Students scheduled for Philippines trip were redirected to the Dominican Republic.
Malvern Prep’s Christian Service trip to the Philippines was cancelled because a group linked to ISIS took control of Marawi City, which is located on a southern island in the Philippines. Since the city was seized in May, the Philippine government has fought back against the group.
The students who were scheduled to go on the Philippines trip were transferred to the Dominican Republic trip, which left on Sunday, June 4.
“We have two groups going to the Dominican Republic and we were able to split them up between the two groups,” outgoing Director of Christian Service Mr. Lawrence Legner said.
The process of cancelling a Christian Service trip begins with Legner learning about safety issues that may affect the trip.
“First I have to check everything to make sure that it truly is an unsafe situation. I contact the State Department here, see what they say. [I have to] contact the people that I deal with in that particular country, see what they say,” Legner said. “Then I have to make a decision whether it is safe for our guys to go. Safety is always number one with us with every trip.”
The process does not stop after Legner makes the decision to cancel a service trip. Legner explained that he contacts Rustic Pathways, the company with whom Legner contracts for several service trip destinations including Peru, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and New Orleans.
“I see what [Rustic Pathways] has or what we can do with adding kids into other groups,” he said.
Then Legner has to contact a travel agent, who talks to the airline. Legner and the travel agent work to get flights cancelled or transferred to different locations if possible.
According to Legner, Malvern Prep assumes the financial responsibility of cancelling and switching flights. “We don’t charge the kids any more because it’s not their fault that there are political problems going on in that country,” Legner said.
The students were understanding of the decision to cancel the service trip, according to Legner.
“They were disappointed that they weren’t going to the Philippines because they wanted to go, but they completely understood the situation and they did not want to go into an unsafe situation,” he said.
Video from Philippines Trip 2015 – YouTube / T. McGlinn
Previous alumni and chaperones spoke highly of the Philippines trip, which began in 2014.
Former science teacher and previous chaperone Mrs. Vernice Mulcahy praised previous students’ abilities to adjust to their new environment in the Philippines.
“They were willing to try anything and it was great to see them getting to really know the people we worked with at the orphanages and in the villages,” Mulcahy said.
Mulcahy said she had great memories from the Philippines trips she chaperoned in 2014 and 2015.
“My favorite memories were things like seeing a few of the guys try balut, you’ll have to look it up; it’s a fertilized duck egg that I refuse to try, or seeing big guys like Peter Calvaresi ’15 or Steve Van Ommeren ’16 getting their hair braided by little girls, or seeing our guys get smoked in basketball by the locals who were all at least a foot shorter than them,” she said.
Alumnus Mike Flanagan ’16 said one moment that impacted him as a person was visiting a troubled youth center, the Dalayunan Home for Boys in Iloilo City.
“There was a 15 year old boy named JP, and he was there for homicide. I remember seeing this small, probably 5’4” kid who was there for something so unbelievable,” Flanagan said. “At the end of our day there they were passing around this microphone and some of the boys talked about their hopes, dreams, aspirations, what they did, and what they want to grow from.”
An exceptionally touching moment to Flanagan was when JP told him, “We’re good kids but we’ve got to eat.”
As of publication date, the fighting in Marawi continues. U.S. special operations forces are now assisting the Philippines military, according to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines to several media outlets.