A lot would associate number 13 with bad luck and negative energy. But iVolunteer Philippines is proudly celebrating its 13th year anniversary this September. The organization is now entering its teenage years, and this is definitely a cause for celebration. Another year has gone by to mark the persistence and dedication of volunteers with a passion that transcends even the worst of the catastrophes. What better way to celebrate than to look back at the important milestones that iVolunteer has gone through throughout the years.
Readers, we are taking you on a trip down the memory lane.
September 26—Metro Manila was hit by Typhoon Ondoy (international name Ketsana) which left the capital in shocking devastation. In a span of 12 hours, Ondoy poured a month’s worth of rain, thereby flooding at least 34% of Metro Manila. This resulted in the death of 464 people, the suffering of almost 5 million people and the destruction of around 11 billion worth of agriculture and infrastructure.
So, why are we reminiscing on this tragedy?
Because Ondoy gave birth to the iVolunteer vision.
The destruction brought by this typhoon led to an instant rise in volunteerism—people scrambling to help in whatever ways they can. Relief operations from individuals and organizations came about, with mainstream organizations having more volunteers than needed while lesser-known organizations were struggling with manpower and donations. Seeing an opportunity to create a more organized volunteer system, Bel Padlan, JB Tan and Hazel Javier, the founders, had a vision of creating a volunteer portal where volunteers could easily check for available opportunities. At that time, the working name of the organization was Bayan-in-Hand.
The idea was pitched to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the agency agreed to support the organization. This was a year of planning, of trying to understand how to transform that vision into concrete action plans.
Only a few know this but the original iVolunteer—as we call it—was founded and inaugurated in 2001 during the Year of Volunteers. At that time, iVolunteer had a different set of founders and members. But in 2011, Bel Padlan of Bayan-in-Hand got in touch with Deanilyn Ocampo of the original iVolunteer. Within the same year and after thorough discussions, the core members of the original iVolunteer agreed to hand over the brand to the Bayan-in-Hand team.
That was the birth of iVolunteer as we know it now. The first set of founding members were appointed with Bel Padlan as the Executive Director.
People ask me, “How does iVolunteer see the future?”, and I always say that we’d like to see families and barkadas volunteering as their “bonding” activity, or to see couples having “volunteering dates” — a future where volunteering becomes a way-of-life and top-of-mind for every Filipino.
~ Bel Padlan, Co-Founder & Executive Director (2010-2014)
The first fundraising activity of the new iVolunteer—or just iVolunteer moving forward—was a rummage sale in Bel-air Makati. It was conducted to support the development of the new website that would support a grander vision for iVolunteer as a tech NGO. In the same year, iVolunteer had its first speaking engagement where the founders shared how technology could be used to help NGOs.
The new logo—the one that’s still being used now—was officially launched on Facebook. The website was also relaunched with new capabilities to allow volunteers and organizations to register and create their account within the portal. In the same year, the organization launched the first campaign called “Enough Excuses”.
On the events side, iVolunteer participated in its first disaster relief operations through DSWD, and launched the first Volunteer Day event with Green Earth Foundation. The latter was an initiative to know more about the advocacies and operations of a chosen NGO, with the goal of understanding how iVolunteer could come in to help. After that first run, this was followed by Volunteer Days with Project Pearls and He Cares Foundation.
Finally, on February of this year, iVolunteer was officially registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
On May 31 of this year—11 months from the launch of the new website—iVolunteer reached 1,000 registered users. By September, the iVolunteer blog was launched to share stories of volunteerism in the hopes of making more people understand what it’s like to be volunteers.
iVolunteer also had its first major partnership, and it was with Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan. The goal was to create an information hub and recruit for election watchdogs. During the 22 days that the program ran, iVolunteer was able to engage 350 volunteer tele-educators. Another major partnership was with Asia America Initiative for a Peace Mural Painting in EDSA. In total, around 1,500 participated to create the mural and 826 of those were gathered by iVolunteer.
