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Volunteerism finds its heart in Old Sta. Mesa, Manila as UNV marks International Volunteers Day
29 November 2002

Manila: Twenty-five-year-old Jonie Bioco has given up a good-paying job as a supervisor for a drug company to become a United Nations Volunteer in Barangay 598, Zone 59 in Old Sta. Mesa, Manila.

He does not have any regrets because volunteerism has become his way of life.

"I was searching for my heart and I have found it in Barangay 598. I know I will become more effective as a community volunteer rather than as a drug supervisor because I am reaching out to thousands of people."

Jonie applied to become a volunteer last February 2001 and was accepted after two months through the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency.

Jonie has been a volunteer for only seven months now, and yet, he has managed to organize 11 block leaders composed of more than 2,000 households.

How did he manage more than 2,000 households? He asked these block leaders to organize six streetleaders each (or a total of 45 street leaders) who have eventually organized 50 households (or a total of 2,250 households). This was a core concept in community organizing and Jonie considered it a challenge to mobilize them without having to spend any single centavo for any meetings.

He painstakingly reached out to the community, listened to their needs and wants, talked and, most importantly, made friends with them.

"Interpersonal communication is essential to getting people to organize, to identify problems and to draw up their own solutions."

Jonie took every opportunity to discuss the values of cleanliness, health and sanitation, teamwork and pride in his or her barangay. These discussions worked wonders as Barangay 598 eventually realized how volunteerism played a role in realizing these values.

The community members are now actively engaged in development activities. The block and street leaders have become catalysts to draw up solutions to problems like waste management. Initially, the community members have agreed to assign a garbage collector for every block to ensure that waste is properly and regularly collected. They are now discussing ways to maximise the management of the "Material Recovery Facility", a junkyard for recyclable garbage funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and technically supervised by the Metro Manila Development Authority.

Jonie realized that he could not solve the world’s woes and, therefore, takes things one at a time.

But now that he has the attention and interest of Barangay 598, Jonie conceptualised this programme to recognize the youth, housewives and family heads who have joined the pool of local volunteers in Barangay 598 to celebrate International Volunteers Day.

"We have just started our work but we are certain that community volunteerism would go a long way in Barangay 598 because we have the commitment and steadfastness of the block and street leaders", he said.

Jonie talked with such passion and idealism of the young. No wonder, as a student he pioneered a community outreach project Kaabyan (friend) in the De La Salle University where he finished his Management in Information Systems in 1999.

"I want to help and I could stay on in this work for eight years, the maximum period for volunteers."

"My work as a United Nations volunteer helped me become more whole as a person since working with the poor has filled the void in my heart. I have become more in touch with reality and this has immensely made my life more satisfying."

Jonie is not, however, alone in his feat. There are four other volunteers, including Royce Aman, Karla Marsia Rey, Roselyn Tubig and Gina Saculsan working with the "Community-Based Ecological Solid Waste Management System in the Philippines". This is a project of the Metro Manila Development Authority, Japan and the United Nations Development Programme, which incorporates the functional elements of waste generation, discharge and storage, collection, recycling and final disposal, in an integrated and community-based approach.

In the Philippines, there are 34 national and four international volunteers working for the United Nations Volunteers Programme or UNV.

Source: UNDP Philippines News