Even before leaving Zambia, my friends would already frequently ask me whether I would want to volunteer again.
My answer has always been the same: Yes, but: a) it would have to be another short-term stint as I need to go back to gainful employment soon, otherwise re-volunteering will have to wait for several more years; b ) I would like to have more direct interaction with the program beneficiaries and not just be stuck behind a table drafting policies; and c) it would have to be in the Philippines as this is where I would like to make a lasting contribution.
Shortly after coming back to Manila (and in between shoving food into my mouth), a friend told me about Community and Family Services International (CFSI), a Philippine-based NGO with the mission to provide assistance to people displaced by conflict - especially those in areas like Mindanao, East Timor and Myanmar.
I got interested, asked for more information , set-up a meeting with the CEO and basically went thru a super-anal due-diligence process. It didn't take me long to decide that, if CFSI would have me and the timing could work out, this was an organization I would be proud to be a part of.
Since then, I've managed to extend my sabbatical for a few more weeks. My good fortune continues with CFSI's acceptance of my application as a short-term volunteer.
And so, the next few weeks will see me taking the MRT/LRT about four to five times a week. This way, I'm able to avoid the stress of driving thru traffic and navigating through the labyrinth of one-way streets in Pasay City where CFSI's office is located. I like.
I've met most of the people with whom I'll be working. They're all very supportive and welcoming, I know I'm going to learn a lot from them. I like even more.
The program to which I've been assigned is called the Park Avenue Initiative (PAI) after the street in which the CFSI office is located - Park Avenue. While the street name may sound posh, let me just say that the street itself is not and let's leave it at that,
The PAI program aims to protect youth and children that have been displaced from mainstream society because of various forms of exploitation - sexual abuse, child labor, prostitution, drugs. This is accomplished not just by providing a "safe place" within the CFSI premises but also by providing the kids with counseling, life-skills coaching, livelihood training and other forms of assistance and intervention
I've heard some of the kid's stories. They are heart-wrenching. Once again, I am reminded of how blessed and sheltered my life has been and how important it is to give backMy time here is limited and I'm going to have to return to regular work in a few weeks. So, I want to make sure that I'm able to do as much as I can while I can.
My responsibilities as a volunteer are still evolving. But right now, my skill sets seem to be best suited to helping PAI in resource mobilization. I network and approach individuals and organizations who may be able to support our programs (like maybe...uhhh.... mmm....hopefully...you? ) More on how you might be able to help at the end of this entry:-)
I'm also given the opportunity to participate in different community activities. For example, this afternoon, I attended a meeting where the barangay officials presented their 1st quarter accomplishments to the residents. It was raining. We were sitting under a make-shift tent in the middle of a market. There were wet dogs and little children running around. It was almost eight pm and I hadn't had dinner yet. But I was very glad to be there. Tomorrow, I'm going to be working with a group of children finalizing their script for a puppet show to highlight children's rights. I like what I'm doing.
For more on CFSI, please visit their website by following this link. Check out the tabs for Partners and Leadership - pretty impressive and an indication of the credibility and integrity of the organization.
For more on the PAI program and the children it aims to serve, please watch this short youtube video thru this link,
After going through the site and viewing the video, you might be interested in finding out how you can help or be involved.
If so, please send me a private message so I could send you more info. I can also link you with a more senior member of the CFSI management team if you want a more in-depth discussion about CFSI's various programs and how you can help.
But, just off the top of my head, following are a few areas where support or assistance (in any form - donations, scholarships, your expertise and time, introductions to potential donors, etc) are needed:
- Livelihood training (especially for the older kids) i.e. cosmetology, culinary arts, auto mechanic, food processing, basic computer skills, etc.
- Job matching for graduates of the livelihood training courses
- Life-skills training (i.e. self awareness, collaboration, communication skills, etc)
- Books and educational tools for the CFSI children's library - kids come in regularly to use the limited facilities
- Computer equipment
- Tutorials on elementary and high school subjects
- Public relations - just getting the word out about CFSI, what it does and how it can be supported.
The above list is by no means exhaustive so if you have any ideas of how you might be able to help, please let me know so we can schedule a discussion.
Thanks very much and wish me luck so I can do good work, please!