Before the year ended, the first Community Meet Up (CMU) was organized to create an opportunity for volunteers coming from the website to volunteer together with the members of iVolunteer.
In the second quarter of this year, iVolunteer partnered with MMDA and Gawad Kalinga to help rebuild the communities affected by Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan). Like Ondoy, this was another massively destructive typhoon that hit Visayas in November of the previous year. For this campaign, around 500 volunteers were gathered by iVolunteer.
To further the reach, the team also participated in several radio station interviews and the iVolunteer’s Youtube channel was launched as another avenue to talk about volunteerism. The organization also started thinking of long-term strategies, and it was this year that the following organization values were officially established: Integrity, Professionalism, Inclusivity, Nationalism and Change Leadership. iVolunteer started conducting orientations for new members, and internal team building activities to strengthen the organization from the inside.
By Christmas season, the Operations Christmas Elf was launched to grant the wish list of select partner NGOs. It’s a campaign to get volunteers to donate in order to help grant the wishes of partner organizations. These NGOs would then channel the donations to their respective adopted communities.
From April to June, iVolunteer campaigned for Summer Volunteerism in partnership with Brigada Eskwela. This was a campaign to get volunteers to clean classrooms, repaint blackboards and repair furniture in 5 public schools in 4 different areas (Quezon City, Valenzuela, Batangas and Ilocos).
The Partners’ Meetup was launched this year to create an avenue for iVolunteer members and partner NGOs to come together to network and inspire each other.
The major fundraising event this year was a movie screening of Hunger Games: Mockingjay. Also, this year, iVolunteer partnered with Ayala for the Operations Christmas Elf.
The year started with a bang with Go! Volunteer Expo, the biggest volunteer expo in the country. It was a 2-day weekend event held at the Glorietta Activity Center. People could come and visit to get to know the different partner NGOs, and to understand what kind of volunteer opportunities they offer. Around 20,000 people visited the expo, 28 NGOs participated and 1,136 volunteers signed up for volunteer activities during that weekend.
The Go! Volunteer Expo paved the way for iVolunteer to win its first ever award. The Philippine Rice Bowl Startup Award recognized iVolunteer’s Go! Volunteer Expo for winning the Best Campaign category. The Philippine Rice Bowl award is the local version of the ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards, which intends to recognize the impact of startups. That an NGO bested the other nominees, including Zalora (an e-commerce startup), was indeed a huge surprise and a big breakthrough for the organization.
To participate in the national election and in recognition of the importance of the government in nation-building, iVolunteer partnered with PPCRV to get volunteers for parallel counts of election returns. Members from iVolunteer also volunteered to watch the votes.
Start Your Adventure (SYA) was launched this year. It’s a seminar designed for newbies in volunteering, in order to help them navigate their way to a good volunteer experience. During the year, 3 SYA seminars were conducted with a total of 68 attendees.
Another major milestone this year was the launch of BayaniRun, an advocacy run that allows volunteers to run for their chosen advocacy and select a partner NGO to support. This was attended by around 600 registered runners, and around 200k worth of donations were forwarded to NGO partners.
The first corporate partnership started with a partnership with IBM. Over 250 students and teachers were trained for disaster preparedness, and around 22 volunteers were sourced from IBM.
In the middle of this year, Time Please was launched in Glorietta in partnership with Globe, Disney and National Youth Commission. The goal was to encourage volunteering as a family or as a group. It ran for 4 months and the group with the most volunteering hours within that period would be sent to Hongkong Disneyland. Time Please culminated with over 22 million volunteer hours, including Gawad Kalinga and Red Cross. The group who won was from Bukidnon, and they garnered 206 volunteer hours during the program.
Events launched in previous years continued such as SYA, BayaniRun and Partners’ Meetup. Volunteer and partner trainings continued in order to strengthen the organization from inside and out, and to ensure that the services offered to the volunteers would keep on improving as time goes on.
