By Anna Valmero
MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA—An executive from nonprofit organization VSO Bahaginan urged Filipino youth to volunteer their time and skills for advocacy projects in the country.
“At least half of our population today are composed of youth aged 22 years old and below and they are a large untapped population to work for volunteer projects,” said Marilou Juanito, executive director of VSO Bahaginan.
With their time and energy, the youth are ideal volunteers for ongoing and long-term projects, which are crucial to sustain development and change in an area.
“Unlike before, the youth of today are no longer actively involved on social issues such as poverty and environment concerns and those outlined under the Millennium Development Goals,” added Juanito.
Through a partnership with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Local Government Academy, VSO Bahaginan are training local government units (LGUs) in setting up volunteer centers in a pilot site in Nueva Ecija.
By providing the youth and any interested individual a venue to connect with nonprofit organizations and advocacy agencies, it will be easier to map and match available skills to required volunteers for a project, said Judah Singson Aliposa, development program manager of VSO Bahaginan
Asked to rate the level of volunteerism among Filipinos, he gave the Philippines a rating of three from a scale of one to 10 (10 as the highest).
Currently, there is no baseline study that determines the level of awareness and participation of youth in volunteer projects.
By April 2013, VSO Bahaginan and the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance will start a two-year study on valuing volunteerism, which will look at the attitude of Filipino youth, corporations based here and even professionals to offer their skills and time for volunteer projects, said Aliposa.
VSO Bahaginan is currently educating partner LGUs to tap volunteers “to move things forward.”
As early as 2007, the Philippines has Republic Act 9418 or the Volunteer Act of 2007 that institutionalizes volunteerism as a strategy for national development and international cooperation, he noted.
Aside from the youth, medium and large corporations are also a good source of volunteers for long-term projects, instead of one-time relief and donation drives.
“We want to transform corporate social responsibility from a transactional to a transformational activity. In terms of maturity on the awareness and participation of volunteers, the Philippines has a long way to go and this is a good opportunity because more companies are open to partner with and help local communities,” said Juanito.
For example, VSO Bahaginan has engaged the private sector to help establish a model forest program in Samar and Bohol. The organization is also partnering with Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Asia Foundation to help register and encourage participation of persons with disabilities in the 2013 elections.
The organization has sent 605 Filipino volunteers to partner organizations in over 44 countries. To help realize community projects in the Philippines, VSO Bahaginan aims to tap local volunteers for projects that aim to serve the poorest communities in Mindanao, particularly Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.
VSO Bahaginan recently launched a photo exhibit at the Ayala Museum to educate Filipinos about the projects of the organization and to encourage the youth and young professionals to join volunteer projects. The exhibit can be viewed until the end of July.
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