Filipino youth volunteers give smiles to young cancer patients

By Nikka Garriga

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA—Filipinos are known to uphold the spirit of bayanihan, or lending assistance in any form one can to those who are in need.

Keeping this principle at heart, Ernan Balingit managed to juggle his day time job as a liaison officer and as volunteer for several non-profit organizations for almost six years now.

He first began taking part in the volunteer program of Hands on Manila (HoM) where Ernan learned about one of HoM's partner organizations, Kythe Foundation.

Kythe helps provide psychosocial care for indigent, chronically-ill children and their families through various activities such as play and art therapy in its partner hospitals.

“At first, I was a bit reluctant to work for Kythe because it meant having to interact with young cancer patients. There's this fear that you would get too attached and you won't be emotionally prepared to handle it,” he said.

But what urged Ernan to go on despite his hesitance was seeing how the children keep living as if their sickness or disability do not exist.

“Sometimes I feel as if these children and their families are helping me more than I do for them. Because they make me realize how we complain about the littlest things when the truth is, they have more to be angry or sad about yet they choose to feel otherwise,” Ernan explained.

The same goes for Caroline Tongko, another active volunteer since her college days.

Her passion for volunteering has had its happy and sad moments. But if there is one impact that this brought upon her, it's learning how to better value life.

“I have grown to love this kid who unfortunately passed away. The shock and the sadness can consume you. But you also see miracles happen every time their condition gets better, especially so if they've come to a point when all hope is beyond them,” Caroline said.

For both Ernan and Carol, volunteerism taught them how to make a big difference in their own small ways.

And this is something they hope would inspire others to get into groups like Kythe and HoM.

The best part of volunteering is whenever you see the kids smile and make you feel just how much your presence means to them, said Ernan.

“Volunteering is a commitment in a sense that it's not just about giving. The lessons and inspirations are something that you get in return,” Carol added.

(Photo courtesy of Kythe Foundation)

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