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HELPING HANDS Wearing hard hats, executives and employees help move hollow blocks at a housing project for slum dwellers in Malibay, Pasay City. NIO JESUS ORBETA


Corporate volunteers serve communities

By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:18:00 10/13/2008

Filed Under: Corporate social responsibility, volunteerism

MANILA, Philippines?High anxiety may be gripping the corporate world these days, but for the managers, supervisors and employees of some of the country?s leading companies, volunteer work knows no crisis.

Thirty-two corporations, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net), sent a record number of participants on Saturday to Servathon 2008, a 3-year-old community service program initiated by Hands on Manila Foundation Inc. (HOM).

For about half a day, the volunteers got their hands dirty, literally, as they applied fresh coats of paint on a student dormitory and two basketball courts, landscaped school yards and urban gardens, and restored a mural adorning a children?s hospital.

Some even ended up with blistered palms after helping in the construction of resettlement homes for urban poor families in Pasay City.

?This is an opportunity for corporate volunteers to take part in worthwhile projects and to enhance their volunteerism as well as their corporate social responsibility (CSR),? said HOM program coordinator Dondon Marquez. ?Our vision is to create a community where the spirit of volunteerism prevails and makes a difference.?

?In a marathon, concerned citizens run together for a cause. In Servathon, concerned citizens serve simultaneously for a cause,? Servathon chair Regina Roxas said at the program capping the day?s activities at the SMX Convention Center at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

Roxas, who also sits in the HOM board of trustees, said the project allowed participants to choose from a menu of activities.

Record numbers

Inquirer president Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez is a founding trustee of HOM, a nonprofit and nonsectarian organization that promotes volunteerism and community service.

Marquez said this year?s edition drew a record number of participants: 1,060 volunteers from 32 corporations.

Within three hours that Saturday morning, Marquez reported, the event generated 12,028 man-hours for the benefit of some 12,000 students in four public schools, 862 children in six orphanages and youth shelters, 25 needy elderlies, four indigent communities, and one heritage site.

Last year, the project drew participants from 20 corporations and assisted over 2,000 students and 400 families.

The first Servathon, held in 2006, only had 350 participants from 10 companies, but the activities then already reaped benefits for some 18,000 residents in Metro Manila.

Junie del Mundo, managing director of the public relations firm EON, said Servathon and other HOM volunteer projects had helped foster ties among the company?s managers and staff.

Del Mundo brought along a ?family? of 34 EON personnel in hard hats and work gloves to help speed things up at a resettlement area being built for slum dwellers displaced from a nearby creek in Malibay, Pasay City.

Under the scorching heat of the sun, EON volunteers mainly served as backup to the full-time carpenters and masons, some picking tasks as seemingly simple as hauling hollow blocks to the work sites, others breaking a sweat with a shovel mixing up fresh concrete.

?What can we do??

?What we?re doing here is something that may look simple. But transferring the blocks from one place to the other is already contributing to the construction of these houses. When we were here last year, these houses were not yet built,? Del Mundo said.

?There are so many problems in the world and in the Philippines. What can we do? We just try to do our own little things to make this a better place to live in.?

Promoting volunteerism among employees has had its own rewards for the company, he said.

Since their first community service last year, Del Mundo noted, EON workers have developed a stronger sense of duty. They became conscious of the environment and started segregating garbage?particularly at the office pantry?for recycling. They began saving electricity.

He said money raised from the sale of recyclables had been kept in a ?central fund? which the employees could now use for company outings, parties and other socials.

Psychic benefits

?Ultimately, we want our employees to bring home these habits of waste segregation [and energy conservation],? Del Mundo said.

EON clients and business partners easily took notice of these practices, he said. ?Volunteerism is the cheapest form of CSR and [with it] you can target so many things.?

Del Mundo, 50, said he never imagined that joining HOM would still prove to be a life-changing experience for himself. ?It?s a discovery for me. I never thought it will reach this level,? he related. ?It was like a bug that bit me.?

Being a volunteer gave him ?a lot of psychic benefits,? he said.

?Before, I was very much concentrated in making money ? and bringing the company to a different level. But now, what I share to people is [the reminder that] life is not just about money. Because with money?if you don?t share it?the kind of enjoyment and satisfaction that you get is just fleeting; you can only shop so much.?

Time well spent

?Now, it gives me happiness when I see children smiling when I deliver services that the government cannot give,? Del Mundo said.

For Hazel Luzentales, administrative assistant of the US-based B&M Global Service Manila Inc., joining HOM has become an advocacy.

Since discovering the volunteer group through a radio ad, Luzentales recruited her sister Henny and invited 40 of her officemates to participate in Servathon.

Luzentales, 27, likewise spends her free time as tutor at the Pangarap Foundation Inc., a haven for out-of-school youths and rescued street children.

?Being a volunteer gives me a different kind of fulfillment. I was able to help my community without spending my own money,? she said. ?I get excited with every opportunity to help. It?s time well spent.?

PDI was there

Thirty Inquirer employees also contributed their time and energy in repainting a basketball court inside the Pangarap Foundation compound in Libertad, Pasay City.

?A number of Inquirer personnel want to do volunteer work like this?but they just don?t know how. HOM provides a network of organizations giving opportunity to those who want to volunteer,? said Chito dela Vega, Inquirer Libre editor in chief.

Model and TV celebrity Marc Nelson, who spent his Servathon day with the Inquirer volunteers, said he was excited when his friend told him about the diverse volunteer work that HOM was offering.

?I like the fact that whatever your particular wants or needs to volunteer, they have something whether it be environmental, educational, helping the less fortunate, helping out in health care,? Nelson said.

?There?s really no excuse not to join. If you say you don?t have time this week, but maybe next month you have a weekend or something, they would have a schedule of different things of what you can do on that particular day.?

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