“In 2001, I contacted Hands On Network USA to inquire if we could set up an affiliate in the Philippines. I was attracted to their innovative and flexible model of volunteerism which did not exist in the country then. I was surprised to find out that they had no international affiliate. Happily, they agreed to have Hands on Manila be the first. Twenty years later, we continue to develop sustainable programs that contribute to nation building. And we hope to continue to do so in the years to come.” — Gianna R. Montinola, Hands On Manila Co-founder
Hands On Manila (HOM) is the leading non-profit organization that works to promote volunteerism in the Philippines. It is an affiliate of Hands On Network USA (now known as Points of Light Foundation).
Last October, HOM gathered and organized 15 companies and seven private groups with more than 285 volunteers to patriciate in Servathon’s culminating event. With the theme “Harvest for Health,” one of the events was an interactive talk on “Zero Waste Kitchen” with Asia Best Female Chef 2016, Margarita Fores.
To fulfill their participation in this project, the partner companies gave grants for public school gardens which produce nutritious vegetables to sustain food security and livelihood for communities. The corporate volunteers had two options: to design self-watering planters made from recycled bottles or create a liquid fertilizer out of food waste from the safety of their homes. Then they turned over the products to HOM for distribution to partner public school gardens and communities. Among these were the Tipas National High School, Capt. Hipolito Francisco Elementary School – Annex, Sto. Rosario Elementary School, Manuel Roxas Elementary School, and the Pabahay Project.
Finally, Servathon hit a record. There were 11 partner corporations, 711 volunteers who logged in a total of 2,508 volunteer hours. Its equivalent monetary cost was P711, 000. There were 6,000 target beneficiaries, and 12 community gardens that produced 450 liters of organic fertilizer.
Here are some testimonials from the beneficiaries, volunteers and trustees:
“I am grateful to Hands On Manila because of the support that you have extended to Silangan Elementary School. It makes the school a better place for learning. You also have awakened, strengthened, and heightened the spirit of volunteerism of the teaching and non-teaching personnel and that includes me. Your project does not only benefit the school clientele, but it has benefitted the community because the influence goes outside of the school. Your hand truly is an extension of God’s hand. God bless you and more power HOM! — Dr. Flordelyn T. Umagat, Principal, Silangan Elementary School.
“I’ve been part of HOM’s Servathon for two consecutive years as a volunteer leader. It was a very humbling experience seeing people from different walks of life come together for a common cause. The experience changed my perspective in life. I’m now more sensitive to the needs of our less fortunate brothers and sisters. It also opened my mind on how doing simple things can save the environment. You don’t have to be rich to be able to give back to the community. All you need is a willing body, a sensitive soul and a generous heart.” — Mr. Mars Gatchalian.
“We select public schools around Metro Manila that have idle land within a secure area. We give them the knowledge and skills they need to grow their gardens. We teach them how to use environmentally friendly methods for farming so that they can learn to grow their own food and feed themselves.” — Michelle Batungbacal, Servathon 2021 Co-chair and HOM Trustee
“The problem of food security in the Philippines has been magnified and exacerbated by more than 20 months of one of the strictest pandemic lockdowns in the world. Further, the World Bank reported that childhood undernutrition in the Philippines has become a ‘silent pandemic.'” — Marianne Po, Servathon 2021 Co-chair
“Just like any other NGO, HOM has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but has continued to survive because of it loyal partners… and all stakeholders. All of you are an inspiration to the organization. We thank you all for inspiring us to keep creating programs that celebrate the joy of volunteering!” — Jen Ferraren-Navas, HOM Executive Director
During the virtual culmination ceremony, HOM, together with its volunteers, celebrated its 20th year with the theme “To Infinity and Beyond.”
The participating companies were: American Express, EON, Far Eastern University, ICTSI Foundation, One Meralco Foundation, London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), Rockwell Land, Romulo Law, True Value, Wells Fargo & Co., and Wells Fargo Philippines. Also participating were seven private groups including F31, Assumption College Alumnae Batch ’81, and HOM’s Board of directors, past and present.
“These proactive individuals are key to the sustainability and successes of HOM in the last 20 years. They have shared years of adventure serving, helping, volunteering… witnessing transformations …within themselves, amongst beneficiaries, and communities served. Moving forward, HOM aims to constantly improve and discover more ways to make volunteering digitally interactive and meaningful; remain committed to our mission vision of creating more community programs that will address issues on health education, livelihood, and the environment,” said Lizette B. Cojuangco, HOM president.
Happy 20th Anniversary and congratulations to Hands On Manila, the Board of Trustees, the staff, and enthusiastic volunteers. They all exemplify the spirit of selfless giving and sharing of oneself and resources to help others during this prolonged crisis.
A Blessed Christmas to all!
MARIA VICTORIA RUFINO is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions. firstname.lastname@example.org