A student visits his sponsor in Australia.

In early June 2010, Maurice Gravidez, a sponsored student in our program, was afforded the opportunity to pay a short visit to his sponsor, the Woy Woy Rotary Club, in Australia. Maurice spent almost a week in Australia thanks to his sponsor’s generosity. He had the opportunity to meet and thank his sponsors after 10 years of support.

My Trip to Australia

by Maurice Gravidez, BBEF sponsored student

From May 28th to June 4th 2010, a once in a lifetime experience happened to me as I had the opportunity to go to Australia to visit my sponsor, the Woy Woy Rotary Club. I will treasure this experience from the moment my feet touched Australian soil up to saying goodbye to my aussie friends.

There are so many memories and I would like to share some of them with you.

Australia is a big island located in the southern hemisphere and possesses a lot of space. There are just 23 million people but in the Philippines, we have 92 million in such a small land area. The central part of Australia is a wide dry dessert that supports few trees and some areas are inhabitable. In terms of security, customs are strict because Australia produces their own product and imports less than other countries.

Australia has 7 states or territories with capital cities. I have seen that there is a large difference in climate between Melbourne and Sydney because of the Great Dividing Range. Melbourne is much colder and has occasional rain but Sydney is warmer and the rain seems heavier and more consistent.

We stayed at James’ house and we felt their hospitality. Their house is big for a 4 member family. I also stayed with Trevor Walker in Woy Woy and I had my own big room, shower and toilet. I realized that in some instances, even though many Australians are wealthy, they can also be sad if they are alone. I’m lucky because in Bagong Barrio, even though we have a small house and several shortages like electricity and water, we are complete as a family.

In just one week, I had several “first experiences” such as riding in a plane, taking a ferry and cable car. I visited Taronga Zoo and the animals were so cute like wombats, platypus and koalas. Some of them just amazed me because of their movement, for example the kangaroos and wallabies.

In terms of food, I noticed that in every restaurant, the servings are so big. I tasted lamb and I love it! I also had Vegemite… I thought it was a chocolate spread, but when I took a bite of my toast, it was so salty and tasted strange… but I loved it. I will never forget Vegemite!

Traffic? Traffic is visible only once in a blue moon in Australia (especially when compared to the Philippines) because all the drivers are disciplined and follow the rules. There are a lot of cameras which will catch you if you break one of the traffic rules – so be ready for your fine. The car steering wheel is on the right side and that’s why I tended to go to the driver’s seat.

In terms of beautiful places, Australia is outstanding because the nature is just like in some posters, postcards and calendars, it is so beautiful. The Opera House and the Harbour Bridge were awesome and I took so many photos from many different angles.

Aside from the sites and the experiences, the most unforgettable moment for me was when I met my sponsor, the Woy Woy Rotary Club, who has supported my studies for over 10 years. Finally I hugged and kissed “my parents” in Australia and presented my struggles and triumphs. I gave them a million thank you’s because I’m now a graduate and soon to be a teacher.

When we stayed in Australia, we thought that it was a perfect, wealthy country but I also realised that just like in the Philippines, you must work hard to gain something and to be somebody. The money we receive each month as sponsored students is from our sponsor’s salary or pension. This is money they have because they work hard all day.

My words in this article are not enough to express my feelings, discoveries and my deepest gratitude to the individuals that contributed to my trip in Australia and those who have supported my studies for over 10 years. Now that I’m back in the Philippines, I have many challenges ahead of me. It’s now my time to provide and work for my family, and as a product of this program I will do my best to help my co-scholars.

Thank you BBEF for this wonderful opportunity.