iVolunteer Stories: Giving One’s Spirit through Volunteerism

But the truth is, need knows no season. Helping does not just start and end in one day. Volunteering means supporting others not only because it’s Christmas, it’s your birthday, it’s the height of a tragedy, or it’s Thanksgiving. For me, this is a commitment—a chance to inspire souls, and a lifetime opportunity of giving one’s spirit, not just of material things.

-Kate Benitez

May 24, 2014 was the date I imagined to spend volunteering. I knew that with the help of new friends from iVolunteer Philippines, my objective of making this day special would be fulfilled.

What actually happened that morning was amazing. I only had one hour of sleep when I went to the meet-up place straight from work. While I was waiting in front of Manila Hotel for Olenny (my contact from iVolunteer), I was approached by Rex, who just sensed that I was waiting for the rest of the volunteers who were bound towards Helping Land, Tondo, Manila to join Project Pearls’ feeding program for 200-250 underprivileged children from the area. So while waiting, he and I talked about the team and the planned activities for that day. One by one, fellow volunteers showed up and we gathered under a tree making introductions, until it was time for us to head to our destination.

We finally arrived at our destination. Our group walked along the slum community until we reached the activity area located at one end of the garbage dump site. Some of the wonderful people from Project Pearls were already there and started the program. Each of us from iVolunteer Philippines introduced ourselves to the kids, all perky and warm, and then Mana started her storytelling session. JB had a puppet-crafting session afterwards, which got us much closer to the kids as we immersed ourselves through the activity.

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Olenny and I were assigned to a group of children and led them in making the bird puppet. Suddenly, one of the little girls named Jonabel asked me, “Ate Kate, it is your birthday, right?”, and I answered, “Yes!” Then the sweetest thing happened. Jonabel gave me this colourful bracelet made of rubberband, which I’m guessing she made herself. She and her friends greeted me, “Happy Birthday Ate Kate! This is for you!” My heart leapt and I was deeply moved with gratitude for their thoughtfulness and generosity, as I accepted the rainbow loomband.

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So we continued the puppet-making until it was time for us to show our work to the big group for the judging. We won 3rd place and were still happy knowing that we worked together to form the bird puppet using colored cartolina, scissors, a barbecue stick, and a string. That was one hard pattern to follow but we achieved the goal! J

What followed was the food and clothes-giving by the sponsors of Project Pearls. Upon exit, the children each received a piece of cupcake. Once again, Jonabel and her friends made their way towards us and asked us to come back and spend another day with them. Yes, that was another touching moment.

The outreach effort event ended around lunchtime and the iVolunteer team hailed a jeepney back to that tree across Manila Hotel. Each of us shared our insights, comments, and enlightening thoughts to the rest of the group. We talked about improvements, poverty, and waste, factors that contribute to this kind of culture, as well as plans and initiatives to help address the issues.

Actually, May 24, 2014 marked my 31st year of existence in this world. My birthday was indeed memorable. But the truth is, need knows no season. Helping does not just start and end in one day. Volunteering means supporting others not only because it’s Christmas, it’s your birthday, it’s the height of a tragedy, or it’s Thanksgiving. For me, this is a commitment—a chance to inspire souls, and a lifetime opportunity of giving one’s spirit, not just of material things.

And it had been a great day indeed, for seeing the zest and energy of like-minded individuals all working and serving towards a vision of a better world will definitely shape a brilliant future for others, even in little ways. I am deeply thankful, totally inspired, and so blessed to have participated in this event.

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