Ten million hours for development

By Deanie Lyn Ocampo
iV Corner, Communities No.3

In Einstein’s Dreams, physicist-writer Alan Lightman narrates “…there are two times. There is mechanical time and there is body time. The first is as rigid and metallic as a massive pendulum of iron that swings back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The second squirms and wriggles like a bluefish in a bay.” 

Evidences of both times abound in the world of volunteers:

A volunteer sits in the office of the leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front in Davao del Sur with a rifle’s butt aimed at his belly. He tactfully presents the livelihood assistance program for the soldiers and their families. There is no need to gain their utmost trust within the next 30 minutes, or even before sun sets. He knows that time stretches into very difficult hours for people who live in armed conflict. Hope is a thin strand in the skein of many losses. It is best to patiently wait.

In Bohol, a volunteer uses time precisely. She teaches the farmers how to utilize artificial insemination in breeding cattle and carabaos. On these days, they prepare the frozen semen. At this minute, they collect the ovum. At this second, they inseminate. At this hour, they transfer the embryo. To increase productivity, the work is mechanical. The clock ticks to one year and the number of calves in Bohol (together with outputs of similar volunteer work in Cebu, Siquijor and Negros Oriental) increases to 1,000 more. It is best to count time mechanically here.

In both times, volunteers sense the urgency. They go to where they are needed for local or national development. For the moment they do not mind that development is a long-term process while their volunteer work is time-bound. They simply go to face the underweight children, the harried teachers, the trafficked women, and the dry land.
Time commemorates what is essential. In 2001, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed it as the International Year of Volunteers (IYV). The IYV 2001 promoted voluntary service more vigorously, facilitated and recognized volunteer work more enthusiastically, and built stronger networks more widely.

Next year, 2011, marks the tenth year following IYV 2001. How much have Filipino volunteers contributed to development during the past ten years?

According to the United Nations Volunteers’ Strategic Review of the Volunteer System in the Philippines in 2004, there has been no system that documented the volunteering activities through the years.

Because of this, the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) Philippines launches “IYV+10 Philippine Project: Ten Million Volunteer Hours” to recognize the quantitative contribution of Filipino volunteers for national-local development in the Philippines.

This project looks at the past and the future. It aims (1) to document at least 10 million hours of volunteer work during the past decade, and (2) to initiate the design of a national volunteering agenda for the next decade. It enjoins institutions from the academe, business, non-profit, and government sectors to document its volunteer engagement effort and to set the ways forward for volunteerism in the country.

The results of this first nationwide survey will give credence and added respect to volunteer effort, and clarify the economic impact of volunteers. It imputes the volunteers’ share to Philippine Gross National Product, to the Human Development Indices, to the Millennium Development Goals.

Then again, the value of volunteering is not all about mechanical time.

In Bicol, the volunteers conduct Science “magic shows” for the province’s school children to demonstrate several science principles in non-traditional ways. They organize stargazing nights on rooftops. Beginning at dusk, the telescopes bring the heavenly bodies closer to the children. Three hours after, the activity is done. But many months and years later, the children would remember the lessons from such evenings.

“Many important parts of life are immeasurable: the contributions volunteers give to their communities and environment, and the satisfaction you gain while making a difference. Intellectually, researchers may measure volunteer impacts, and thinkers on the sidelines may conceptualize it, but only active volunteers know the true value of volunteering,” reminds Brian Cugelman, architect of UN Volunteers’ http://www.WorldVolunteerWeb.org.

The year 2011 will mobilize many more volunteers, raise the profile of volunteering, and showcase the diversity of volunteering in the Philippines. It is time that volunteering comes again into focus.

Let us begin by documenting at least 10 million hours that Filipino volunteers have already given. For whether it is mechanical or body time, in Einstein’s Dreams, volunteers can “make a world in either time. Each time is true, (even if) the truths are not the same.”

*IAVE Philippines, formerly the Philippine Association for Volunteer Effort or PAVE, is a national network of volunteer managers and volunteer organizations in the country. It is affiliated with IAVE and its 50 member-countries and is represented in the IAVE International Board.  To participate in this project, please contact the Secretariat at T +2.727.8838, M +917.827.3124, E 10millionhours@gmail.com. The online survey will be accessible soon.

Philippine Copyright 2010


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