Volunteer Champions are ordinary individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary contributions to their advocacies. Since 2020, iVolunteer has been recognizing Volunteer Champions who embody the organization’s core values: Integrity, Professionalism, Inclusivity, Nationalism and Change Leadership. The 2020 Volunteer Champions, the pioneer batch, represent hope amidst the chaos of the pandemic. They are proof that even in the darkest times, hope is never lost.
Ruel Visca, the 2020 Volunteer Champion for Professionalism, has been an elementary public school teacher for more than a decade now. His passion for teaching and empowering the youth has gone beyond the confines of the classroom, far beyond the students he was tasked to teach. Volunteers like him, who champion professionalism, go beyond what is expected of their given role and exceptionally deliver their duties and commitments, all while showing respect for their advocacy, their peers and the community that they serve. To this end, Ruel’s contribution to the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation has been integral in supporting the organization’s goal of ensuring that there will be no child left behind.
The Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation (YBHF) is a nationwide non-profit organization that aims to uplift the lives of children in need. While their programs primarily focus on providing education, YBHF also initiates livelihood programs for their adopted communities. They believe that helping families have a better source of income is a huge part of helping children gain better access to education.
In 2016, when YBHF expanded all the way to Romblon, Ruel took the challenge of becoming YBHF’s co-lead implementer for the Romblon Chapter.
Adopt-a-Fisherman is YBHF’s first project in Romblon, and its success was what inspired Ruel to truly become part of this organization. This program of YBHF aims to provide paddle boats to fishermen beneficiaries to support their livelihood. At that time, Ruel was given the task of looking for donors and beneficiaries for 100 paddle boats. He would fondly recall that one of the chosen beneficiaries was a fisherman with a physically-disabled child who wanted to continue studying. Knowing that the additional source of income would help families like them became a strong driving force for Ruel to continue with YBHF’s mission within Romblon.
In 2020, when the pandemic created massive disruptions all over the world, Ruel initiated the Hope in a Box Movement with the help of Doc. Anton Mari Lim, the co-founder of YBHF. It started as a simple project that eventually expanded until it became a full-fledged organization under the guidance of YBHF.
When the pandemic forced children to stay at home, Ruel thought of an idea of providing a means for kindergarten children to continue learning within the safety of their homes. With the help of fellow teachers and other volunteers, he collected shoe boxes and filled those boxes with school supplies, learning kits and activity sheets. This was the birth of Hope in a Box (HIAB).
They initially started with just 10 volunteers for 30 beneficiaries within Romblon. To date, they have more than 300 volunteers for more than 5,000 beneficiaries across the country. Seeing its effectiveness in supporting children during the pandemic, volunteers from other parts of the country started copying this concept. This was adopted in Palawan, Bohol, Mountain Province and even in Rizal.
Last June, HIAB celebrated its second anniversary with more volunteers and more projects. From a simple project of providing boxes with learning materials, HIAB has expanded to included other activities that would support the communities that they serve.
Last year, they partnered with different organizations to raise funds and purchase six Oxygen Concentrator Machines that were donated to hospital beneficiaries. Some of their more regular activities include Reading Buddy (assistance in teaching kids to read), Community Bookshelf (easily-accessible libraries), Slippers of Hope (slippers donations), Spoonfuls of Hope (feeding program) and Seeds of Hope (farming assistance to farmers). To continuously expand and serve more people, HIAB has been actively recruiting and encouraging the youth to be part of their mission.
As lockdowns ease and classes are slowly going back to normal, HIAB launched a new project called “Project Isang Daan”. They are currently raising funds to provide school kits for beneficiaries in partner schools within Romblon. This is a way to warmly welcome kids as they go back to school after a prolonged period of remote learning. The school kits that will be donated will help these kids improve their grades, their creativity and even their self-image.
Ruel’s volunteer journey is nothing short of admirable. YBHF has come a long way in their advocacy with the help of people like Ruel who ensure proper implementation of projects within their jurisdiction. But more than that, Ruel’s HIAB is an example of how good things can come from bad circumstances. HIAB has become more than what Ruel imagined it to be, and more youth volunteers are coming in to become part of it.
Being on top of YBHF in Romblon and HIAB, and balancing these with a full-time profession are ingredients for a crazy schedule. Ruel admits that being a volunteer is indeed a tiring endeavor and that time management is one of the most prevalent issues. But he perseveres because he finds meaning in seeing the joy that their programs bring to their beneficiaries and the sense of fulfillment that youth volunteers get when they volunteer. Indeed, he embodies professionalism, one who exceptionally delivers on his commitments even when things don’t necessarily go as planned. In these trying times, volunteers like him keep hope alive.
Written by: Lorraine Rañoa, iVolunteer Philippines
Photos from: Ruel Visca, Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation
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