Volunteer Champion: Making a Mark with Mark Jacinto, OSYAF Founder

The search for Volunteer Champions is an annual event organized by iVolunteer. It recognizes volunteers who exemplify the organization’s core values: Integrity, Professionalism, Inclusivity, Nationalism and Change Leadership. These volunteers are inspirations of hope and action. They are living proofs that everyday heroes exist.

For many people, the pandemic was a seemingly endless nightmare, a series of tragedies with no definite end in sight. But our Volunteer Champions continuously show us that there is always hope, that good things can come from bad situations. The second installment in our Volunteer Champion series will show us hope amidst this crisis.

Our Volunteer Champion for Integrity is Mark Jacinto, a 26-year-old youth leader, currently taking up Masters in Public Administration. In spite of his own personal challenges during the pandemic, Mark selflessly offers his time and skills to push for sustainable development, and to empower the youth to actively contribute in nation-building. Volunteers like Mark, who champion integrity, are those who selflessly give their time to improve the community, are upright and show consistent and uncompromising adherence to their principles and values.

Mark is the Founder and Curator of the Online Sustainable Development Goals Youth Action Forum (OSYAF), an online youth community that was established during the pandemic. Currently, it has around 25,000 active members, both local and international. This community connects and educates youth leaders and organizations in support of the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are global goals that UN defines as the “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. In essence, these goals direct us to a future where there would be a balance between three important dimensions: economic, social and environmental. We cannot resolve poverty without acting on inequality and climate change because society is a complex mix of so many linkages.

Apart from OSYAF, Mark is also the Club Information and Communications Officer (CICO) of Rotary Club Midtown Quezon City where he spearheads sustainable projects that help with community development. He is also involved in other projects, initiatives and organizations, consistently devoting his time and skills for sustainable development and youth empowerment.  

WHERE IT ALL STARTED

Mark started his volunteer journey in college when he was exposed to different organizations, doing volunteer work and managing projects. After college, he became more involved in SDG-related projects, mostly as a speaker during forums and conferences. He is motivated by the idea that he gets to develop youth leaders while also learning and developing himself along the way.

“I hope we realize that volunteering is a sense of learning from each other.”

When the pandemic struck the Philippines in March 2020, and most of us were grappling with unparalleled disruptions, Mark instead saw an opportunity to establish OSYAF. Seeing how the pandemic stalled the SDG initiatives inspired him to create an online platform to continue with his advocacy. Later on, when he became an officer in Rotary Club, he applied his knowledge on the SDGs to push for sustainability, to implement projects that put importance on the community’s long-term growth.

WHERE THEY ARE NOW

Online SDG Youth Action Forum (OSYAF)

OSYAF facilitates discussions and sharing of skills, with the intent to develop and inspire the youth to collectively work towards achieving the SDGs. Mark believes that development starts from within, and hence, the push for SDGs starts with having more skilled leaders. He believes that sustainable development is all about continuous learning, people learning from each other.

Purpose for Impact and Better Me, Better We are two of the workshops organized by OSYAF. The former was designed to guide college students in finding and acting on their life purpose. More technical workshops include effective coaching, introduction to parliamentary procedures and how to register to SEC and YORP.

Mark considers the Philippine Festival Youth Action (PFYA) as one of his most memorable projects. It was a week-long project done in partnership with different youth organizations. During this festival, they conducted a panel discussion on the power of voting, an online quiz to test the youth’s knowledge on SDGs, and many other activities. For Mark, it was both challenging and fulfilling to successfully manage different leadership styles, advocacies and priorities.

Rotary Club Midtown Quezon City

Rotary Club Midtown Quezon City is part of a global organization that brings together business and professional leaders in order to help people and communities.

As an officer of this club, Mark applied his extensive volunteering and leadership experience to spearhead sustainable projects such as SCRAPANGARAP and EduKatutubo. In SCRAPANGARAP, they collected scraps and transformed them into recycled plywood. They were able to collect more than 3,000 kilos of scraps, which they used to create a learning hub for the Dumagat-Remontados tribe in Rizal. This hub is part of their EduKatutubo project that aims to provide a safe space for community discussions and education.

WHERE WILL THEY GO FROM HERE

OSYAF is celebrating its second-year anniversary this month, still going strong in their quest to use the online platform to inspire on-ground activities. Rotary Club will continue with sustainable projects that help develop communities. But knowing the uncertainty of the pandemic, Mark is focusing on integrating flexibility in their plans. He also intends to use his knowledge from his master’s class to further his advocacy, primarily through OSYAF and Rotary Club.

While the pandemic indeed created so much disruptions, Mark is thankful that it fast-tracked the move towards online platforms. This shift effectively made volunteering more convenient because people can now volunteer even at the comforts of their home.

MARK AS A VOLUNTEER CHAMPION

As a Volunteer Champion, Mark showed us selfless dedication towards his advocacies. He didn’t allow the pandemic to derail him, but instead, he found a different avenue to continue volunteering. He created a culture of knowledge-sharing, of encouraging leaders to use their skills to develop the youth and the community that they serve.

Mark believes that volunteering is not a one-way street where volunteers get nothing in return. Every volunteer opportunity is an opportunity to develop oneself. Pursuing volunteer works that are aligned with one’s personal development goals is the best way to make volunteering sustainable and meaningful. That said, he encourages future volunteers to start small, and grow from there.


“I believe, we can start small. Hindi natin kailangan maging leader agad, hindi natin kailangan magkaroon ng big projects. We can be volunteers even in our own little ways, even in our own homes.”

~ Mark Jacinto, 2022

Written by: Lorraine Rañoa, iVolunteer Philippines

Photos from: Mark Jacinto, OSYAF & RCMQC

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