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Filipino volunteers unite to help achieve MDGs
05 December 2003

Manila: To mark International Volunteer Day (IVD), United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Philippines coordinated with the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) and the different sectors to highlight the contributions of volunteerism to sustainable development particularly in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

MDGs are a set of objective which includes halving poverty, ensure primary education and reducing child and maternal mortality by 2015.

IVD celebrations began in 27 October with the Culture of Peace Orientation and Policy Workshop for UNVs in Zamboanga City. It was attended by 16 volunteers and representatives of local magazines and newspapers. Dr. Toh Swee Hin, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Laureate on Peace Education hailed as the "Father of Peace Education in Asia", was one of the facilitators of the workshop.

On 14 until 17 November, six UNVs joined "Call to save the mountains", with the Human Development International (HDI) and the Mt. Apo Foundation (MAFI), an evaluation climb to the country’s tallest peak Philippines. Radio interviews were conducted live from the peak to promote volunteerism as a tool for environmental sustainability, the seventh MDG objective. A full press conference was held on 19 November.

To acknowledge the strength of youth volunteerism, a three-day Volunteers’ Fair, from 21 until 24 November, was held at Ateneo University. During the opening ceremonies, Moe Villamor, Alternative Class Program Head of Ateneo University, said that "there is a more disturbing kind than wasted potential -- individuals of talent who are willing to offer themselves but are not given the opportunity to do so. Such is a worse tragedy, a more painful strain of wasted potential -- idle passion." To combat such "idle passion", 13 volunteer organizations participated in the fair, recruiting students to volunteer for NGOs and other socially-oriented institutions.

In addition, De La Salle University designated 2 until 4 December "Volunteers’ Week". The week aimed to highlight and recognize different volunteer initiatives done by the students and promote volunteerism as a tool for development in the academe, rural communities, government and private sectors.

In the southern Mindanao region of the Philippines, 16 doctors went on medical mission from 1 until 18 December. The doctors tended to the medical needs of the indigenous and displaced people in the provinces.

To reduce maternal mortality rate (MDG 5) and to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS (MDG 6) UN Volunteers participated in a "behavioral change through communications" activity conducted by other health-oriented agencies. UN Volunteers assisted in media relations, particularly in handling reproductive health-related cases such as the use of obscene language, misinformation on sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), the proliferation of sex advertisements and the rise of rape cases. In addressing specific gender issues, MDG posters and cards were distributed at the “Gender Responsive Governance at Work: Women in Transformative Communities” conference.

On 5 December, a "Forum on Volunteerism" was held at Sulo Hotel in Metro Manila. The volunteer-involved organizations met to exchange views on the future of volunteerism in the Philippines and the role of volunteerism in the achieving the MDGs. The discussions were based on the findings of the Strategic Review on the Volunteerism System in the Philippines, results of the nationwide survey on volunteerism.

Also, iVolunteer.ph, the country’s first web portal on volunteerism, launched the Best Volunteer Essay Writing Contest.

The IVD spirit continued throughout the month of December, which is the official Volunteer Month of the Philippines. PNVSCA, the government agency that administers national and international volunteer programs, held an awards ceremony for the "Search for Outstanding Volunteers" at Malacanang Palace December 10th. The Best Volunteer Awards for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) 2002 and 2003 were awarded on 9 December, including an award for Best Volunteer Group Awardee, Sumpats (Maguindanao for Volunteer) of the Community and Family Services International (CFSI).

To integrate the private sector in the IVD celebrations, a book launching was held December 11th for Enhancing Business-Community Relations: The Role of Volunteers in Promoting Global Corporate Citizenship.

On December 12th, national UN Volunteers celebrated IVD in the agricultural island of Samar. Thee objectives were: a) to make the community aware of the importance of volunteerism towards attaining development goals of society; (b) To make people realize the Millenium Development Goals and (3) To promote environmental conservation through alternative sources of livelihood in forest edge communities. During the celebration, UNV-sponsored Day Care pupils performed a dance and dramatization of the MDGs to explain the goals to local farmers. For their spectacular performance, the Day Care center was rewarded with new toys and books. Samar-based NUNVs then took the stage to share their reflections on volunteering and regional peace. NUNVs also launched livelihood projects in Samar, including Nursery Establishment with Grafted Fruit Trees, Hybrid Corn Production, and Vegetable Production.

Also in Mindanao, a second "Forum on Volunteerism and MDGs" was held in the city of Marbel, featuring a choral performance and candlelighting ceremony for peace. At the forum, Mr. Sonny Ayao related his transformation from armed combatant to peace advocate. National UN Volunteer Aveen Acula-Gulo commented that volunteerism is already present in the society, only that we do not know the name for it. Sometimes there are many who would want to volunteer (or share) their efforts, but do not know where to channel their interest. The forum was broadcast live in many local radio stations and was featured on the local television station and newspapers.

A photo exhibit was held at the UN headquarters in Manila from 2 until 12 December. It displayed photos of Filipino national and international volunteers to showcase the global reach of the Philippines’ cultural commitment to "Bayanihan", or communal spirit. It is this spirit of Bayanihan that drives the volunteers of the Philippines, that helped this year’s IVD celebrations become such a success.