What was your favorite moment with iVolunteer Philippines?
“I can’t really say that there is that one fondest memory, I’d say that every interaction is a precious memory in itself,” shared Chum Espinas, who had been with the iVolunteer Philippines team since 2016. Her words (from the video) came at a night where interactions were abundant and appreciation was an overarching theme. So, who knows what new stories made it to her list? Or everyone else’s for that matter.
The traffic jam was a given on any Saturday night last month, but the rest of the 14th of December was unlike any other day for the iVolunteer staff. It was the end of a decade — and start of another. Three years is a long time… or not? But ten years is. Imagine what you can do in ten. What you can get. What you can lose. What you can give. Imagine how much can change and how much of it can start with you. Today, if you choose to.
More than just a website
Many of our followers know iVolunteer as “the” website or Facebook page. “But we’re not just a website,” Jan Bernard or JB would often say to the team or a handful of would-be volunteers. To be fair, sometimes the audience can extend to dozens or hundreds. But usually, it’s just two or four people asking “Ano si iVolunteer?” It was two when I joined.
Still JB Tan and Bel Padlan would often introduce iVolunteer to a crowd in the same way they would to a pair of strangers. You’d think it’s just them because they’ve been here from the start. But the staff, past or present, know why the organization exists. Not because there’s a trained response for it. But we just know — when you’ve been here, you’ll just learn what iVolunteer is and what it means to you.
Passion isn’t in my book right now. But I can call it when I see it. And pay respect to those who seek or embrace it. And I saw a great deal of that this year not just from the staff but also from the community that we support and vice-versa.
Sometimes, it almost seems like giving takes little to no effort, because someone we know managed to make it look easy. The reality, however, is that there will be days when even the best of us won’t have it. Not even the attitude for it. But when you’re volunteering alongside others, one of the things you’ll find is that “off days” won’t hit you as often and awful as those times when you’re out there on your own.
This isn’t to devalue what we can do individually, but to highlight what we can do together and what it means to have a support group and community like iVolunteer. Especially if the goal or cause is so much bigger than ourselves. For this, tama si JB: We’re not just a website.
Inspiring Everyday Heroes
What is an everyday hero, anyway? If it’s about being present when called upon, then I might be able to name a few iVolunteer monthly heroes. I might even make the list. But it’s not about answering a call, isn’t it?
The “everyday hero” isn’t a complicated idea. There are no strict qualifications either. In general, it’s someone who can do random acts of kindness or anything that can benefit society each day. Sometimes, it’s leaving a place better than you found it. Kahit sino o kahit nasaan ka. So, who is iVolunteer reaching out to? Every Filipino.
Thus, the organization, for the past ten years, have had this proud and ambitious goal of inspiring every citizen to volunteer and work together for a “Better Philippines” — one of the richest ideas I’ve heard in a long time.
“(The impact of iVolunteer) As a community, (is that) it can make each other realize that by asking and by connecting, you can actually do more great stuff.” — Sue Ann Sevilla, former iVolunteer Staff.
It’s a tall task, and that’s not lost on any of us. That’s why the organization is here and will be here for the foreseeable future. We know it needs a continuous effort, not just by those who are enlisted today, but also those who came before us, and countless others we’ve encountered along the way. If we’re going to make this nation better, then we’re going to need every help we can get. And while change may start with iVolunteer, it’s never meant to end here.
Ending the decade strong
So, how are we doing in terms of numbers? That’s a lot to breakdown, but here’s a recap from our Executive Director himself on how iVolunteer fared in 2019:
Since 2009, we’ve also managed to welcome 125,000 volunteers through our events and volunteer opportunities, and grow our presence on Facebook to 60K followers this year. Our website and Facebook remain our most accessible platforms, but beyond these tools, we believe in the impact off introducing every Filipino to the concept of volunteering, regardless of how we get to each and everyone of you.
Bel may have said it best in one of the forums where he shared our story. That technology is just a way to bring our cause and vision to more people. With or without it, there will be iVolunteer. It’s just going to be a lot harder for us to reach our goals. But surely, there will be volunteers.
A good example of how the digital age affects our strategy is the introduction Treasure Volunteering, our donation platform that was launched in late 2019. With this new feature on our website, we hope to encourage people to start looking at donations as a cumulative effort to drive change for the communities who need it most. For our nonprofit partners, this also serve as a new way to engage volunteers and call for support.
The iVolunteer staff also continues to transform new volunteers through micro-events like Start Your Adventure and Community Meetups. We also have volunteer days and dedicated events for our partners that keep our greater community engaged and trending towards growth. Also, since 2017, our BayaniRun: Advocacy Run have raised Php 218,000; Php 250,000; and most recently Php 300,000 respectively for our NGO partners.
Meanwhile, the Go! Volunteer Expo in 2016 and 2019 have reached a total of 40,000 people on foot while also making an impression to about a million people online. That kind of exposure isn’t just for iVolunteer Philippines, it’s shared by 300+ nonprofits and NGOs that use our website and take part in our events.
Let’s be honest, a lot can change from hereon in. Especially since a new year, a decade even, is upon us. All we’re hoping for, I guess, is that more of you can join us in the coming years and embrace volunteerism as a duty that we share as Filipinos. If we’re changing something, let’s consciously choose those that will make this country better.
Made by volunteers for volunteers
The iVolunteer Decade-Ender Celebration and Christmas Party last 14th of December hosted not just the current staff but also those who paved the way for us. It was a small gathering of people with different backgrounds, quirks, and personalities that shared the privilege of being part of iVolunteer.
It was special. You can tell just by the atmosphere, and how people who are meeting each other for the first time, are finding a bit of iVolunteer or themselves in their peers. It’s like a weird and wonderful collection of individuals whom have never met before but have somehow shared a common goal and achievement the past ten years.
The celebration was simple. There’s an introduction and short program. Bit of banter. Drinks. A short message from JB and Bel. A quick game. Everybody got to share their favorite iVolunteer moment with some of the people they got to spend it with. Then, more food and drinks.
The event, for most of us, wasn’t really a break from iVolunteer. It was part of the journey. We’re 100% volunteers. I’ll always be proud writing that line. But the in-betweens, I feel, hold some of the things that make the whole experience much more worth it.
The conversations. The appreciation or honest feedback. That tired but satisfying feeling you get after an event. The small wins we get online and offline, which can be a lot, occasionally. In one way, Chum was right. There’s no particular moment or person that immediately stands out. Because there’s value in almost everything.
However, if I had to choose, I probably have one or two that I keep for myself. But, hey, you know who else was right? That person who told me that this organization will endure regardless of who comes and goes. In a good way, we can all be replaced in our roles. Maybe not today, but eventually.
Truth be told, I’m not the best choice to wrap this decade up. For what it’s worth, it’s only been a year since I joined. Also, the next time someone does this for iVolunteer, there’s a good chance that it’ll be someone else, and that person may or may not be quoting any of us as active members.
Everything changes. And if we choose to, we can make sure that those changes are for good. I mean, just imagine what you can do alongside people with the same intent. Imagine — or rather, take a chance and make it happen. See what you can do in ten.