Voluntourism Philippines.

On Using Art as a Way to Serve Others

Helping out is rewarding, more so when there is an opportunity to use one’s God-given talents.

This rings true for Kaila Canlas, a 20-year-old artist who has been a Trails to Empower Kids (TREK) volunteer for over two years.

Canlas has helped TREK by developing the group’s branding for their Kalinga and Mindoro excursions.

She creates the visuals which are used in their Facebook account as well as in their promotional materials such as button pins, posters, and shirts.

Kaila wearing a shirt she designed for the group's recent outreach in Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro.
Photo by Alfred Limos

Kaila proudly holds the bag she designed for TREK Kalinga.

Canlas shares, “They (TREK) trust me and I appreciate that. This is also my way of helping TREK and not only the kids.”

In the trips, Canlas is part of the committee that is in charge of selecting the best thank-you card from among the artworks made during TREK’s creative sessions.

TREK has been conducting programs aimed to help disadvantaged communities for over 10 years.

How It All Started

Canlas shares that she wanted to pursue a passion project which involved donating self-designed notebooks to an organization.

She asked her grandfather for potential beneficiaries, knowing that he is involved in many outreach groups. Her grandfather said that she can donate the notebooks to TREK, where he is a member.

Things changed for Canlas when she accepted her grandfather’s invitation to come with him to a TREK expedition.

Kaila and her grandfather enjoy a moment of rest before distributing the goodies to the Kalinga children.

The fresh graduate from De La Salle University Antipolo says that she and her grandfather, who took an interest in mountain climbing in his 40s, have already gone to four TREK mission trips.

“He is glad that he was able to bring a family member after so many years,” she says.

Shared Experience

Canlas says that language barrier does not keep the helper and the helped from showing  their gratefulness in becoming a part of each others’ lives.

“Even if we have different languages, the kids still try to reach out and say ‘thank you’ in their own little ways. Sometimes, they hug you and give thank you notes. It can be quite fulfilling,” she says.

Kaila holds a mini artwork session with the kids of Kalinga.

She adds that being surrounded with like-minded people makes each trip valuable.

“My heart also swells with gratitude in seeing other volunteers and experiencing the same thing,” she says.

“Helping comes from the heart”

As a Communications graduate Canlas says that she is compelled to share her mountain experiences with her friends and loved ones.

“You experience everything first hand-- you see people’s tears and laughter. I have to tell people whom I interact with, ‘this is what is happening on this side of the Philippines’,” she says.

She notes that some of her friends have started to help her endeavors.

“I see their efforts. Even if they just give old clothes, that makes a difference. It reminds me that helping comes from the heart,” Canlas says.
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