iVolunteer Philippines is no stranger to challenges. In its 10 years, the team has faced a considerable amount of adversity and a few missed opportunities. Our journey is by no means perfect, but it’s been rewarding. And despite its difficulties, has been a steady source of inspiration for us and most people we’ve met along the way. Including the seven volunteer innovators who will start their journey with us today through our Social Innovation Challenge.
Taking the challenge
At the top of the session, JB Tan, Executive Director of iVolunteer, congratulated the participants for accepting the Social Innovation Challenge (SIC) and agreeing to lend a significant amount of their time in the next few months to hone themselves and their ideas, before they go out there and see how much impact they can make in our society.
iVolunteer Philippines, for its part, is here to offer our platform along with the collective knowledge of our staff and partners to help these innovators, who are volunteers themselves, to succeed and make their ideas come to life. Thus, the first day of SIC saw some of our leaders start the discussion by introducing our innovators to iVolunteer and the larger volunteer community we share with other non-profit organizations.
Aside from JB Tan, iVolunteer officers’ Judith Apolinario and Charmaine Espinas also helped set the tone for everyone by digging deeper into their whys and motivations. They encouraged them to not waver in front of early challenges and left them with a beautiful quote from Fr. Roque Ferriols that read, “Huwag mong tanungin kung mahirap, tanungin mo kung mahalaga.”
To close the day, Terri Jayme-Mora, country manager of Ashoka Philippines dropped by to talk about the importance of social impact, while also guiding our change-makers on how they can find their identity and purpose in the society.
Here are the seven social innovators that stepped up to take iVolunteer’s SIC:
Ethel De Borja
Ethel’s journey as a volunteer can be traced back to 2006, when she and her friends organized a fundraising bazaar for another one of their friends, whose wife had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Between then and 2017, she continued to help raise funds for calamity victims, while also donating her own money in the process.
In 2017, she founded Youth Enablers of Society (YES) to empower the next generation in becoming useful and progressive citizens. She initially thought of raising money for scholarships, her organization eventually gravitated towards providing psycho-social therapy for kids who lost their parents or guardians at a very young age. Ethel hopes to develop a system that will help these kids get past their harrowing experiences and grow to become active contributors in the society.
Justine believes that volunteering is one of the best ways to give back to the community. And for her, that means contributing in building an environment that “we all need and deserve.” She started joining outreach programs as a student and is currently a volunteer for her church and their community.
Her primary advocacies are environment, healthcare, women, and livelihood. To bring her passion to life, Justine is looking to start with projects like “Bokashi Composting,” which she champions as a sustainable means to minimize daily kitchen and food stand waste. She even plans to train women in small communities and also help procure composting kits for each household. Aside from waste management, she shared that the compost can also be used as fertilizer for urban vegetable gardening and more.
Bettina’s big idea is to create multi-functional facilities out of used transportation vehicles and abandoned spaces. A volunteer since college, Bettina’s already been involved with multiple organizations (e.g. Ligaya ng Panginoon & Urban Poor Associates) and has supported various advocacies in her journey.
This time, though, she’s looking to work with a group of multi-disciplinary individuals (e.g. engineers, architects, researchers) who are gearing towards projects for social impact. In doing so, Bettina hopes to answer the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN and also help in local community building and social development efforts.
Following 30 years of corporate work and 15 years of volunteering (e.g. Habitat for Humanity and several iVolunteer Philippines non-profit partners) experience, Cynthia decided it’s time to share more to the society. With projects like Soap for Hope™ and Clean the World™ as additional inspirations, she started looking for a simple solution that will address a universal & multi-faceted problem.
For her initiative, Cynthia is looking to build a system that will efficiently connect resources between companies/benefactors, communities, and universities in order to fuel micro-programs that will support various causes like financial empowerment of mothers, health and nutrition of young children, waste management programs, and learning camps for university students. By paying it forward, Cynthia hopes to make a difference and leave the world a better place than she found it.
John’s creative social idea is called AklaTahan (Akalatan sa Tahanan), a project that will aim to improve literacy and invite families to donate books and other used reading materials to their community. He imagines having a small library in front of a volunteer-house, with a book-borrowing system like the ones we see in a normal library.
On top of that, AklaTahan will also provide workshops for guardians and parents on how to effectively teach the kids, while also encouraging activities such as a community-reading day and a feedback system for participants. As a teacher and a volunteer, John believes that improved reading habits and intervention from the community would help the kids develop a genuine love for learning and reading.
In 2017, Michael had the privilege to lead a mental health forum for youth leaders in the country. The event hosted 800 attendees from schools and organizations in and out of Manila. Here, Michael realized that there’s still an opportunity to expand the conversation about mental health.
While he acknowledged that mental health care has to start with us looking after ourselves, he realized that even those who are aware of the problem aren’t that ready to support others. Even if some are already in a position to help their peers. Instead of being discouraged, however, Michael decided to take on the challenge and look at this void as an opportunity to further champion the importance of mental health to our society. Not surprisingly, drawing from his personal experiences and time as a volunteer for AIESEC.
William’s ‘big’ idea is geared towards addressing some of the common problems in our communities today, such as waste management, sustainable living, and housing. According to him, construction materials used today are mostly non-recyclable, which over time, has adverse effects to the well-being and resources of a typical Filipino family.
William hopes to see more households use re-usable materials which will elevate their living and moderate their expenses to a minimum. As member of the Filipino Inventors Society, he’s no stranger to seeing our social concerns from a different perspective. This time, though, he plans to act on those problems using his own patented invention.
Be a volunteer & explore new possibilities
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Photos by: Faye Sadiarin, iVolunteer Philippines.