“You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.”
There’s a powerful truth to this statement. In this generation when everything seems fleeting and materialism has taken a major domination on most everyone’s lives, it’s easy to forget and neglect the fact that we were born in this world with the innate responsibility to be of help to our fellowmen. We were made to lend a hand for those who suffer and feed those in hunger.
It is truly humbling to know the group of young, vibrant and fun people from Volunteer in Cebu. Started with only four people on board – Jill, John, Kim and Kagen, the group eventually grew and numerous volunteers flocked the different activities they organized.
Zerothreetwo even got a chance to join them in one of their missions. Afterwards, we felt it would be a good idea to ask the group some questions. Special thanks to Jill for filling us out with the details on their upcoming projects. I urge everyone to check out their Facebook page and give out whatever you can to make a difference.
Can you give us a brief background about Volunteer in Cebu? What is your advocacy?
Volunteer in Cebu is a small, non-profit organization that makes it easy for people to volunteer. The name is a call to action. We are calling on everyone with giving hearts and able hands to volunteer in any of our events – anyone living in Cebu or even those that are just traveling through and wish to volunteer. No complicated sign up processes. Just show up.
It was a national public holiday in the Philippines when the earthquake struck. Many of us were enjoying the day at home with our families. By the end of the day, after numerous aftershocks, we realized that we were still luckier than most people, who lost their loved ones and their homes. So we put the word out there and was amazed by the result, more than 100 volunteers showed up for the repacking, and over 100 more showed up for the relief mission to Bohol the next day. This made us realize how many wanted to volunteer but didn’t have the right avenue for it.
Our advocacy are children and their teachers, be it their school teachers, or their parents – who are their first teachers, and everyone who has a stake in shaping their future.
We have 5 Active Programs that we are running, and the inspiration behind all of them are pretty easy to see when you know what they are about. There’s nothing complicated about any of them at all, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s so easy and logical that anyone could do it on their own.
- Back to School Packets Program
As an organization, we are BIG believers in the power of education to get people out of poverty. Going to school is the first step, and the Philippine government is providing that. The next step is school supplies. A family of 5 that lives on $150 a month (the average in the areas we are targeting) for food, water, and shelter, will not have enough funds left to buy school supplies for their children.
Our goal is simple. In order for kids to go to school, they need school supplies, yearly. If their parents can’t afford to buy for them, our volunteers will provide it.
- Happy Teacher = Happy Students
There’s a saying that goes “A happy mother, a happy home” and we believe the same applies to teachers. For them to be able to do their job right, they need to be inspired, and to be given the right tools to do it. Hence we have assembled Teachers Packets which contain notebooks, record books, a ream of bond paper, assorted pens, assorted markers, regular chalk, colored chalk, a good pair of scissors, a good ruler, a bag, and whatever else they need.
- #FeedTheHungry Campaign
This is our most active program to date. This campaign is to raise awareness for Food Poverty in our own neighborhood. Mother Teresa once said “If you can’t feed a hundred, feed one”. We can’t end hunger on our own, but if we all pitch in and do our share everyday by sharing our left over food, organizing a feeding in your community, or joining our organized feeding, then we will surely create a big enough impact. That meal that you share with somebody today, may be the only meal that he/she will have the whole day. If you don’t share and just throw away your food, they won’t get to eat today. Can you live with that?
- 100 Santas Project
As children, nothing brought us more joy than waking up on Christmas Day with a present from Santa. The joy that our good deeds for the year was rewarded. Sadly, for most of the Special Education Students, they will never experience this. Special Children in the Philippines do not get as much support as their counter parts in the developed countries – when putting food on the table is a struggle, Christmas takes a back seat. And so, the 100 Santas Project was born. The concept is simple. One “Santa” has to buy a personalized gift for 1 child, preferably something that a child will want but never get, such as a toy, new clothes or shoes. We then gather all the gifts from the different “Santas” and our volunteer Santas dress up and deliver them to the children.
This has since evolved and spread into delivering treats to under-privileged kids, along with a Christmas Tree and singing Christmas Carols. Christmas is the time for spreading cheer, and so spread cheer we will!
- Drive By Cheer
Drive By Cheer activities happen spontaneously. When we receive donations that can easily be distributed but are not enough for our monthly feeding, we gather all our volunteers who have vehicles and drive around the areas where we know the street children and the homeless gather at night, and we distribute it. We’ve distributed Christmas Treats, Toys, Milk and Cookies, and assorted food. Spreading cheer and happiness whenever we can.
We have and will continue to work with several organizations, we are working with Beep Beep Books, It Matters, GlobeDrop, Empowering the Philippines, just to mention a few. Nobody can save the world on their own, even Superman needed help from the Justice League.
Anyone can join our activities. Our events are posted publicly on Facebook. Just read the event details, and if you want to know more, you can message us directly on our Facebook page. We don’t have a strict criteria or qualifications. Just come with an open mind, a big heart and helping hands.
How has the journey been so far? What response have you received from people?
We receive an overwhelming amount of response from people. A lot of new volunteers come and join us for #FeedTheHungry Campaign and then they also bring new friends at succeeding events. Our numbers are growing and we are very grateful for that. But not only that, our volunteers really do work hard, they’re not just there to pose and take pictures, they sweat and toil, and smile and have fun through it all. We have the best volunteers ever.
And occasionally, we also receive inquiries from private organizations that want to donate or partner with us. We welcome these groups, and even individuals and their families, who wish to celebrate their birthday by sponsoring a feeding instead of having a lavish party just for their friends. We had a Dutch volunteer do just that last September. He celebrated his 30th birthday by feeding 1,217 children and adults in a depressed area in Mabolo. He said it was the best birthday ever.
Aside from social media posts, what measures do you take to influence other people, especially the youth, to take part in making a difference?
Social media is very effective in getting our message across, especially in this day and age when majority of the people are on various social media platforms. But given the opportunity, we also do interviews (like this one) and we recently guested in a radio station to talk about Volunteer in Cebu and our advocacies. There’s also word-of-mouth, we talk to our volunteers during events. They end up telling their families and friends about us and our events.
Define Volunteerism in one sentence
Volunteerism is about giving without asking for anything in return.
There’s a saying that goes “If not us, who? If not now, when?” Change begins in each one of us. If all we do is argue and analyze the situation, perhaps even look at it with jaded eyes, nothing will become of our world as it is now. We must not always look to the government or the private sector to make changes. There are some changes we can start within ourselves and then we can start helping the community.
For example, some people argue that feeding does not solve the problem that lies underneath – which are poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, corruption. We say “Yes!”, it doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed them just because it won’t solve the underlying problem. Learning how to swim is the way to prevent drowning, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t throw a life jacket at them when they’re already about to drown, right? We will find ways to address all that, but baby steps, we’re just a baby organization after all. We just turned a year old!
These “small steps” might seem inconsequential but if you multiply them a hundredfold, you will see definite changes.