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Volunteering on the rise in the Philippines
20 August 2007
by Constantino Tejero

Manila, Philippines: Before it came to be known as CSR, the byword “corporate social responsibility” had been bandied about by conscience-stricken corporations in the late 1980s and early ‘90s as Big Business became synonymous with “greed” and yuppie was becoming a dirty word.

Now, some of these corporations have even ventured into volunteerism (trendy these days) to share with the community part of the benefits they’ve received from it. Tasks for the volunteers range from cultural and global education for local schools, to community cleanups, house-building, fundraising for local charity—or anything that would have “a positive and practical contribution to community initiatives.”

Global Xchange is one such program. By sponsoring it, corporations would be helping “to develop and share valuable skills and to make a practical contribution where it is needed in local communities.”

An exchange program for young people, it was formed in 2004 in the United Kingdom by the Voluntary Service Overseas (or VSO, voted top international development charity in the International Aid and Development category in the Charity Awards 2004); the Community Service Volunteers (CSV); and the British Council (the world’s largest international cultural-relations organization, operating in 109 countries for over 70 years).

Modeled after the World Youth program developed in Canada over 30 years ago, Global Xchange reached the Philippines in 2005. The three founding organizations took as implementing partner Bahaginan, a development organization committed to fighting global poverty and offering Filipino professionals the opportunity to share their skills with the disadvantaged in other developing countries.

Global connectivity

Recently the program was joined by Globe Telecom through its CSR program Globe BridgeCom.

“Since Globe and Global sound similar, and its slogan ‘Bridging communities’ is also our aim, everything perfectly fits,” Bahaginan program manager Robby Nazal says in a light vein.

Globe BridgeCom is now its partner in the Philippines, as CSV is the partner in the UK.

“We give financial support and connectivity by providing SIM cards and load to the volunteers,” says Globe public-relations head Jones Campos. “We also share ideas and expertise in community relations during activity sessions.”

This year, a team of 10 Filipino youths has been chosen to take part in the Davao-Southampton and Cagayan de Oro-Bradford exchange. Volunteers are selected “to reflect in terms of geography, ethnicity, ability, education and gender.”

In March, they were sent to the two UK cities to meet with their British counterparts and go into the immersion program, living with host families and working in host communities.

For the second half of the program, in June, they and their partners came to the Philippines where they will stay until September.

Mid-phase review

On the last weekend of July, they came together in Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City for a mid-phase review. At a luncheon-forum, they met the press and gave testimonials assessing their experiences in both countries.

“It’s to ensure that the program is meeting its aims and objectives,” says Globe community-relations head Jeffrey Tarayao.

They went mostly in pairs and talked alternately. Some were shy and nervous, others articulate and light-hearted.

Chely Vibal from Manila and Laura Chillag from Wigan related their respective experiences with women’s access to vital education services in the communities they were working in. Steffan Harris from Wales and Junica Soriano from Pasig explained an alternate forum for research in Mindanao.

Philip Commeyne from Quezon City talked about his experience with people collaborating for economic and environmental management.

The most loquacious and cheery was the Londoner Edward Aboagye, whose parents immigrated from Ghana. He narrated how people in the indigenous community he was working in was at first wary of him, he being black and a foreigner. He found a way into their hearts only when the children took him for a star basketball player.

As its stated aim says, Global Xchange hopes “to build mutual respect and understanding among young people, and to encourage attitudes that will enable them to become active citizens in an increasingly global world.”

So here’s one program that offers Big Business the opportunity to unburden its conscience. What’s more, it makes the place more livable and life worth living.