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MANILA, Philippines – On weekdays, Te Candano works as a banker, helping build the dreams of her clients by processing remittances from seafarers. But on weekends, she serves as a volunteer, helping rebuild the broken dreams of many orphans and street children through art and play.
“For some reason, when I am with them, I don’t get tired. I just feel the aches and pains after every event due to age,” Candano shared.
On January 31, Candano and her team visited kids living in SOS children’s village in Alabang. She and other volunteers met 30 kids who are either orphans or former street children.
With the help of other volunteers, like Robby Singh, they taught and inspired kids how to draw.
The kids also danced and played games. On that day, you could not see a single, frowning face in the room.
Candano does this every week, visiting other orphanages, community centers, schools, or children’s hospitals. She is part of U! Happy Events, a group which holds volunteer and donation-driven events every weekend.
U! Happy Events, according to Candano, aim to promote discipline and learning among children.
“We believe what we do is creating change not just for the kids but also for the volunteers,” Candano added.
Volunteers with day jobs
The group was established in 2006 by Harvard Baron, a financial planner who saw the need for a collective effort to spark change amont the youth. His initiative was met with an outpouring of support from friends and strangers.
“When I go out and see a lot of people who are in need, the desire to do something is overwhelming for me. I just realize that if I have the heart to participate, I need to bring others to do the same,” Baron shared.
The Philippines is home to more than 200,000 street children, according to a study conducted in 2000. They make up 3% of the total population of Filipino children ages 0-17.
Baron and Candano believe these kids deserve better and could achieve greater things in life.
U! Happy Events is anchored on 3 principles:
- Understand the need for change
- Utilize partner’s time, talent, and treasures.
- Unify society through constant action.
“From the many kids I have encountered throughout the years and through the different outreach activities, I’ve noticed that what they need is care,” Candano shared.
U! Happy Events has grown to 40 volunteers united by a common desire to help children. They are either full time students or young professionals.
“We’ve seen a lot of outreach programs in the Philippines because of the state of poverty here. The difference in what we do is that we are trying to make it learning-based. We also want to make sure it’s continuous and ensure that resources are maximized,” Baron added.
According to them, the smiles and hugs of their young beneficiaries are enough reward for the hard work they put into every event.
Being with kids
In order to acheive their goals, the group matches sponsors who are interested to hold outreach programs with any of their 80 partner beneficiaries.
I volunteer because I believe every person has a responsibility for others
Sponsors can customize their own outreach program depending on their budget, preferred activities, and type of celebration. They can hold acting workshops, cooking lessons, fieldtrips, futkal (street football), and other activities.
“U! Happy events give joy to kids. They don’t only teach kids arts and crafts but also people skills,” said Jom dela Cruz, a fund developer of SOS Children’s Village.
Candano has already attended hundreds of outreach programs and she always goes home fulfilled.
“Each encounter is unique as these kids have various back stories. I am surprised how brave the kids are [in] handling seemingly big and serious ‘adult’ issues at a young age,” Candano shared.
“In as much as I want to inspire them, little do they know that they too inspire me to push more in reaching out to more kids,” Candano shared.
Keeping the group organized and running is not without its challenges, Candano and Baron admit.
Problems like looking for funding and overcoming fatigue are common. But, they say, the challenges do not weaken their resolve to continue reaching out to street children, orphans, and ailing children.
But Baron is committed to continue what he has been doing for nearly a decade.
“I volunteer because I believe every person has a responsibility for others,” he said. – Rappler.com
For those interested to volunteer or sponsor outreach programs, visit the U! Happy Events website.