Volunteering, a Different Kind of Romance

Many of us are searching for true love—a soulmate who will make us feel complete in a world that’s ever-changing. But love is a vast enterprise. It’s more than the giddy emotions we have when we see our crushes and more than the palpitations we feel on our first kiss. In limiting our view of love, we forget that true love comes in various forms, and that service is love in its truest form.

Jb Tan, a founder and the current executive director of iVolunteer, willingly shares with us his volunteer journey—and it’s just as unique and as special as everyone’s story is. His is a story of growth, of learning, and of passion just like our very idea of romance.

No Such Thing as a Wrong Beginning

Contrary to what most would expect, Jb didn’t have any life-changing epiphanies or sudden change of heart. Rather, his volunteer evolution started as an incidental result of his desire to develop himself.

Back when he was 12 years old, he was a typical shy kid who forced himself to be part of various activities in an effort to gain more confidence. He became an active member of different school-based initiatives and parish activities, as a news editor, parish reader, choir member, and even a cadet officer. In all these things, he was chasing after experience and self-development. Knowing that he was doing something good was just an added bonus.

Eventually, and mostly due to the teachings of the parish, Jb created the Love Ministry of Filipino Chinese Catholic Youth (FCCY) St. Peter Chapter when he was in high school. He described it as an outward expression of faith, focusing on the value of sharing rather on spiritual practices. This group spearheaded art studies for kids and outreach programs to nearby orphanages.

During his early college days, Jb initially decided to live a quiet university life. However, in his third year of college, peer pressure landed him in yet another socio-civic committee. Like “Love Ministry”, this group also initiated various volunteer activities to encourage people to help. As a committee composed primarily of computer science students, they also aimed to teach basic computer literacy to the youth.

Jb’s volunteer evolution—that took years in the making and had no definite turning point—is a testament that it doesn’t matter if we start volunteering for personal reasons. In allowing ourselves to experience first-hand the joy of volunteering, we gain a deeper understanding of our society—the poverty, the daily struggles, and the little ways by which our combined efforts somehow alleviate lives.

Truly, there is growth in volunteerism. In time, it will inspire us to become better people, not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

Failing, Learning, and Thriving

Jb’s volunteer journey had many successes and failures along the way. Hard decisions and painful lessons became a way of life. But true love is always worth fighting for, and it never fails to leave us stronger than ever.

Due primarily to lack of long-term planning, Jb’s socio-civic committee in college eventually died when their batch graduated. As he was searching for organizations and initiatives to be part of, he realized what a fragmented society we live in. Both public and private sectors are still far from truly understanding the essence of building a community. There are many sporadic charity events that provide short-term assistance but fail in producing long-term growth. There are also countless willing volunteers out there, but they don’t know where to go and they lack the guidance they need to grow.

The birth of iVolunteer as we know it now came to be when Ondoy (or Ketsana internationally), one of the most destructive typhoons in recent Philippine history, struck the country in 2009. During that time, calls for help were coming in at a dizzying magnitude and people were clamoring to help in whatever ways they could. However, the problem was that the well-known relief operations managed by big organizations were overflowing with volunteers, while the smaller ones were suffering from severe lack of manpower.

With all those issues in mind, Jb—with Bel Padlan, a co-founder of iVolunteer—decided to create a portal that would bridge the information gap between volunteers and organizations.

But the creation of the website was only the beginning; the tip of an iceberg. They needed to work on marketing their website, answering legitimacy issues, addressing volunteer safety concerns, and pooling like-minded partner organizations. They were met with failures and heartaches along the way but they thrived on.

To date, iVolunteer has around 60 members and more than two hundred partner organizations. It goes to show that there is always something positive even in the midst of failures and tragedies, and that passion will always be stronger than our strongest foe.

Generous Gifting of Time and Effort

Jb is just an ordinary individual who loves traveling and listening to the rhythmic sound of sea waves. Like all of us, he is in a constant struggle to manage his time—balancing his time between iVolunteer, family, friends, dating, and full-time employment. And in spite of all the media guesting he’s been invited to, the talks he has to deliver and the countless people he has to deal with on a daily basis, he considers himself a perfect introvert—whatever that means.

Volunteerism calls ordinary people to a love of the purest kind. Volunteering is in the sincerity of giving and the simple gestures that mean a lot. The most important thing is the generous gifting of time and effort.

We are all looking for a place in this world, and a love that will anchor us in all of life’s battles. But sometimes, love is already right in front of us but we fail to recognize it as such. We hope that in your quest for romance, growth and a meaningful existence, you will discover that there is also true love in volunteerism.

Service is indeed a different kind of romance, and iVolunteer—with Jb as a leader—hopes to bring that kind of love closer to everyone.

Lorainne Rañoa, iVolunteer Philippines

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