After my induction, I was taken to where I would be staying. Words cannot describe the reassurance of comfort and protection I felt after feeling uneasy days before I departed from the UK. I felt at home and that was what made me enjoy myself more.

My Building Project

Bushra working at the Building Project

The day after settling in, I was picked up by the project abroad staff and taken to where I would be working. The house I worked on was in a small village within Bogo City, Cebu and was made of a timber structural frame, plastic market bags for walls, aluminium sheets for roofing and thin bamboo strips for flooring. My work included knocking down old walls and re-building for an extension, forming a kitchen worktop using bamboo, backfilling for the floor slab, making concrete from sand, cement, and water that I gathered from the village water pump and lastly pouring the concrete for the ground floor and levelling it. Each working day started with what we aimed to accomplish and ended with what we had accomplished. At first, the heat for me was unbearable and I often needed to take shorts breaks and drink a lot of water. Gradually, I began to get used to it and working became more fun and easier. Safety measures and PPE (personal protective equipment), snacks and drinks were provided throughout - I was looked after very well. If I could I would go back and do it all over again. I met a variety of people during my time in Cebu, including locals and volunteers from around the globe, speaking and understanding where they came from and listening to their experiences was intriguing.

Bushra working on a house

Leaving the Philippines

By the end of my stay, I was amazed by what was accomplished and felt happy. Although I would be leaving I was nothing short of grateful to all the people around me from the sweetest ladies I met in the café, to the lovely ladies and little children I met in the village. Words cannot describe the feeling you get from seeing and experiencing a new culture and a whole new way of life. Also knowing that you are giving and helping someone who needs it more than you do. We are extremely blessed with what we have, a comfortable bed, food, secure shelter, heating and air-conditioning while the beneficiary of the house we built slept on a thin mat laid across bumpy bamboo flooring with no option to control the humidity, rain or cold/harsh weathers.

My gratitude goes to the all the people I met during my stay and all the Projects Abroad staff members for supporting me and giving me an eye-opening experience. Although it was difficult at times it came with the greatest feeling of achieving success and humbleness. The experience has made me look at my career from a different perspective and developed a need within me to continue helping people using my skills and abilities.

Bushra Ahmed

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