Written by: Jeffrey N. Almazan and Alyssa Marie A. Villa

The Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) conducted a series of advocacy and consultation meetings with various sectors in Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, and Sorsogon from January 8 to 11, 2024 to build alliances that will help in ensuring a conducive volunteering environment. Led by Executive Director Donald James D. Gawe, the PNVSCA team met with local chief executives and representatives of selected Local Government Units (LGUs), the heads and officials of Regional Line Agencies, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and volunteers.

For the LGUs, the team held partnership initiation meetings with the municipality of Daet, the cities of Sorsogon, Legazpi and Naga, and the Provincial Government of Camarines Sur. The objective of the meetings with said LGUs is to introduce the agency as well as provide orientation on the role of the government in ensuring a conducive environment for volunteerism. All the LGUs made initial commitments to help promote volunteerism as a development strategy by designating volunteerism focal persons, enacting local laws to provide policy support to volunteering efforts, and integrating volunteerism in their local development plans, among others. Mayor Benito Ochoa of Daet committed to review RA 9418 or the Volunteer Act of 2007 and take the necessary steps to localize it.

In addition to the aforementioned activities, PNVSCA conducted follow-up meetings with the Provincial Governments of Albay, Sorsogon, and Camarines Norte.

These follow-up meetings served as crucial platforms for the exchange of information and updates regarding the ongoing progress of the respective LGUs’ draft ordinances. Discussions centered around the current status of the ordinance and addressing any challenges or concerns that may have arisen during the implementation phase. Participants deliberated on strategies to overcome obstacles and enhance the effectiveness of the volunteer initiatives outlined in the ordinance.

These meetings provided an opportunity to finalize the appointment of volunteer focal persons in the said LGUs. The designation of these individuals is instrumental in facilitating communication, coordination, and efficient execution of volunteer activities. Through the appointment of dedicated focal persons, the PNVSCA and the involved entities aimed to streamline the management of volunteer programs and ensure that they align seamlessly with the overarching goals of the provinces.

A key focus of these discussions was also on the integration of volunteer programs into the development plans of the said provinces. This integration is pivotal in embedding volunteerism as a sustainable and integral component of the provinces’ broader development strategies. Participants explored ways to align volunteer efforts with the identified priorities and objectives of the provinces, thereby maximizing the impact of community engagement and social development initiatives. Legazpi City Administrator Carlos Ante expressed that the integration of volunteerism into the community is well-timed, emphasizing the importance of Filipinos embracing it as a way of life.

In essence, these follow-up meetings served as dynamic platforms for collaboration, information exchange, and strategic planning. The shared commitment to the advancement of volunteerism and community development was evident in the constructive dialogues and concerted efforts to overcome challenges, ensuring the successful integration of volunteer programs into the fabric of the provinces’ development agendas.

Furthermore, last May 22-24, 2023, PNVSCA conducted Provincial Development Fora with Volunteerism as its focus in the three provinces.

Courtesy visit and exploratory meeting with LGU Daet Mayor Benito Ochoa to talk through plans on strengthening the practice and recognition of volunteerism through mainstreaming in local development plans.
Courtesy visit and exploratory meeting with LGU Sorsogon City Administrator Atty. Mark Gerald D. Guirondola on mainstreaming volunteerism in their local development plans.
Courtesy visit and exploratory meeting with LGU Legazpi City Administrator Carlos Ante
Courtesy visit and exploratory meeting with Provincial Government of Camarines Sur PPDO Marita G. Hermoso
PNVSCA staff together with LGU Canaman Mayor Nelson Legazpi

For the HEIs, PNVSCA conducted a briefing on volunteerism for the officials of Camarines Norte State College (CNSC), Sorsogon State University (SorSu), Bicol University (BU), Camarines Sur Polytechnic College (CSPC), Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA), Partido State University (online), and Sorsogon College of Criminology, Inc. CNSC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Dolores C. Volante, expressed their optimism that an MOU between PNVSCA and CNSC is tenable considering that volunteerism is among the values that their institution would like to instill among its students, while Sorsogon State University President Dr. Geraldine F. De Jesus is positive that this partnership will help them strengthen their advocacy of being the “Pamantasang may Puso” which aims to create a generation of university graduates that has the heart ready to serve the community. All HEIs are committed to mainstream volunteerism in their major functions.

Courtesy Visit and Exploratory Meeting with Camarines Norte State College VP for Academic Affairs Dolores Volante and NSTP Director Jocelyn O. Torio
Courtesy visit and Exploratory Meeting with Sorsogon State University President Geraldine De Jesus and DRRMO Director Saturnino Carranza
Courtesy visit and exploratory meeting with Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges together with Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Estelito R. Clemente
Courtesy visit and Exploratory Meeting with Bicol University President Dr. Baby Boy Benjamin Nebres III
Courtesy Visit and Exploratory Meeting with Central Bicol State University of Agriculture VP for Academic Affairs Emerson Bergonio and International Relations Office Director Cherry Love Montales

PNVSCA also had consultation meetings with the regional offices of the National Economic and Development Authority, Commission on Higher Education, and Department of Education in the Bicol Region in which PNVSCA conveyed its appreciation for their active role in the promotion and recognition of volunteerism as a tool for socioeconomic development. In the meeting with NEDA, Regional Director Luis Banua shared that last December, the Regional Development Council (RDC) passed RDC Resolution No. 4-75, s. 2023 which aims to adopt volunteerism as a development strategy. A memo circular was issued to disseminate the said Resolution. For CHED, RD Atty. Septon A. de la Cruz reported that as a response to the RDC Resolution, he immediately issued Regional CHED Memo No. 3 series of 2024 encouraging all the SUCs to support the RDC memorandum.

