As explained elsewhere on this website, AFAS is a group called Australian Filipino Augustinian Solidarity, which was founded at Villanova twenty-five years ago to develop bonds between this Augustinian upper primary and secondary school in Brisbane and three Augustinian schools in the southern Philippines.
The biennial Exchange took place on 15th – 29th September 2017. The group that travelled from Brisbane to the Philippines comprised seven Year Eleven and ten Year 12 students, eight staff members and a Year Ten student who is a daughter of one of the participating staff members. Among the staff members were Fr Peter Wieneke OSA (College Chaplain) and Fr Saldie Resolado OSA (Assistant Chaplain). The Exchange leader was Mr Tony Hindmarsh, a Villanova Teacher who was one of the founders of AFAS in 1992.
One of the Villanova staff participants gave the following word picture of the fifteen Exchange days, “In Cebu we visited a community for the rehabilitation of young teens who are in trouble with the law due to petty crimes; we shared a meal with the young boys and girls given education scholarships through the Sto Niño Augustinian Foundation(SNAF); we visited the Divino Amore Academy in Talisay City, Cebu and were involved in manual labour to build a cemented walk path for the students and teachers; we also met the families of some of the AFAS scholarship holders and also visited the Augustinian friars and novices in the Asia-Pacific Augustinian Novitiate at Mohon, near Cebu City. The same program took place in Bacolod City; visitation of school and a AFAS scholarship holder’s family, encounter with residents of poor communities that is cared for by the Collegio San Agustin-Bacolod and another community cared for by La Consolacion College-Murcia. Other tasks were mangrove planting, buying some groceries for the scholars’ families and playing sport with the local students."
These three schools, Divino Amore Academy-Talisay City-Cebu, Colegio San Augustin- Bacolod, and La Consolacion College-Murcia select a few students annually for AFAS financial scholarships for their tuition costs, and at least one of these schools has carried out this program annually throughout the entire 25-year history of AFAS.
The funds for these scholarships and other acts of assistance (provision of school musical and sporting equipment, construction of pathways and roofing, medical expenses, infant nutrition and night school programs, etc.) is raised by AFAS, assisted by other activities and groups at Villanova (e.g., Mission Day, Villanova Visions Art Event) donating their funds to AFAS.
This Exchange participant from the Villanova staff noted, “We visitors from Villanova were moved whenever we visited the family home of an AFAS scholarship holder; by this means we started to know the family conditions and hear the stories of hope for the family to be helped out of poverty through having good education for the children; the education of the young scholars means a lot to them. The exchange of hearts made an impact both the Villanova visitors and the family of the scholars. It gave the AFAS visitors a new perspective in life especially when faced with poverty and hardships through the eyes of the Filipino.”
He continued, “The AFAS Exchange benefits both the two cultures and people. The Filipinos saw the generosity and kindness of the Australian in their aid to help students from financially struggling families, and the Australians saw the hospitality of the Filipinos that despite their life conditions were warm of heart and welcoming. The Exchange built friendship and communities beyond the boundaries of language and culture; and the faith to humanity is seen differently by both people. Furthermore, their faith in God is their common ground to see hope in people they all encounter.
Fr Peter Wieneke (College Chaplain) commented, “Over the past twenty-five years, AFAS has made significant links between the students and staff of Villanova College here in Brisbane and our counterparts at three Augustinian schools in the southern Philippines. This has greatly benefitted our entire school community in compassion, social justice and international fellowship, and the recent Exchange venture to the Philippines successfully made these bi-national Augustinian bonds even stronger.”