Two community volunteers were recently awarded as 2016 National Outstanding Volunteers by the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency in December 2016 at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Quezon City.
Marcelo L. Gusanan, a 42-year-old B’laan leader and farmer from Barangay Eday, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat province bested nominees of the National Outstanding Volunteers – Adult category for his extensive work as the leader and community volunteer of Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS).
Gusanan, in his speech, shared the value that volunteering taught him. “Napatunayan ko na hindi sa tribo, hindi sa antas ng edukasyon at pamumuhay ang pagtulong. Ang pag-unlad ay hindi hinihintay, ito ay ipinaglalaban at pinagpapaguran sa pamamagitan ng pagbo-volunteer (My experience proves that helping others has nothing to do with ethnicity, level of education, or way of living. We should not wait for development but instead fight and work for it by volunteering),” he said.
The B’laan are an indigenous tribe from Southern Mindanao. In the 2000’s, they were displaced due to the armed conflict in their community and were forced to return to burned-down houses and ravaged farms and livestock. Marred by poverty and experiences with organizations that used their names in exchange for aid which never came, the B’laans were hesitant about offered programs that promise help, including Kalahi-CIDSS.
The Kalahi-CIDSS community facilitators went from house to house to encourage the B’laan, including Gusanan, to participate in their own development. In the long and tedious process that followed, the B’laan recognized their collective strength, learning to prepare proposals and other documents and to manage community projects. As a result, they erected a potable water system in an 800-square meter solar dryer for farmers, and a two-classroom building through Kalahi-CIDSS.
“Naramdaman namin ang aming halaga, ang respeto ng programa sa mga IP (indigenous peoples) dahil sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon ay hinayaan kami ang magdesisyon at magplano kung ano sa tingin namin ang mas nakabubuti sa amin,” Gusanan said.
(We feel that we are valued and respected as indigenous peoples because for the first time, they let us decide and plan according to what we know is best for us.)
Meanwhile, educator and fellow volunteer Ryan Homan won the National Outstanding Volunteer-Youth category for his literacy initiatives such as “Balsa Basa.” Homan fetches children from far-flung sitios in his hometown Donsol, Sorsogon and teaches them how to read onboard a bamboo raft.
“Layunin namin na iangat ang literacy at mapangalagaan ang Inang Kalikasan (Our goal is to improve the literacy rate and protect the environment),” Homan said.
Both Gusanan and Homan were chairpersons of the Barangay Subproject Management Committee, the group comprised of ordinary citizens who manage Kalahi-CIDSS community projects.
Kalahi-CIDSS works by empowering communities in targeted poor and disaster-affected municipalities to identify their own needs, and collectively implement and manage solutions to these needs. – Rappler.com