It’s important to tell the story of Gerald (Ge) Catapang who breaks the stereotypical mold of a call center agent which some of us might have in mind, that young people like him working in the BPO industry often spend their time and money on food and drinks with their friends in the office after work hours. The truth is, if we are on the other side of the fence we might not fully understand the difficulties they face in order to survive the demands of their work. In his case, it might surprise you that despite working a graveyard shift, Ge has an active and healthy lifestyle as a volunteer who also recently turned vegan.
Inspired to make a difference
His first visit to Payatas, Quezon City in his college days, where they fed malnourished children living with their family in a dumpsite, gave him the inspiration to do something in his own capacity to help the needy. He realized that there is always something one can share or do to help make a difference. “I want to be an example to others by sharing my time through volunteering. My conscience reminds me that I have to do it because I’m capable and it’s difficult to ignore an opportunity to make someone’s life better.”
In 2013, he discovered the iVolunteer website after seeking for volunteer opportunities online. He said he was thrilled at the straightforwardness of the website. “Before I found iVolunteer’s website, I sent a lot of e-mails to different NGOs to offer myself as a volunteer. However, most of them did not respond or required a lot of documents before I could start. With iVolunteer, I only needed to register once in the website, choose from the upcoming activities from various NGOs, and then count myself in with a click of a button.”
Sharing precious time
“Many times, I would go to an event right after night shift because most volunteer activities start in the morning or afternoon. The lack of sleep doesn’t bother me because I feel so energized meeting like-minded people who are passionate to help, and being greeted by children who are waiting for us to share our time with them.”
He considers the time he shares in volunteering as something that he wouldn’t trade for anything. Some of the regular activities he joins are organized by U! Happy Events and 2KK (Tulong sa Kapwa Kapatid), both of which are partner organizations of iVolunteer. U! Happy Events organizes fun learning activities for children such as those in orphanages, while 2KK offers tutoring and values-teaching to children in Payatas.
“The energy of the children keeps me motivated. I love it when kids recognize me when I return to tutor them. They’re all polite and I can see how effective the organizer is in molding their values. One of the kids named Chelo told me, ’Palagi mong suot ‘yang damit na ‘yan, Kuya. (You always wear the same shirt.)’ He was talking about my yellow iVolunteer shirt that I would always wear during our tutorial sessions. Simple things like that are priceless to me.”
Gerald with Chelo, one of of the beneficiaries of 2KK in Payatas. (and his Yellow iVolunteer t-shirt)
Active and responsible citizen
It’s beautiful to see how Ge’s passion to become an active and responsible citizen as a young volunteer has made an impact on his life choices and how he sees himself in the future. While he would rather spend his free time volunteering over watching movies or going to parties, he always invites his friends and colleagues to join him in volunteering. He uses the Facebook page he created for call center agents in the Philippines which has attracted a large following to post volunteering activities. He also considers himself as an animal rights activist and has started to go vegan this year.
Recently, when he had an opportunity to travel to Malaysia and Singapore, he found himself looking for volunteering opportunities during his short stay in order to get himself excited to travel by plane. He was accepted by a local NGO in Malaysia to tutor refugee kids from war-torn countries in the Middle East. “I would always tell the children that I tutor to do what we do as volunteers when they grow up. I would like them to have the heart and passion to help, to volunteer and improve the community where they belong. Every small contribution counts.”
2KK Tutorial Session in Payatas with Bogart The Explorer (center) who joined him in entertaining and teaching the kids
by Miko Mojica, iVolunteer Philippines