Every year, iVolunteer recognizes outstanding volunteers as iVolunteer Champions. These Champions were selected because they exemplify the organization’s core values of Integrity, Professionalism, Inclusivity, Nationalism, and Change Leadership. The Volunteer Champion blog series is a way to showcase the volunteer journey of these inspiring individuals.
Our 2022 iVolunteer Champion for Integrity is Laica Bagnes, a 24-year-old youth leader who is currently working as a Development Worker. She took up Bachelor of Arts in Communication at Kolehiyo ng Lungsod ng Lipa. Her passion for serving the community through leadership encouraged her to create a platform that would help inspire the youth to be leaders.
Last year, she was also selected as one of the top 5 Global Youth Summit Alumni named Safe Space Hero. Volunteers like Laica, who champion integrity, are those who show consistent adherence to their principles while dedicating their time and ability to help communities in need.
“Volunteering for us is “nakakapagod na pahinga”…because we are doing a lot as well in our personal lives and personal errands but at the same time, we also allot time for volunteering.”~ Laica, 2023
Laica is one of the founders of Youth for Youth, a youth-led, non-profit, and volunteer-led organization that aims to empower the youth and their communities through community development projects and programs. This organization was established during the pandemic, originally as a passion project of 3 good friends (including Laica). Youth for Youth started as an online platform where they share the stories and talents of outstanding youths. The original intent behind this was to counter the toxicity in social media by producing content that inspire the youth to act and make their voices heard. It was only after a year when they were able to officially register the organization with the National Youth Commission. This paved the way for them to conduct onsite programs such as the leadership workshops they had for the Aeta Community of Putingkahoy.
Laica started her volunteer journey in college when she was elected as the president of the League of Communication Arts Students (LeCoAS) at her university. This experience taught her the importance of youth leadership and of using their voice to bring societal change. She believes that the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for them because it challenged them to think of how to help overcome such an uncommon situation. As a result of the corona pandemic, Laica and her co-founders saw an opportunity to establish Youth for Youth as a side project. Given how the pandemic affected the Filipino people, they wished to make social media an inspiring platform, especially for the youth.
Project Youth was their pioneer project where they showcased the talents and leadership qualities of different Filipino youths through the Youth for Youth online platform. This started in May 2020 and ended in March 2022. During its run, they were able to feature and connect to more than 200 young leaders. Of this number, they identified 60 Exceptional Youths who were recognized as Idol Kabataan for sharing their advocacies and leading projects and community efforts. This project aimed to use these talented young Filipinos to inspire more people to create an impactful change for the community.
Part of Laica’s goal is to be able to share their programs to grassroots communities. To this end, Youth for Youth [in collaboration with Abot-Kamay PH] launched the AE TAke the Lead program to empower young Aetas to pursue leadership roles within their community. After more than a year of continuous leadership workshops and learning sessions, EDUKatutubong-AKSYON, an organization of young Aetas in Putingkahoy, was officially launched last August 2022. This organization is focused on encouraging young Aetas within their community to finish their studies.
Youth for Youth also attended the Meta NGO Summit at Sofitel Plaza Manila last year. The conference discussed how to use Meta’s platforms for community engagement, its Community Standards, and Ways to Address Misinformation. These are very important in this digital age because social media holds so much power and potential to shape the minds of the youth. Before 2022 ended, Youth for Youth became part of the Positive Youth Development Network Membership and Accreditation System. This is a national network of youth advocates that will help them further expand their knowledge and connections in order to deliver quality programs that can help build a better future for all.
Youth for Youth will be celebrating its third founding anniversary this year. They will continue encouraging young Filipinos to volunteer and to learn about their cause. They intend to expand their organization by establishing a local chapter in Ilo-Ilo. Youth for Youth also wants to encourage young Batanguenos to run for Sangguniang Kabataan in the 2023 election through their newest program, Sali Kami! Batangueño Youth in Local Governance. Currently, 4 barangays in Batangas have no Sangguniang Kabataan, and Laica—along with Youth for Youth—hopes to change this by encouraging fellow Batangِueños to become leaders.
As a Volunteer Champion, Laica showed us her dedication to help young Filipinos become good leaders. She wants to encourage her fellow youths to overcome their fear and work on their leadership skills. Laica encourages everyone to consider their motivations before beginning a volunteer project. She emphasizes the importance of finding your “why” for volunteering, and aligning your volunteer works with your passion. It is important that you first understand your core values and know your advocacy. You can start small and work your way up rather than starting big. She also advises volunteers to engage with the locals directly and operate at their level. More than just doing volunteer works, she also hopes that volunteers will genuinely want their presence felt even in far-flung areas and make their efforts felt on ground.
Written by: Ayanna Plaza, iVolunteer Philippines
Photos from: Laica Bagnes, Youth for Youth
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