“Tales from the iVolunteer Team” is an ongoing series of personal stories from the team that runs the Philippines’ first volunteerism portal. Today’s post comes from Bel Padlan, the current Executive Director of iVolunteer Philippines.
Of Theories and Dreams: My iVolunteer Story
by Bel Padlan
I have a theory to which I will probably dedicate the next few years of my life proving (or disproving) — that every Filipino is inherently helpful and given the chance, he would want to contribute to the common good.
When typhoon Ondoy struck the country back in 2009, I was able to have many experiences at various relief operations centers across Metro Manila. I saw countless numbers of volunteers flowing in and out, carrying relief goods and monetary donations. There were even cases where volunteers could no longer be accommodated, due to the sheer number already filling the repacking hubs!
This told me two things:
- That I am probably right with my theory, and
- That it would be more effective if we can match the supply (of volunteers) with the demand (volunteer opportunities).
As an engineer by training and profession, I am used to testing theories and pairing data points together to come up with solutions. The natural solution to come out of the above realization then was a volunteer matching portal, where we can match the organization’s need based on skill, resource, number of people, interest, location, and time preference of volunteers.
When a few of my friends and I tried to search for groups in the Philippines with the same intent, we became acquainted with the “first generation” iVolunteer core team. (The story of the “first gen” founders deserves an article of its own; we can share more of that soon.) Eventually, the “first gen” passed the baton to us (the “second gen”) to renew the iVolunteer mission and vision, and modernize the platform in 2010. This was when the real work began on creating a team, developing a website, bringing in partner organizations to provide volunteer opportunities and lastly, on attracting volunteers to sign-up.
Now, aside from being a practical engineer, I am an Idealist. I am energized by the bigger picture, of what could be and how things should be. We question, “Why should iVolunteer exist?” and, “What can we do beyond the volunteer matching portal?” And this is when our Dream took form: we wanted to be a catalyst for a cultural revolution—to transform us into a country of volunteers. Thus our vision of “Every Filipino volunteering to build a better nation.”
People ask me, “How does iVolunteer see the future?”, and I always say that we’d like to see families and barkadas volunteering as their “bonding” activity, or to see couples having “volunteering dates” — a future where volunteering becomes a way-of-life and top-of-mind for every Filipino.
We dream of two miracles happening through volunteerism. The first miracle is when everyone, rich, poor, old, or young realize they can contribute to nation building; when their efforts, no matter how small, can collectively become big and transform the country. The second miracle is when every individual is transformed, internally, to be more caring and empathetic towards others through their volunteering experience, and by being so we create a citizenry with a strong sense of responsibility to others.
More than three years, 30+ partners, and over 1000 volunteers after, I am proud to say that iVolunteer is still run 100% by volunteers. While this may not be the best way for iVolunteer to grow in the future, I am proud that iVolunteer has been able to show and prove a few of our beliefs: 1) that passion coupled with action and done together as a team can effect a change, and 2) that collectively, our small contributions can be geared towards making something significant.
The iVolunteer journey continues on, and we still have plenty of work to do. What drives me everyday is the curiosity of knowing whether my theory is right or wrong, and the anticipation and wonder of seeing the dream becoming more and more real. Each and every day, a person like you who volunteers gives me one more reason to believe that the theory is right, one more reason to believe that the dream is real.
If you want to be part of the iVolunteer story, you may join by participating in our social media community, signing up for a volunteer event in our portal, or joining as an iVolunteer member.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign up to volunteer at http://ivolunteer.com.ph
A native of Davao City, Bel earned his undergraduate degree in Electronics & Communications Engineering from the Ateneo de Manila University. After graduation, he took the leap into the corporate world by working as a systems manager for Procter & Gamble. When he’s not traveling across the world for P&G or volunteering his heart out for his fellow countrymen, you can find Bel either swimming or playing badminton on the weekends.You can reach Bel directly at email@example.com.