In January 2013 Daniel Adamson first travelled to the Philippines. It was the wish of his sick mother whom Adamson had been looking after for several years.
After years of caring for her she wanted him to take a holiday.
A Yukon wildland firefighter, Adamson decided to join a fellow firefighter for a vacation in the Philippines.
Just four days into his holiday Adamson met an elderly blind woman asking for change outside a restaurant he was dining at. He bought her a meal and soon after began to do the same for others in the area that were in need.
“I’m sitting there drinking beers with other foreigners and meals are like 80 cents and there are hungry people outside,” said Adamson.
“I put down the beer and I started buying meals at like ten at a time. I just began to hand them out, blind people, those with polio, whoever was in need.”
This would continue for several days and soon word of his generosity grew throughout the community.
“You’re kind of like the bedtime story people tell their children about,” explains Adamson. “The tall white guy that walks around in dark alleys.”
Soon the wrong people began to take note.
Adamson was almost kidnapped and robbed and was forced to outrun some shady characters, as he describes.
Eventually Adamson was told about a place where his charitable ways would be well-received and he would be safe.
Bethesda Children’s Home is an orphanage located in the mountains of the Philippines near Baguio City.
It opened in 1948, shortly after World War II, after Manila was nearly flattened by attacks between the Japanese and United States. The conflict left many children homeless and in need.
Today the orphanage houses more than 150 children and is run by former orphans.
It is here where Adamson was taken.
“When I arrived it was immediately apparent the place was in desperate need of repair,” said Adamson. “There wasn’t much for the children to play with or even a safe area for them to play. Something as simple as a piece of paper got the children so excited.”
Adamson recalls how just a month before arriving at the orphanage he watched his nephew, back in Canada, cry at the fact his iPhone charger was not working.
“Seeing that really put things into perspective and just the fact that other than a pile of rubble these children really had nothing to play with.”
Adamson immediately began working.
His mission was to build something that could be used by all the children. He began by building a slide and then a swing set, using local workers and salvaged materials.
“I wanted to build something that was community minded as opposed to buying individual gifts for the children, said Adamson. “I didn’t want to bring North American values of I’ve got this and you don’t, so everything I buy for them has to be something they can all use.”
Soon after the playground project was complete Adamson put in badminton courts and then purchased basketballs and other sports equipment.
“The kids were just stoked because one day they had rubble and then swing sets and badminton courts and basketballs began showing up.”
Adamson also purchased the kids apples and fresh fruit and meat.
The long-time firefighter says the charitable work is new to him.
“I didn’t think I would go back, it wasn’t part of my plan at all,” says Adamson. “I thought it was a nice vacation and I had built them some slides and a swing set and that was it.”
But the following year Adamson returned.
This time his focus being on the orphanage itself, replacing the derelict roof and aging walls.
“This isn’t like me, it’s just that I was just fed up of people not doing anything,” said Adamson. “People talk a lot.”
This year Adamson’s humanitarian ways have ramped up even more.
His Facebook page is filled with posts of him matching monetary donations from friends.
He has arranged it so that friends can purchase specific items for the orphans such as basketballs and nets.
“My friends have been very supportive,” says Adamson. “I’ve gotten donations from all over Canada and the States, including California and Alaska.”
True to the cause Adamson himself has not kept a penny from a paycheque since the summer, donating it all directly to the orphanage.
In total, he estimates he has donated $14,000 dollars this year alone and close to $40,000 dollars since first being introduced to the orphanage in 2013.
“Essentially a brand new truck,” smiles Adamson.
Still Adamson is quick to downplay the hero card and says the generosity is something new to him.
“Somebody has got to do it and to be honest I wish it was someone else,” he says, speaking just days before returning to the Philippines for a fourth time. “I’m not a humanitarian it’s just someone has to do it and that person is me.”
For more information on how you can support Dan Adamson and the Bethesda Children’s Home email [email protected].