Voluntourism Philippines.

Guiding Volunteers Up the Mountain

Leading a group of people in an outdoor mission can be a daunting task. But for Ujin Austria, a seasoned expedition leader (EL), directing the Trails to Empower Kids (TREK) participants is all part of the adventure that can be referred to as "voluntourism."
Austria comfortably talks about his experience for the TREK Calintaan promotional material.
Austria has been climbing mountains with TREK for two years. This organization, composed of volunteers from different backgrounds, delivers clothes, toys, and school supplies to disadvantaged communities in the country.

Leading Others

Austria, a mountain climber with over 15 years of experience, says that he keeps on learning and growing as an EL with every TREK trip.

He shares that TREK’s expedition to Kalinga held last December 2015 was one of the most challenging adventures to date.

“That time, the typhoon just ended so we needed to cross a river. We were told that if the river level rose, we had to walk a little bit further. We even had to cross a hanging bridge,” he enthuses. “Also, they were a couple of new volunteers from PS Bank, one of our sponsors.”
Austria crosses a hanging bridge in one of the TREK outreach programs.
Traversing raging rivers at TREK's trip to Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro.
Austria, carrying a yellow backpack, leads the TREK members in a muddy trail.
Besides being an EL, Austria considers himself as an all-around guy who can spearhead games and other activities for their beneficiaries.

‘Simple life’

Austria shares that each TREK crusade touches his heart anew.

“There are always different experiences for me. The beneficiaries’ cultural presentations and unique way of saying ‘thank you’ present a different impact every time,” he enthuses.

Austria says that the rustic setting in the upland communities help him put things into perspective.

“We are used to the city where everything is fast-paced and all about the money. But in every TREK trip, everything is different, very simple,” he notes.

Getting Hands Dirty for a Good Cause

Austria shares that volunteers have to be prepared to tackle nature’s obstacles.

“The participants should not be afraid to get dirty and sweaty during the climb. It’s all part of the experience,” he says.

He also encourages the volunteers to set aside gadgets to be able to gain a deeper insight about the community’s culture.

“When you reach the area, limit the use of gadgets. Be a local; immerse yourself in the community. That way you can know their immediate needs. It will also help you learn something about yourself,” he says.

TREK’s 10th Anniversary

Austria shares that TREK will celebrate its tenth birthday in 2017. They are currently crafting an exciting activity lineup for their partner schools.
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