This year marked iVolunteer’s 10th year anniversary. This was the year that the Social Innovation Challenge (SIC) was launched. This program lasts for a few months and was intended to help the more experienced volunteers to further their impact. During SIC, workshops and trainings were conducted to help participants concretize their innovative plans. This culminated in the following year, with Michael Fua from the First Help Initiative (advocacy for mental health), as the winner.
In the same year, the treasure volunteering capability of the iVolunteer website was officially launched. This enabled volunteers to donate via the iVolunteer website. It gave volunteers a new avenue to help, recognizing that giving treasures is just as impactful as giving time.
With the pandemic drastically changing the volunteer landscape, iVolunteer shifted from physical volunteering to virtual volunteering activities. Externally, campaigns were launched to push for it and make people understand how virtual volunteering works. Internally, iVolunteer had to coordinate and get in touch with partner organizations as they too tried to figure out how to shift their operations from physical to virtual space.
DestiNasyon: Finding Your Advocacy, a virtual volunteer talk, was launched this year to celebrate the International Volunteer Day. The first batch of iVolunteer Champions were recognized and awarded during this talk. These champions are volunteers from different walks of life, who were nominated by their peers and screened by iVolunteer based on iVolunteer’s core values: Integrity, Professionalism, Inclusivity, Nationalism, and Change Leadership.
This year, the Operations Christmas Elf was rebranded as the iVoluntree. At the essence, it’s still the same where iVolunteer uses its platform to grant the wish of select partner NGOs.
Bayani Learning Series was launched. It’s a 6-month NGO capability program designed to help partner NGOs adapt to the new normal. This includes leadership trainings.
Different Tara events were also launched. These are skill-based volunteer opportunities that were perfect for virtual volunteers. Tara! Code Tayo was launched to get volunteer programmers, Tara! Sulat Tayo was launched to get volunteer writers, and Tara! Design Tayo was launched for designers / artists.
Another major milestone this year was the launch of the gamified Tara! Volunteer Tayo (TVT). The website upgraded the user experience by allowing volunteers to get points every time they attend a volunteer opportunity or they donate through the treasure volunteer portal. During the TVT campaign, the top volunteers for the month in terms of points were recognized and awarded. This was a way to showcase the “fun side” of volunteering.
Whereas in 2020, the challenge was to shift from physical to virtual, the challenge this year was to go back to physical volunteering. While in truth, virtual volunteering is a good avenue to volunteer, it is undeniable that a lot of the volunteering events are best done in person. This includes tree planting and clean up activities, feeding programs and tutorial sessions. Campaigns in the middle of this year focused on encouraging physical volunteering, in light of more relaxed restrictions. Internally, coordination with partner NGOs were done to ensure that protocols that would safeguard safety would be put in place.
For the first time since the pandemic, iVolunteer met some of the partner NGOs, through a hybrid Partners’ Meetup. During this meetup, stories of struggle and resilience were shared, to inspire each other to relentlessly push on in spite of all the challenges.
Tara Basa Tayo campaign was launched to revamp the iVolunteer blog where volunteer stories and iVolunteer events are being continuously shared. The Payday Share campaign was also launched to encourage more treasure volunteers. But apart from these online campaigns, iVolunteer is also preparing for regional expansion. A few months ago, iVolunteer posted for a Community Researcher in Davao that could help the organization expand to that area. For the rest of the year, iVolunteer is gearing up for Destinasyon and iVoluntree.
The trip down the memory lane ends there. But the journey of iVolunteer goes on.
The vision that started out with the typhoon Ondoy remains alive to this date, in spite of all the tragedies and challenges that were faced. iVolunteer is still 100% run by volunteers. The website has over 140,000 registered users and there are currently more than 400 partner NGOs. As technology continues to drive changes in various aspects of life, iVolunteer will keep on evolving to encourage more people to volunteer.
Written by: Lorraine Rañoa, iVolunteer Philippines
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