Robredo reflects on Angat Buhay NGO: Volunteers boost machinery, trust plugs budget woes
MANILA, Philippines — One year after transitioning Angat Buhay from a government-backed anti-poverty program to a private foundation, former vice president Leni Robredo said public trust and the hard, dedicated, charitable work of volunteers are fueling the NGO’s machinery and plugging budgetary woes.
Robredo, during the celebration of Angat Buhay non-government organization’s (NGO) first anniversary on Saturday, also shared that a lot of people are asking how different it is to manage the program without holding the vice presidential post.
In response, she said it gives them leeway as the foundation does not have to be always on the ground, as volunteers are able to operate independently — unlike at the Office of the Vice President (OVP) where officials always have to monitor progress.
“Many have asked me, what is the difference between managing Angat Buhay NGO when I was a vice president compared to now? I think we have expanded it even more, because when I was a VP, our programs on the ground were handled by the OVP family,” Robredo said in Filipino, during the program at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
“But now, we do not have to be on the ground because you, volunteers, are there for us. That’s why we are proud of the network we have built and because we see that this has had a good effect on the communities, people help each other, and we want more people to organize these all over the country,” she added.
But in managing Angat Buhay, Robredo is greeted by a common problem: budget limitations.
It could be remembered that during her term as vice president, Robredo got a meager budget, ranging from around P600 million to nearly P1 billion — which is also the reason why she opted to link with private sector partners for additional funding through donations — giving birth to Angat Buhay.
“Education, health, and nutrition, disaster response, strengthening communities — these are what we have done, programs we have implemented and challenges that you have been a part of, from the spaces we can move through. We do not have a huge fund: when it comes to work, our strength comes from volunteers who help us reach towards people on the fringes of society,” she said.
“But as what I have said before: our budget is trust, our machinery is the people doing charitable works. That’s why part of our vision to move as we continue to move forward is to ensure that not only our communities would be strengthened, but also our volunteer network in the next weeks, months, and years.”
By the numbers
Despite the budgetary odds — and some volunteers concerned about the viability of siding with Angat Buhay — Robredo touted the NGO’s achievements in just the first year.
In her presentation, Robredo pointed out that around P10 million has been allocated towards education, including efforts to ensure that students can learn in adequate and safe spaces.
This is aside from the NGO’s projects in other fields such as disaster response, food security, and the continuation of her pet project Bayanihan E-Konsulta, a telemedicine platform started when she was still with OVP.
“All in all, over P10 million was allocated to combined interventions for Education, including P7.6 million from our partners at volunteers, who shared not only financial help but also their expertise, time, and efforts for our youth,” Robredo said.
Two dormitories have been turned over — one in the Southern Luzon State University in Infanta, Quezon through the help of the Rotary Club of Makati; and another in Labo, Camarines Norte, through the aid of a courier company.
Robredo also said that they have continuously supported Community Learning Hubs — a project started by her OVP during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, where children are given safe and sanitized spaces for tutoring, as parents and students dealt with distance learning methods.
She revealed that they, with the help of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Education, are looking to transition it to tutoring centers — named Angat Basa (read) and Angat Bilang (count) to improve the literacy rates of children.
“In the assessment of the UP College of Education, it is clear that the literacy of children going through the Angat Basa Center improved: In Zamboanga, from the baseline of around 30 percent, they are already at 83.13 percent; in Marinduque, it is at 93.11; in Lucena, at 77.32 percent,” she said.
“For numeracy, the stories out of Pasig, there is an average five-point increase for the scores of our tutees in the assessment that we did. The two with the lowest scores at the pre-test, the improvement in their scores were triple after being mentored. In Triangulo, which is part of the Bayan Ko Titser Ko program, children who can only read four correct words in one minute can now read around 90 correct words per minute,” she added.
Robredo said she is proud of what the organization has achieved in just a year, thanking partners and volunteers for their hard work.
She, however, stressed that there is a need to widen the organization’s network for the years to come.
According to the NGO’s data, they have 188 volunteer organizations and 13,705 individual volunteers, across 47 provinces in the country.
And to celebrate their first anniversary, Angat Buhay held a convention for volunteer organizations affiliated with them, where groups with similar advocacies can match with each other and work on programs — much like speed dating, but in this case, between NGOs.
“All of these are possible due to the pillar of the Angat Buhay NGO: Community Engagement and Empowerment. We are the largest volunteer network in the country, but our task is not over, because there will always be spaces that we need to fill — which means we should continue to find other people who could help us fill these gaps,” Robredo said.
“We will continue engaging with other individuals and groups, continue training and teaching our methods, so that they themselves can start projects for their own communities. Our NGO has allocated over P3 3 million to support our volunteers,” she added.
It cannot be denied that Angat Buhay will always be tied to politics: during the program in Taguig earlier, a lot of participants wore different colors — a huge contrast to the campaign season.
But shades of pink were still evident in the set design, and even the outfit of the celebrity hosts. Which is why Robredo, who lost in the 2022 presidential race, thanked volunteers for sticking with them despite the uncertainty that lingered after the polls.
“To all of those here — volunteers and representatives of volunteer groups; to our partners from the private sector who have helped us, thank you very much for all that you have done this past year, and to our continued partnership,” she said.
Robredo also said that true change is initiated by working without thinking about the possibility of their efforts going ‘viral’ on social media.
“I know that we have been awakened by last year’s events. This is how changes are forged, with working silently. With repacking relief goods and answering patients’ calls to Bayanihan E-Konsulta, in teaching at far-flung areas, crossing rivers and mountains, even if shoes and slippers get damaged and destroyed, just to bring hope to those at society’s fringes,” she said.
“Even when nobody is looking, even if it is not posted on social media to make things viral. Change is forged by bowing and toiling the land with our advocacies, watering it with our sweat, aware that someday, these all would bear fruit, and we will reap the fruit of better lives for each Filipino,” she added.
“We have much to do. Tomorrow, we’ll be back to work.”