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The rise of community changemakers

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect millions of lives and livelihoods around the world. Just as we were seeing steady vaccination and recovery rates, as well as a resurgence of economic activity, a new variant of concern called Omicron began to spread rapidly, fueling a global fear of another surge.

But despite this development, a different kind of surge is proving to be life-changing and life-giving at the same time. This is the surge in volunteerism or bayanihan, as people go out of their way to help vulnerable communities.

Since the start of the pandemic, several organizations in the Philippines have stepped- up to help fellow Filipinos in need—from leading food distributions, to launching efforts to boost the pandemic response of local government units, to helping people who are struggling with mental health issues.

One of them is the Young House Heroes Initiative (YHHI), which is organized by the Welfare of Children, UNICEF Philippines, and Positive Youth Development Network. At the heart of the program is a youth-led chatline manned by at least 241 young volunteers who are trained to conduct mental health assessment calls and provide referrals to service providers.

The number of youth volunteers and the solidarity that they have shown in this tumultuous period is truly encouraging. Volunteerism has proven to be essential in pushing important causes and helping people in need, while boosting one’s own level of well-being. When we help other people, we feel good about ourselves, too.

Passion to help

As the social development arm of BPI, we at BPI Foundation continue to collaborate closely with our employees to keep the spirit of bayanihan alive amid these extra trying times.

Through BPI BAYAN, a volunteerism program that encourages BPI employees to lead their volunteer projects, employees become changemakers as they harness their skills and passion to help people in the best way they know how.

At the height of the pandemic, we managed to mobilize our employee volunteers to help in various causes that are aligned with the Foundation’s initiatives—financial education, enterprise development and livelihood, environmental sustainability, and disaster response and recovery.

The program also helps volunteers through various workshops to help them conceptualize their projects and implement them. BPI BAYAN also assists them through fundraising activities and through the BPI BAYAN Awards, where the most promising volunteer program proposals qualify for a grant of as much Php75,000 to jump start their projects.

The recent BPI BAYAN Summit and Awards were held to recognize these selfless acts of our employee volunteers.

One of the winning proposals was MaLILYwanag Na Buhay Para sa Kababaihan ng Biñan, a project of BPI BAYAN Laguna North Area that provided financial wellness seminars and sustainable livelihood to unemployed mothers of Biñan through water lily weaving.

This year, the group has expanded to over 1,500 volunteers, helping address health and environmental concerns such as overpopulation of water lilies in order to prevent flooding, interruption of aquatic ecosystems, and creation of mosquito habitats.

Des Dimaguila, the founder of GoForward Biñan Foundation Inc, said the project helped make a positive difference in the lives of the beneficiaries. From initially helping 90 unemployed mothers in 2017, the BPI BAYAN Laguna North Area was able to reach 720 beneficiaries.

The beneficiaries were also able to scale up their operations, thanks to the electric machine donated by the volunteer group. Instead of producing only 3,000 stalks per day, their production quadrupled to 12,000, giving them additional income during these trying times.

Admittedly, there is still a lot of work to be done and more volunteers are needed now.  But on the other hand, this ongoing pandemic undeniably sparked a new generation of heroes or bayani that our country needs as we continue our road to recovery.

There is always an opportunity in every crisis. For now, the surge in volunteerism gives us hope to carry on, and that’s what matters.