Moreover, PNVSCA attended the meeting with the USAID RTI ABC+ project, focusing on the pivotal role of volunteerism in effectively implementing and delivering Project 6B: “Bawat Batang Bicolano Bihasang Bumasa at Bumilang.” In collaboration with DepEd V, the team envisions creating a community of teacher volunteers to enhance coordination and collaboration between schools and communities. This initiative aims to promote the exchange of resources and capabilities, ultimately raising literacy and numeracy standards among students. DepEd 5 RD Gilbert Sadsad said that as the Project aligns with RDC Resolution No. 4-75, s. 2023, the focal person, Ms. Liz Bellen, will work closely with the RDC Secretariat to develop the mechanics for implementation to be presented to the RDC Full Council for its approval/endorsement.

PNVSCA Executive Director Donald James D. Gawe with NEDA V Regional Director Luis Banua
PNVSCA Executive Director Donald James D. Gawe with CHED Region V Regional Director Atty. Septon Dela Cruz
Consultation Meeting with Rd Gilbert Sadsad, former Asec. and the Current Education System Strengthening Adviser of ABC+ Mr. Malcolm Garma and Representatives of DepEd Region V

PNVSCA also carried out a comprehensive monitoring visit, specifically focusing on individuals recognized through its Search for Outstanding Volunteers (SOV) and Bayanihan Media Awards (BMA) programs. This monitoring visit serves as a valuable undertaking, offering a unique chance to document and highlight the narratives of volunteerism embodied by the awardees.

Beyond the awards ceremony, the monitoring visit delves into the post-recognition plans and activities of the awardees. It seeks to uncover the stories that unfold after the accolades have been bestowed, shedding light on the continued commitment and impact of these outstanding volunteers in their respective communities. Mr. Lowell Solayao, 2017 SOV National Awardee, expressed his gratitude and shared that the monitoring visit was of utmost importance to them not only as awardees but as volunteers, as it not only provided an avenue to impart the progress of their volunteering engagements but also reaffirmed the significance of recognizing and celebrating the spirit of volunteerism. While BMA Awardee Ms. April Manjares shared that she will continue to feature volunteerism stories and inspire more students to do volunteer work.

The primary objective of the monitoring visit is not only to chronicle these post-award endeavors but also to gather firsthand insights from the awardees themselves. By engaging in conversations and capturing the experiences of the volunteers, the PNVSCA aims to understand the evolving landscape of volunteerism and the ways in which these exceptional individuals contribute to community development.

The feedback collected during the monitoring visit holds significant value for the PNVSCA. It serves as a crucial source of information that aids in the ongoing enhancement of the agency’s services. Understanding the challenges faced by awardees, their successes, and the impact of their volunteer efforts allows the PNVSCA to tailor its support and resources more effectively. This iterative feedback loop is instrumental in refining the agency’s strategies, ensuring that it remains responsive to the evolving needs and aspirations of the volunteer community.

In its role as the mandated agency responsible for coordinating, monitoring, and evaluating the national volunteer service program to align with national development goals, PNVSCA actively engages in comprehensive site visits. These visits are conducted to assess and oversee programs, projects, and activities that receive assistance from international or foreign volunteers.

Hence, the Agency undertakes site visits to programs facilitated by international volunteers, with notable examples being those associated with the United States Peace Corps (USPC) and the Australian Volunteers Program (AVP). During these visits, the agency meticulously collects data and gathers information to gain insights into the effectiveness and impact of the international volunteer service (IVS) initiatives.

The purpose of these site visits extends beyond mere observation; they serve as invaluable opportunities for collaborative engagement with program partners. Through open dialogue and information-sharing, the PNVSCA collaborates with the international volunteers and their respective programs to enhance coordination and implementation strategies. By fostering a collaborative approach, the aim is to optimize the outcomes and benefits derived from international volunteer assistance.

The insights garnered from these site visits contribute to a continuous improvement cycle, enabling the PNVSCA and its partners to refine and fine-tune the execution of the international volunteer service programs. This iterative process ensures that the IVS initiatives are not only aligned with the national development goals but also effectively address the unique needs and challenges of the communities they aim to serve.

In summary, the PNVSCA’s commitment to overseeing international volunteer service extends beyond mere oversight, encompassing collaborative site visits that facilitate the exchange of knowledge and insights. This approach underscores the agency’s dedication to optimizing the impact of volunteer programs in contributing to the broader objectives of national development.

Interview with 2017 SOV Awardee Mr. Lowell Solayao