A group of professionals from Australia recently visited Bendum, exploring ways of assisting and supporting the emergence of Bendum as a center for ecology. Julie Edwards, CEO of Jesuit Social Services in Australia, with Clinton Murray and Nelson Riofrio, pro bono architects, and Miles Murray, a Year 10 Student from Xavier College, were in Bendum for five days.
The visit is part of an ongoing relationship of support and networking between ESSC and Jesuit Social Services. ESSC has been conducting environmental research and accompanying the Pulangiyen community for the last 20 years, and with Jesuit Social Services, share an approach to human development that is focused on human dignity and environmental integrity. Both assert that justice in society and ecology is most effectively achieved through the accompaniment of people and communities at the margins of society.
ESSC’s “way of engaging” is through research, training for natural resource management, culturally-based interaction, and empowerment of the youth. Jesuit Social Services seeks to build a just society where all people can live up to their full potential and partners with others to support those most in need and works to influence change in policies.
The time in Bendum was spent in discussion about the emerging centers in the Asia-Pacific region where groups have sought space to achieve a more integrated learning and sense of the sacred.
An example of this is the Bush Hut experience, a heritage listed house surrounded by native bush in the suburbs of Melbourne, where Jesuit Social Services host outdoor adventure intervention and adventure therapy. The Outdoor Experience seeks to reach out to people from difficult backgrounds, providing them with an immersion experience in the bush. Young people can learn their own inner strength and reflect upon their experience of life, while having the chance to explore and gain new understandings of environment and their role in it, as they learn the ‘living skills’ needed to exist in the bush.
Bendum is increasingly known as a place where people from across society can ground their understanding of community-based environmental management, seeking a greater sustainability that can be shared by all through the development of a ‘science for social change.’ There is a need in Bendum to commit to the youth, in the same way they have committed themselves to improving the situation of their communities and environment.
ESSC is increasingly organizing more structured learning for its partners and doing this in an exploratory form with the Bendum community. The emerging concept is based on the need to manage from within an integrated learning center for the different programs organized for groups across Mindanao, with some focused engagements from Asia and Europe.
The intention is to create a place that can be used as a convergence point – for people, ideas, and experiences – that allows space for personal learning and reflection. The integrated knowledge systems focus on several areas: culture, ecology, science, and spirituality. Such a center provides a sense of unity while allowing the expression of diversity in experience. Furthermore, it hopes to provide a venue where interests can be combined, values recognized, and needs and responsibilities shared.
These kinds of engagements, both between organizations and with youth and community, are essential ways forward in response to the call towards social justice and ecology. Through collaboration, cooperation, and the sharing of ideas and experiences, ESSC and Jesuit Social Services continue to work towards a more just and sustainable future.