“There’s only so much you can take,” says Rick Wells, co-founder of a new duo of American expatriates in the Philippines who have taken it upon themselves to be philanthropic missionaries. “You see the poverty, and it breaks your heart. The saddest part is the kids.”
“You learn to say ‘no, no, no,’ over and over to the beggars,” says Wells’ friend and fellow American expat Kevin E. Lake. “And you have to really, because there are just so many, but it doesn’t mean you can shut it out, or turn off your heart.”
Many Americans, especially former military personnel like Lake, who is an Iraq War veteran, find themselves living in the Philippines. The Philippines is America’s closest ally in Southeast Asia and they have a very westernized culture. Many veterans, especially those who suffer from chronic pain from war or military related injuries find that the tropical environment offered by the island nation only seven degrees above the equator allows for more pain free living than in the
U.S. without the necessity to take the onslaught of medications so many veterans are being given through the VA hospital systems in the U.S.
“You can only be here for so long before you stop thinking about yourself and your own reasons for coming,” adds Lake, who’d found it difficult to transition back into civilian life in The States after his time in Iraq. “And then you have to start doing something for those around you.”
“I came here four years ago, to stay,” says Wells. “I’d been coming for years. My wife is a Filipina, and our children love it here. I saved up in The States, we got some land here, and we’re doing okay with banana farming, but after a while, you find yourself with time on your hands, and why not do something with that time to make a difference?”
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