Town & Country (Philippines) - - GIVING - By Maria Mi­la­gros G. Agustines

At last year’s Servathon, hun­dreds of vol­un­teers from cor­po­rate of­fices all across the city gath­ered at the Philip­pine In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­ter to spend a day of vol­un­teerism. Bankers, lawyers, ar­chi­tects, and en­gi­neers packed dis­as­ter re­lief parcels, dec­o­rated rub­ber slip­pers, poured cit­ronella can­dles, and wove bags from news­pa­pers. A yearly flag­ship of­fer­ing of Hands On Manila, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion fo­cused on pro­vid­ing its mem­bers with op­por­tu­ni­ties to vol­un­teer at their own time and ac­cord­ing to their per­sonal ex­per­tise and in­ter­ests, Servathon makes it pos­si­ble for ex­ec­u­tives to mo­bi­lize their com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions into com­mu­nity-driven so­cio­civic work. Or­ga­nized by Pa­trice Tan and co-chair­man Lizette Co­juangco, Servathon pro­vides a chance for ex­ec­u­tives and their em­ploy­ees to par­tic­i­pate in care­fully selected vol­un­teer ac­tiv­i­ties, from build­ing class­rooms and so­lar light con­struc­tion for ty­phoon af­fected ar­eas to feed­ing pro­grams and teach­ing ini­tia­tives.

It all be­gan when Hands On Manila founder and pres­i­dent Gianna Mon­ti­nola saw a need for well-or­ga­nized com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties in the early 2000s. “About 15 years ago, I heard about a vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tion called Make a Dif­fer­ence,” she shares. “I was at­tracted to its vol­un­teerism model be­cause it al­lowed busy in­di­vid­u­als like my­self to carve out the time to vol­un­teer.” Ea­ger to in­tro­duce the same con­cept in the Philip­pines, Mon­ti­nola found a way to get in touch with the Hands On Net­work in the United States, the par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion of Make a Dif­fer­ence, and was in­formed that there were no af­fil­i­ated coun­tries out­side the U.S. “My re­ply was, ‘Why not start now?’” Mon­ti­nola re­calls. In 2001, Hands On Manila be­came the net­work’s first in­ter­na­tional af­fil­i­ate, and Mon­ti­nola ap­proached like-minded vol­un­teerism ad­vo­cates such as Sandy Pri­eto-Ro­mualdez to com­prise the found­ing board with her.

The Servathon model al­lows for flex­i­bil­ity, keep­ing the ex­ec­u­tives’ hec­tic sched­ules in mind while per­mit­ting some reg­u­lar­ity and a longer-term com­mit­ment. For in­di­vid­ual vol­un­teers, Servathon pro­vides a cal­en­dar with an ex­ten­sive range of monthly ac­tiv­i­ties to choose from. Cor­po­ra­tions that want to pro­vide its em­ploy­ees with op­por­tu­ni­ties to vol­un­teer, on the other hand, are given projects that cham­pion a spe­cific cause. “We help cor­po­ra­tions de­velop an ad­vo­cacy and man­age projects that re­volve around it. For ex­am­ple, if they are in­ter­ested in ed­u­ca­tion, we can help iden­tify a com­mu­nity or ben­e­fi­ciary that needs help,” Mon­ti­nola ex­plains. “We then sug­gest a va­ri­ety of op­tions, like paint­ing and re­fur­bish­ing class­rooms, help­ing fix a li­brary, do­ing tu­to­ri­als, or teach­ing arts and crafts. Fi­nally, we han­dle all lo­gis­ti­cal prepa­ra­tions and man­age the project for you. In brief, what we de­liver is per­son­al­ized vol­un­teer en­gage­ment.”

The group’s long-term vi­sion is “a Philip­pines with cit­i­zens num­ber­ing in the hun­dreds of thou­sands, mil­lions even, want­ing to be of ser­vice,” Tan says. “We truly be­lieve our coun­try has un­lim­ited po­ten­tial to be­come a lead­ing na­tion in terms of the con­tri­bu­tion of vol­un­teers to its de­vel­op­ment.”

To find out how you can vol­un­teer, log on to hand­son­

HELP­ING otH­ErS HELP From top: Servathon co-chairs Pa­trice tan and Lizette co­juangco; scenes from Servathon 2016.

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