VOICEs of Volunteering

by Nathaniel George Hipolito (volunteer writer)

Would you leave a lucrative career as a lawyer, and a nurse to serve in Mindoro? How could a leadership and academic awardee choose volunteering over a possible corporate career to work with the Igorot in Baguio? Would you be willing to be assigned in Negros Occidental, Bukidnon or Lanao del Sur, and speak a new language? Who would dare to take this leap of faith?

Apparently, there still are people who defy logic and leave comfort zones, successful careers to lend voices for the marginalized. Their choice is to take on a life-changing journey. Volunteers are proof thateven in these times where the youth are oftentimes seen as apathetic, even in tough times, young people dare and speak of hope through serving.

For a few months to a full year, young people apply and get accepted to volunteer service programs in the country to immerse themselves in a new language, new culture and new environment, all to bring positive change.

The Associate Missionaries of the Assumption (AMA),Jesuit Volunteers Philippines (JVP), Miriam Volunteer Mission (MVM) and the Year of Service (YOS)  are sending a new batch of volunteers for this school year. These volunteer sending organizations recruit, train and field volunteers to schools, parishes and rural organizations. Volunteers work with disadvantaged and marginalized communities who lack human resources. YOS is sending its 16th batch of volunteers to work in organizations in the Visayasand Mindanao mostly in the field of agriculture and education. Working withMaryknoll Mission areas, the handicapped and rural organizations, MVM issending its 6th batch of volunteers. AMA is sending its 25th batch of volunteers, some to work in parishes. And JVP, founded in 1979, is missioningits 30th batch of volunteers to render faith-driven volunteer service from Ilocos Sur to South Cotabato.

The volunteers that AMA, JVP, MVM and YOS send serve as teachers, trainers, researchers, parish workers, and community or youth organizers. Because of the lack of human resources in the areas where they are sent, volunteers often assume more than one role. With a modest allowance, they live in simplicity and in solidarity with the community they are in. Working side by side with indigenous peoples and non-government organizations, the volunteers share their knowledge, skills and talent to promote positive change in their areas of assignment.

The four volunteer sending organizations have, over the summer months prepared the volunteers for service. Skills training, orientation, and immersion are just some of the preparations volunteers went through. The respective program officers and staff, along with the former volunteers are key players in these weeks and months of preparation. Those who have been through the volunteer service program now actively support the current batch of volunteers. The "alumni" of these volunteer service programs speak about how volunteering has changed their lives and passing on the culture, tradition and eventually inspiring the volunteers in their desire to make a positive difference.

As they have heard from former volunteers, the months to a year in their areas is definitely not a walk in the park, nor a vacation. Motivated by the desire to serve and give, volunteers realize that there is much work to be done, goals to be achieved and change to look forward to. Volunteers who are placed in new environments oftentimes have stories of anxiety, fear and frustration. Rural students may learn slower than their urban counterparts. People's organization members may lack unity and may lack direction in their programs. The organizations may not have enough capacity for their programs. All these need the volunteers creativity, perseverance and resourcefulness -but through their respective volunteer sending and host communities, hopefully these shall be turned into joy, fulfillment and meaning.

AMA, JVP, MVM and YOS continually support to their volunteers throughout the year through various skills enhancement seminars and sessions. Personal support is also ensured through area visits, and regular communication between program officers and volunteers. These organizations have also devised programs to respond to the needs of the volunteers' families, recognizing their key role in a volunteer year's success.

These young people may have come from different provinces in the country. They may speak different languages. Some have professional experiences and some are just out of college. They may have various motivations in joining the volunteer service programs they have chosen, but a common thread runs through all these. Their desire to serve, give and offer their skills for the communities that need them most is the one thing spoken loud, clear and hopefully, understood.

We're encouraging volunteers and organizations to send volunteer articles at voicenational@yahoo.com


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