A volunteer’s life

The rewards are more than what money can offer

Volunteers coming from different non-government organizations in Iloilo gathered to share their initiatives and experiences during the Volunteer Sharing Session last December 4, 2013 at the Henry Luce Library, Central Philippine University.
It was one of the activities of the International Volunteers Day 2013.
The celebration’s theme was Boluntirs: Tayo’y Aktibong Mamamayan Para sa Katapatan, Kalusugan at Kapayapaan (Integrity, Health and Peace).
The sharing was facilitated by Maezel Jeongco, coordinator of VOICE (Volunteer Organizations Information Coordination and Exchange, Inc).

Participants in the volunteer sharing activity. 
 JUN HUGO PHOTO

 REWARDING
Rhea Penaflor of Artistikong Kabataan Philippines, Inc (AKP) said that their group has been busy doing relief efforts in Northern Iloilo which was badly hit by typhoon Yolanda. Their beneficiary is Sitio Botlog Gamay in Concepcion, Iloilo.
Penaflor is also the executive director of Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay (KGPP). She is also the founder of Life Extenders, a volunteer group in Iloilo City.
Penaflor has been a host of Hutik sa Kagab-ihon in Bombo for 15 years. Her work as anchor in Bombo was an offshoot of her Population on Commission training under Adolescent Health Youth and Development Program.
Penaflor said that rewards do not come in the form of money alone. For example, she was able to travel abroad due to scholarship grants provided by organizations that saw her work.
“Do not destroy your integrity. It’s because of this that people help us,” she told fellow volunteers.
Maezel Jeongco, facilitator

 PLANTING THE SEEDS
Meanwhile, Shiela Castillo, a volunteer of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project said that she is not paid to do what she does. Passionate about the environment, she proved her commitment to the initiative by paying for her travel and accommodation to attend international conferences related to her passion.
Her group, Movement of Imaginals for Sustainable Societies Through Initiatives, Organizing and Networking (Mission) also organizes her talks.
 “I have reached 10,000 people in my talks. I try to engage the youth that everybody can be part of the solution,” she said.
“These talks are an opportunity to meet kindred spirits. And then they spread what I have planted. No monetary compensation can equal such opportunity,” she said.
“It’s important that you are doing what you are passionate about. Don’t think about the monetary benefits. You can sleep well at night. Keep on doing what you do, this will contribute to the world that you really want,” she added.

SELF-MASTERY AND EMPOWERMENT
Meanwhile,  Aurora Hugo of Mission shared that her organization conducts Workshop Courage seminars.
The said seminar makes people realize so many things about themselves and their power to make societal change for the better. The seminar aims to cure the ningas-cogon mentality of Filipinos starting with self-mastery.
Living a life of vices before, Hugo said that Mission’s Workshop Courage has turned her life around.
Hugo is currently holding talks that push for responsible parenthood as a key to societal change. “Be visible to your children,” she told fellow volunteers.
She also shared that Mission will continue its responsible voting advocacy even if it is not election season in order to empower Ilonggos to choose the right leaders.

Volunteers share information about their organization: 
Rhea Penaflor of KGPP, Shiela Castillo of Climate Reality Project 
and Mission, Aurora Hugo of Mission, May of Philippine Blind Union 
and Chris Millora of Gawad Kalinga

 BRINGING HOPE
Kathy Villalon, public information officer of Mga Kaibigan ng mga Kabataang May Kanser shared that KKK raises funds for the chemotherapy treatment of poor children with cancer. The group also holds hope- and capacity-building activities such as day camps where the kids and their parents bond and parents are taught about stress management and crafts. Recently, the group sponsored the massage training of KKK mothers so that they can earn extra income through massage.

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE PWDS
Meanwhile, the incoming president of the Philippine Blind Union said they have 33 members and their main source of their livelihood is massage under the supervision of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
May advised the public, “Don’t make us feel that we have disabilities. Show us that we have value. Teach PWDs to be productive.”

STUDENT POWER
Stacy Vencer of Central Philippine University said that their student organization is currently providing relief goods in northern Iloilo. “We can do things together,” she said. “We are challenged to be future leaders,” she added.

GAINS
Lastly, Chris Millora of I Love Iloilo, a group under Gawad Kalinga shared that they hold storytelling workshops for teachers. They also founded the Center for Social
Innovation which promotes social enterprise or business with a heart.
He is also one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines. He shared that before, he had a high regard for himself until TOSP came and grounded him. “It grounded us that we are part of a country.”
He stressed that nation building is not exclusive. Whatever help one gives should not be compared with others. “Feeding program, tree planting.... whatever that is there in you, use it and contribute it. If you are a volunteer, you will gain something from it and that is part of your journey for personal growth,” he concluded.

Reporting on integrity, health and peace

 INTEGRITY
A group discussion was held prior to the sharing. Two important points came out:
* To attain integrity, there has to be transparency
* The volunteers and their organizations can promote transparency by practicing this in their own backyard, such as putting their records in place and report these to others. By setting a good example, they will gain more trust and support and eventually others will just follow.
International Volunteers Day 2013 was conducted by ICON or the Iloilo Coalition of Non-Government Organizations and People’s Organizations in the city and province of Iloilo.

Starting as a loose coalition of NGOs and POs accredited by the Province of Iloilo, it has become a rallying point of other organizations and sectoral members of the civil society organizations. It is now open to other organizations. For more information, email to iconphils@yahoo.com or text 0919.8757.724. (Text and photos by Marie Katherine Villalon)

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