Volunteerism has made such a significant impact in Gemma’s life that it has been ingrained in her personal life – her values and beliefs all point to sparking positive change. She has even initiated her own programs, such as her Be D.E.A.F. (Doing Extraordinary Actions Fulfillingly) project, a volunteer raising awareness workshop in Cagayan De Oro. Truly, Gemma is on a mission bigger than herself, and she plans to share her unyielding zest for service to anyone who is willing to join her in this journey.
In light of the upcoming elections, Gemma’s volunteering journey is truly a testament that anyone of us can spark change within our own communities as long as we have the humility and commitment to serve.
Defining Life Through Volunteerism
Hailing from South Cotabato, Mindanao, 26-year-old Gemma Ordoyo has already charted an extraordinary volunteering quest, both in her hometown and even within Manila. With her unwavering dedication, she was able to lead her own projects with the help of some of her friends and family members, as inspired by the many volunteer activities she has participated in. One project she headed was for the Special Deaf Youth of Cagayan De Oro, and another for the Minimum Security Inmates of New Bilibid Prison. She takes pride in these personal projects, as it keeps her passionate in sharing the spirit of volunteerism by engaging in initiatives she cares for.
Before she participated in different volunteering projects, Gemma was first part of Save the Children Philippines. Her involvement with them opened her eyes to her mission of serving others. She realized that sharing a part of herself gave more meaning to her life: “Dito ko pala makukuha ang depinisyon ko sa buhay.” And as a socially responsible citizen, she draws inspiration from the different stories of defeat and victory, colorful personalities, and the natural undiscovered beauty of the places she visits. For Gemma, there is a whole new world to learn about and discover beyond her own beliefs, thoughts, and community. She is now currently based home again in South Cotabato, and is an Online Social Campaigner – Volunteer of the M.A.D. (Making a Difference) campaign, particularly for their scholarship project. In every volunteering project she participates in, Gemma ensures she keeps the fire and passion burning in her.
The Extraordinary Journey
2015 has been a big year for Gemma, as it was the first time she headed her own personal projects, apart from participating in a number of volunteer activities. After joining the Youth Volunteer program of the Volunteer Service Overseas-International Citizen Service (VSO-IC), a 3-month immersion and training program, she strongly felt that volunteerism was going to be a major part of her life since then: “Dito nagsimula ang aking istorya bilang isang masaya at makahulugang volunteer.” Her first project, Be D.E.A.F. (Doing Extraordinary Actions Fulfillingly) – “Special Youth Volunteer Activity: Ipamalas at tumuklas para sa maasensong hinaharap!” taught her the importance of implementing sustainable projects.
Gemma also engaged in journalism work as an Event Volunteer for Rappler during their Civic Action Leaders awarding ceremony. She was given the chance to experience how it is like behind the camera — gathering information and dealing with different important personalities. It was also through her participation in the Citizen Disaster Response Center (CDRC) where she learned that in volunteering, there are no requirements and limitations. She shares, “Nakita ko na anuman ang iyong estado sa buhay, kahit ikaw ay bata o matanda, pati na rin may kaya o wala, ay pwede kang maglingkod at maglaan ng oras.” With Gemma’s curiosity and openness to learn, she was also chosen to be part of the APEC 2015 CEO Summit Philippines. Being part of the registration team gave her the opportunity to meet and welcome the different foreign dignitaries and businessmen—an experience that she will never forget. To add to her growing roster of volunteer work, she was also one of the 150 Filipino Youth who were a part of Greenpeace’s Young People’s Congress on Ecological Agrictulture.
And lastly, as an active participant of iVolunteer’s projects, she attended a handful of activities including visiting the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service at the New Bilibid Prison, where she re-discovered how each of us is loved by God equally, and how our shortcomings do not define us. This particular immersion deepened Gemma’s spiritual awareness and made her want to strengthen her faith in God. Other iVolunteer initiatives she joined were Tulong sa Kapwa Kapatid’s (2KK) teaching programs in Payatas, a program that she has been regularly active in. She also volunteered to assist in a project called Kusina ni Mang Urot in West Triangle, where they set-up a long table and serve food for anyone who would want to stop by and eat. Gemma is incredibly thankful for discovering iVolunteer’s website, which she finds very useful and easy to navigate. She fondly shared how technology nowadays is being creatively used to efficiently connect volunteers to the projects they want to participate in.
Accepting the Challenge
“Challenge yourself to change the world.” This is Gemma’s short but strong response to the question, “Why do you volunteer?” For Gemma, we are given daily opportunities to initiate change in our own ways, and being an active volunteer is a bold and significant step to being proactive in her mission to create improvements in her country, and eventually, the world. In addition, volunteering lets her enjoy her youth to the fullest – she is able to learn about herself, how she can further grow, and also from the different personalities whom she encounters. Her active involvements in civic and social activities offer a different sense of happiness and fulfillment. Such accomplishment is already enough for her, and she offers all these to God without the need to ask for anything in return.
When asked about her learning and realizations, she happily shared how being a volunteer is similar to being a hero, who is given the extraordinary responsibility to see the bigger picture and to implement actual change. “May choice din akong maging bulag sa social issues kaso hindi ko kayang isipin na wala man lang akong ginawa na makabuluhang bagay sa mundong ibabaw.” Gemma is among the growing number of awakened citizens who have realized that they do not need to be in power in order to stir action and invite others to do the same. And these activities need not be considered big or small, as any socially relevant initiative is a contribution to the common goal of changing mindsets and creating opportunities for improvement. Gemma also considers volunteering as a form of therapy – a food for the soul; she always feels enriched and alive every time she shares herself and talents. Most importantly, she learned how to appreciate whatever it is that she has now. Despite not having all the luxuries in life, she is blessed with a generous heart and the ability to make the most out of her resources.
A Catalyst for Change
Both God and her family have been Gemma’s constant sources of inspiration in pursuing the adventure-filled journey of volunteerism. She has always been thankful to God for constantly opening doors for her and providing her with the will to make the most out of these opportunities. Everyday, she is motivated by knowing she is learning and growing both as a volunteer and as a person.
As for inspiring others to join her in her mission, Gemma quotes Mahatma Gandhi’s famous line, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” She encourages each one to start with changing themselves, and then towards leading initiatives within and outside their community.
Gemma’s incredible volunteering journey is a testament to how a passion for service can truly create impactful change for both the community and the volunteer; from supporting specific initiatives one is passionate about, to growing into a more responsible citizen, the possibilities are limitless.
In our own journey towards becoming a better nation, we should not discount our ability and responsibility to partake in this whole process of rebuilding, by moving from a passive state to an active and participative outlook. Our daily practice of accountability becomes a constant reminder that we should not rely on the government alone; we ourselves should ensure that there is proper implementation and compliance of our laws. With all the resources available and our genuine will to serve, like Gemma, we can all lead our community to be responsible and pro-active citizens. The upcoming 2016 National Elections is one of those significant opportunities where together, our participation can change the future of our nation.
by Celina Baylon