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  • Sunday, March 25, 2012
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  • Jennifer C. Jimenez
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  •  “People who know they are important think about others. People who think that they are important think about themselves.”
                                                                                                                                                      --Hans F. Hansen

    One of the most important things that the University of the Philippines highlighted in my life is the beauty of volunteerism. Last year, I was lucky to get involve with Gawad Kalinga, a non-profit organization that accepts donations to build decent houses for people who live in slums. More than that, GK also conducts community team building. People who used to live together as strangers now care for each other as a good neighbor in a sustainable community. GK also tap the university students who want to help in their own way by letting them sign up and serve as volunteer nursery school tutors every weekend.  Slum areas where robbery was once rampant now has people who usually leave their houses open when they work so that the neighbors’ children could go in anytime to play or sleep.

    Another team associated with GK is the Kalikasan, Inc. who pioneered the brand Human Heart Nature. HN markets and promotes quality organic body care and cosmetic products at a cost significantly lower than those available in the market. The consumer usually ends up buying products that are not only good for themselves, but also helps the Gawad Kalinga communities who grow the raw materials used in the products for a living.

                  More about Human Nature

    That insight sparked my interest in social entrepreneurship. Nowadays, a lot of people make a difference in the lives of others, by giving them the hope and the will to succeed in life. The Likhaan Group is another organization that utilizes the coconut as resources for innovative products that the rural poor could sell. Among those  products is the gourmet ice cream, the flavor is as rich as the normal ice cream in the supermarkets, but the difference lies in its health benefits to the consumers. The Likhaan Group, despite lack of support and endorsement from the local government, continues to conduct seminars to the rural people and students to empower them to think creatively instead of critically.

    Microventures join the roster of associations who provide the poor Filipinos opportunities and empowerment. It is the team behind the Hapinoy, a program that helps retail store owners improve their neighborhood business by educating them about marketing, finance management, distribution networks and giving them financial assistance and training. Thus an equal advantage is given to those retailers who did not have formal education.
    My law professor two years ago also introduced me to Rags-to-Riches. This group helped the “Payatas Nanays” to earn a living by making a lot of handicrafts such as handbags. The group pools a network of professionals who ensure the success of Payatas women. A few years ago, Rajo Laurel joined the team to design the bags that the women weave. He also decided to place his name as the brand name of those signature design bags. The wooden materials that they use in the bag handles and locks were from the Benguet woodcarvers. The bags were then brought for display and market distribution at classy shops in Greenhills and Filipino trade bazaars. The shops were managed by professional businessmen who used their networks and skills to sell the products. And what was a law professor doing in the team? She makes sure that the taxes charged by the government will be at a minimum rate so that the Payatas women earn more.

    These organizations and the people behind these are truly worth emulating.  Instead of using their own skills to their own advantage and battling in the competition to make more and more money, they reach out their hands for others, not just so that they can join the competition, but for them to reach the finish line as well. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we sometimes have the tendency to stay in our personal bubbles and do things for our own good. It is our own bubbles that make us think that we are the center of the world and that the world owes us many things. But once we step out of the bubble, that’s when we truly realize that we are individually important and we share that feeling of significance to others by nurturing them and showing empathy.

    Life is too short to spend on how we could be rich and famous. The most essential things in life—love and happiness, can be best obtained by giving it to others. Indeed, as the saying posted in the Palma Hall gallery goes, volunteers are unpaid, not because their worthless, but because they’re priceless.