Written by: Kamille May Atienza

To fulfill its mandate of promoting inclusive volunteerism among the various sectors of the Filipino society, the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA), in collaboration with the Asian Social Institute (ASI), held the 2nd Senior Citizens’ Volunteerism Forum on Friday, October 15, 2021 via Zoom and Facebook Live.

PNVSCA and ASI welcomed over 280 participants from various government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations, local government units, non-government organizations, state universities and colleges, and private institutions and individuals from different regions.

Ms. Fely Baday, Officer-In-Charge of PATSD, provided the rationale, overview, and objectives of the forum. She shared the core characteristics of volunteerism, salient provisions of the Republic Act No. 9418 or the Volunteer Act of 2007, and furthered that senior citizens can be a “good source” of volunteers as they have a wealth of personal and professional experiences that can greatly benefit the organization or community they choose to work with.

Dr. Alice Acejas, Research Director of ASI, cited in her opening message some studies on volunteerism among older adults around the world. She emphasized the need for data and information to draft realistic policies and appropriate volunteer service programs for senior citizens, and how the current series of webinars can be the start of generating knowledge about Filipino senior citizens’ volunteer service.

“I look forward to that day when PNVSCA in partnership with academic institutions and voluntary service organizations craft a research agenda to generate statistics on Filipino volunteering as well as come up with qualitative research based on the lived experiences of volunteers in local communities, and in national or international settings,” she said. She also suggested that the topic for the next webinar series could be about volunteerism in faith-based organizations.

In the first session which sets the context of the volunteerism forum, Dr. Grace Cruz of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) presented the population of the Older Filipinos and shared key data from the Longitudinal Study of Ageing and Health in the Philippines (LSAHP).  Her presentation included the socio-demographic profile, human capital and socio-economic status of older Filipino people.

Given the expected increase in the number of older Filipinos, she urged the government to prepare the corresponding human resources and facilities to address the needs of this population sector. She also emphasized that the older people should be viewed not only in terms of their needs but for their value and contribution to society, and that policies and programs should be in place to recognize their potential. She noted that social participation and involvement are essential components of successful ageing because it helps ensure psychological health in old age, among others.

Dr. Conrado Q. Pono, Chief Technical Education and Skills Development Specialist of the National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC), shared the 5-Year Senior Citizens Action for Development & Nation-Building (SECADNA) Action Plan and its corresponding activities, one of which is the engagement of Volunteer Senior Citizen Experts (VSCE). He enjoined the senior citizen participants to join and volunteer through this program. “Whatever skills you have, we know that you are willing to be part of our nation-building effort,” he said. Ms. Maricel Deloria, Assistant Bureau Director of the Program Management Bureau – Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), shared the government programs and services for senior citizens. Ultimately, she strongly believes that volunteerism is a calling for all ages – young or old, and that it is a vocation that comes from the heart and conviction that we need to be of service to our fellow citizens. She also stated ways forward such as providing safe spaces that will address the physical constraints and health considerations of senior citizens, provision of clear terms of reference, community and family orientation and support, and a whole of society approach.

In Session 2 where opportunities and challenges in engaging senior citizens as volunteers were discussed, Ms. Teresita Ang See, founding President of Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran and 2005 Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Awardee, presented her experiences and achievements as a senior volunteer. She shared several volunteering work that she has done in the past and current initiatives in this time of pandemic. She also elaborated the challenges and recommendations in the volunteering work of senior citizens. “Sa lahat ng aking trabaho, yung makatulong is reward enough,” she said.

Ms. Mari Luz “Maloy” Quesada-Tiongson, VSO People Resourcing Manager for Asia, presented the profile of people applying for volunteer posts in VSO as well as the volunteering opportunities available for older adults. In her discussion, she said that senior citizens should not be worried as VSO’s volunteering opportunities are inclusive. The participants were encouraged to visit their website should they be interested in these opportunities.

An interactive session was also held with the participants through the open forum, and answering of questions in Zoom polls and Mentimeter. Ms. Janica Caldona, a registered social worker and Master’s student from ASI, moderated the discussion and provided synthesis of the forum.

In his closing message, Mr. Donald James D. Gawe, Executive Director of PNVSCA, expressed his sincere appreciation to ASI, the resource persons, participants, and organizers for supporting the forum.

“We hope that senior citizens, in their choice of what to do after retiring, can include volunteerism” he said.

He also enjoined the national government agencies to provide support for the volunteering work of senior citizens. He stated that PNVSCA will help establish and strengthen volunteerism per region. He added that the volunteer initiatives and activities could be the focus in the next series of webinars.

The event ended with the Volunteers’ March and sing-along of “Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko”, which was definitely enjoyed by the participants. The first Senior Citizens’ Volunteerism Forum was held on June 15, 2021 via Zoom and Facebook Live. With its success, PNVSCA and ASI furthered the initiative by conducting this second run of the forum.

The author is currently the Volunteer Service Officer (VSO) II of the Policy, Advocacy and Technical Services Division (PATSD), Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency.

Visit PNVSCA website (www.pnvsca.gov.ph) and PNVSCA Facebook (facebook.com/PNVSCA) for other stories and information on volunteering.