National Volunteer Summit 5: Keynote Speech

National Volunteer Summit 5 Keynote speech: Annabelle Pizarro-Brown

I am honored to be invited here today to celebrate volunteerism, to share the day with young, always young and forever young volunteers. This gathering is a good opportunity to rest from the daily hectic challenging work we left for a while, and also to be energized by the vim, vigor and vitality of all of you here. It gives me so much joy to meet again old friends and make new ones since the last gathering of international volunteers we had in UP Diliman in 2001.

Who among you have UNLI subscription?  Those who do can send text message call or surf all we want! Unfortunately for us volunteers, we are not UNLI.  We are limited.  We have limited resources, limited time, limited capabilities, limited knowledge.
Though we are limited human beings, we have an UNLI Creator who made us in His image and likeness, giving us a spark of Divine Intelligence and a Free Will. And with this dignity we will be able to transcend our limited condition.

In volunteering, our limited nature is transformed into UNLI acts of generous self-giving, loving response to varying needs of our country in different circumstances from uplifting the ordinary day-to-day life of our people to responding to emergencies and calamities.

Allow me to tell you some stories of volunteers I have met…

The youngest, Kim is a three-year old preschooler who would ask her parents to pick her up from school 30 minutes after dismissal time.  This is because she noticed that a classmate would always be picked up 30 minutes after class and would be crying until her mother arrives to bring her home. Our young volunteer thought of keeping her classmate company so that she will not feel alone and scared. Kim saw a little girl in need and volunteered to take care of her.

Alyssa is a 12 years old girl, a godchild of mine who graduated the other day.  She was given a special award for her concern and dedication for her school’s outreach projects.   She was the school’s biggest fundraiser for collecting newspapers regularly from family, friends and neighbors throughout her six years of schooling.

Violy, who many years ago, as a university student had an allowance from her DOST scholarship grant that could only afford her one meal a day, was invited by a classmate to help in a volunteer service project in Benguet.  There they made a footpath so kids can walk safely to school and back home.  They also fixed the rundown library and painted classroom walls.  A United Nations volunteer who was doing research on volunteerism in the Philippines dropped by the project site.  He interviewed some of the volunteers and was particularly taken by the story of the DOST scholar.  He asked what drew the girl to the mountains to do volunteer work.  “All my life, it was always me who needed help because I come from a poor family.  When I was asked if I wanted to sign up for this volunteer service project, for the first time I realized something I’ve never thought I’d be able to do: HELP OTHERS.”

Joseph, a young bachelor entrepreneur who has the luxury of studying abroad and travelling and managing their family business yet had a feeling of emptiness. And it is only when he has started volunteering that he found real joy and fulfillment. Now, he would often say, “I NOW HAVE A LIFE.”

 Lastly is my dear friend Carrie, 75 years old and sick with cancer yet she would often call me to ask for teaching assignments. She would come to classes with a beautiful bandana covering her head and a big warm smile to greet her students.  

Truly, volunteerism is an innate part of the psyche of each person. The desire to volunteer, to do acts of service for others, is inherent in human nature and that this inherent trait has to be harnessed to develop and grow, and at best, be nurtured, cultivated, encouraged, so that it can be developed to its maximum potential.  Man is endowed with talents and capabilities for use and sharing.  The more these capabilities are exercised, the more they are honed and perfected, the more it will become a way of life.

 This year’s National Volunteer Summit is a celebration of stories of lives transformed and meanings found by both the young, always young and forever young who invariably say that in giving of their time and talent to help others, they have received a lot more in return

That the summit's plenary and breakout sessions as well as the study tours and other activities aim to explore 10 different tracks for volunteer involvement – education, emergency preparedness, volunteer service innovation, among others – is an indicator that volunteers are everywhere, and that anyone can be a volunteer.

 My own personal involvement with formal volunteerism has started some 34 years ago. I say formal because many of us, even at an early age, have been aware of and have been responding to the needs of others.  As the saying goes, a volunteer will always be a volunteer:

I started PCDW in 1979 and DAWV in 1988, and with my husband Walter became chair couple of Educhild in 1985.

EDUCHILD is Education for the Upbringing of Children through parenting;

DAWV is Developmental Advocacy for Women Volunteerism aimed at empowering women;

The Philippine Foundation for the Cultural Development of Women give seminars to corporations on values formation, work ethics etc.; and

And the most recent initiative I set up is APBF is Alalay sa Pamilya at Bayan Foundation, which I want to present to you later.

All four foundations are inspired by the educational vision of St. Josemaria Escriva founder of Opus Dei focusing on the three coordinates:  (1) character formation, (2) freedom, and (3) family and the universal call to sanctification.  We deal with education based on values, the values cherished by our forebears based not only on what is legal but also on what is moral.  A writer friend told me that having the proper values and living them is the basis of character which is what is left when we strip ourselves of all material goods.

On this premise, the foundation of Alalay Sa Pamilya At Bayan Foundation were laid down through Campaign for Character Education Tenacity Program (CaChET).

APBF is Alalay sa Pamilya at Bayan Foundation established in 2008 to assist our public school community of students, teachers and parents.  Its vision:  A revival of the high moral and cultural values of the Filipino for the common good.  Its mission:  To assist schools and communities through CaCHET (Campaign for Character Education Tenacity) Program to form happy, enlightened and contributing members of society

We can see that in our lives as volunteers, we have limited opportunities BUT UNLI responses fueled by the generosity and love.  We have limited moments BUT we have UNLI memories.  We count on our very limitations because we have UNLI love.  And because of this, we are faced with UNLI horizons and we are promised UNLI fruitfulness.

May this National Volunteer Summit be a true celebration of the UNLI fruitfulness of volunteerism.

May the numbered years ahead of us bring UNLI happy memories of VOICE and of volunteerism.

My dear friends let us be life time 24/7 volunteers who serve UNLI in freedom, solidarity faith hope and love…UNLI in pursuing our projects and advocacies making small and big difference in the lives of others while enjoying UNLI fulfillment and happiness.


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