Visiting isolated disabled children was by far the most moving experience of the trip for Music Man Project founder, David Stanley, who was accompanied by MMP Essex volunteer, Paul Cudby. Within a few square miles they found 8 individuals with a range of physical and learning disabilities. They had no access to education, therapy or healthcare. They could never leave their township homes.

The Music Man Project’s visit to the Philippines was our 5th international expedition in as many years, following teaching trips to South Africa, India, Nepal and the United States of America. When Typhoon Yolanda hit the country in 2013, nurse Catherine Greenwood travelled to one of the worst affected regions of Estancia, Panay Island to help. She was met with utter devastation and the three months she spent there changed her life. 6 years later, in a meeting at our local Costa Coffee in Leigh-on-Sea, Cathy explained her plans for “Music and Medicine” in which she would return to Estancia to deliver medicine and The Music Man Project would run a four-day music education programme for children, culminating in a public performance to the local community.

In line with the new Music Man Project charity objectives, our visit served vulnerable children with and without a learning disability. Our itinerary included 3 visits to the Botongon Elementary School, 3 visits to a class for children with Special Needs at the Estancia Central Elementary School (known as ‘SPEDs’), 2 workshops for disabled children in a remote township who never leave their homes, a meeting with the local Mayor and a public concert to the local community to officially launch ‘The Music Man Project Philippines’ . The debut performance brought them all together for a great big musical party. Our commitments in the UK meant that all this had to be squeezed into the most rewarding 4 days imaginable.

The venue for our final concert was the grandly named “Plaza Gym of Estancia”. In reality this was a derelict basketball court that, like so many buildings, had obviously never recovered from the Typhoon of 2013.  The children performed 7 Music Man Project songs, including the world premiere of “Botongon”. A blind pupil called Jenny, from Estancia Central Elementary School, sang Music is Magic as a solo, as did Odiva, a young pupil from Botongon School, wearing a beautiful pink dress and clutching her very own portable fan to keep cool. We named her Odiva the Diva!

The climax of the concert was the official presentation of Mel as the new Music Man Project Director for the Philippines.

Read the full story of of our visit to the Philippines in the official MMP blog.