By Joy Castro Daniels
The kids were coming down the slide one after the other and racing up the steps to do it again. They were all laughing and smiling. One boy came down the slide upside down. “The creativity has already started,” I said to my best friend, Isla Ferrier. She gave me a hug and we both had tears in our eyes. We’ve just accomplished a life-long dream of mine to build a playground in the Philippines.
It all started 20 years ago while visiting my parents’ village of Saysain in the province of Bataan. I remember walking back from the beach and thinking about a project. I knew I wanted to contribute to the community in some way. I consider myself very fortunate to be born in Canada. Giving back just seemed like a good way to honor my parents and their tireless commitment to provide a life of opportunity for their family.
My mom immigrated to northern Alberta in 1974 as a nurse. She was the first person to leave the village to work abroad, besides three men who were recruited by the US Navy. My father joined her the next year, and from then on they built a life and a family in Canada. Growing up in a small town, we always had a Filipino community around us. We were always surrounded by Filipino families, food, and laughter.
We traveled back to my parents’ village in the Philippines every three years. I watched my parents help so many people there and upgrade the community, the school, and the church. I began to realize that this is what life is all about: helping other people! I want to teach my three kids to live a life of contribution, just as my parents have taught me to do.
Near my home in Canada we have four parks that are within walking distance. I am in awe of how children play. Playgrounds are important not only for their physical development but also their mental and social development. Playgrounds represent creativity, confidence, and community. It occurred to me that this could be how I contribute to my parents’ village! I could build a playground for the children of Saysain. But how?
I shared my dream of building a playground with one of my mentors. She helped me get clear on how to achieve not just this dream, but any dream, no matter how big or daunting it may seem.
The first step for making your dream a reality is to get crystal clear on what you want. After some research, I determined our project would cost $20,000. Now there was a goal to work towards.
The second step is to share your dream with others. Share your dream with other people and find other people who will help you. I shared my dream of building a playground with one of my friends, Erin Krause. She just shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “That’s easy!” Erin works with Emmanuel Foundation, which sends refurbished playgrounds from Calgary to third-world countries. She said she can help me build a playground in the Philippines. All of a sudden, what first seemed daunting and impossible was set in motion with the first person I talked to.
The second person I told about my goal was my best friend, Isla. She asked how she could support me and I asked her if she wanted to come to the Philippines with us. I have always been proud of my Filipino heritage and I love sharing it with others. As other people offer their time and talents and resources, you start to believe you can do it.
The third step to making your dream a reality is to commit to it. Very early into the project, without knowing all the details, we picked a date and paid for our flights.
Step number four is to help others. Help enough people accomplish their dreams, and you will accomplish your dreams. This was the secret that enabled us to host a fundraiser concert to fund our project.
The fifth step is to surround yourself with other people who dream big. I have many mentors in my life who have gone before me and I receive a lot of support and encouragement from many people who inspire me.
Now the playground is finished. I am glad that I didn’t let fear of failure stop me from sharing my dream. I didn’t know how this project would come together but I just took steps one at a time until the next step became clear. Most of all I am grateful for the amazing people in my life that kept saying yes to the project, and I am happy watching the kids play.
I don’t think that the reality of accomplishing my dream from 20 years back has set in yet. Thankfully we have a lot of videos that we will use to document this adventure. I am hoping that as I watch these videos that reality will set in, but I have a feeling that the saying “It is not the destination but the journey that matters” will apply.
The most important thing after you complete a dream is to set a new goal. As my friend and mentor, Alan Nagao, says, “Go from mountain top to mountain top.” Remember that the valleys and who you become along the way are all part of the journey.
The ingredients for making your dreams a reality are simple: get clear on your dreams, share them with other people, and make a commitment. You may not know how at first, but if you get to work, the universe will conspire to help you. I am so grateful for my parents who taught me the importance of helping others. I am also so grateful for my friends who helped this dream become a reality. The most important part about this playground is that we want to inspire children to have dreams. If we dream big, anything can be accomplished.