I have wanted to volunteer for Gawad Kalinga (GK) for such a long time. However, I was busy at school, I was preoccupied organizing events for my org and even until I was already working, I always found excuses to not do it. Come March 2016, I was out of job. I did not having anything meaningful to do and I was always either wasting money or sleeping. I contacted a friend and asked if I could volunteer and he said yes. I did a little proofreading on some communications, edited photos for tarpaulins and made a poster; but the highlight was the Bayani Challenge 2016 in Hernani.
What is GK? The organization’s website describes itself in the simplest words; that GK “is a Philippine-based movement that aims to end poverty for 5 million families, by first restoring the dignity of the poor.” If you’ve never heard of them or if you are still undecided if you should join, here are 10 reasons why you should volunteer at Gawad Kalinga’s Bayani (Hero) Challenge.
Disclaimer: This article talks about my own accounts of the event and why I think you should volunteer too. I am not a GK staff and I do not represent the organization. This was my first time to join and I am not, by any means, claiming to be a “hero” or a saint.
Okay so this part narrates my personal experience. You don’t have to read it and you can jump to the list if you’re not interested.
The second leg of the Challenge was held at the municipality of Hernani in Eastern Samar. I was inclined to join because it’s close to where I live. I asked some of my friends if they were going but they ended up cancelling. Yes, you know who you are. The day before the trip, I was still contemplating on whether I should go or not. If I decided to go, I would go alone; I did not have enough money to buy food items and pay for transportation (you have to believe me).
So I opened my piggy bank labelled “Travel,” took the remaining PHP 300 and ran to the grocery to buy a loaf of bread, my trusty Maggie Savor (which everybody at GK loved), a pack of Oreos, a can of Century Tuna and six packets of Lucky Me Pancit Canton (endorser). Five days in an unknown place and I only had those for food. I was hopeless. I asked my friend if there are places in Hernani where I can buy food and he told me I need not prepare because I will be part of the Service Team. Late that night, I saw a Facebook post of another friend telling interested volunteers that he can arrange for free transportation. I asked him to save me a seat.
The next day, I woke up early with only a few hours of sleep because I packed my bag late at night. I waited for the “car” for almost an hour at the waiting shed and thought to myself, all signs were leading me to this direction so I knew I made the right decision. Around 7:00 AM, my friend arrived with the “car” slash truck. Yes, I ended up riding an open truck. I was taken aback but I could not back out for obvious reasons. Haha. Good think I wore long sleeves. Three hours later, I arrived in Hernani. I asked myself again, “What have I gotten myself into this time?” However, when I finally got there, I thought to myself, “Bayani Challenge 2016? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.”
#1 Make new friends
I literally only had one friend. Yes, I knew some other people, they were familiar and I’ve met a few of them; but I did not have friends. Meeting new people is not really my cup of tea and I’m not exactly the most approachable person either. But in just a few hours, I was laughing and joking around with these girls from Cebu. And after a while, other people started talking to me which was weird and uncomfortable at first. What I’m trying to say is, if you come to volunteer alone, don’t worry because you will make new friends.
#2 Be one with the locals
The Bayani Challenge is a community-based initiative. That means, people from the community are active participants and all the programs of GK were based on what the community says. When you visit a site, you can immerse in the community and be one with the locals. You will be able to interact with them, learn about their everyday lives and listen to their stories while also exchanging yours.
#3 Feel that you are part of something much bigger than yourself
Sometimes, we are too caught up in our own lives. We have tendencies of making ourselves the only heroes of our own stories. We forget that we are part of a bigger community. How about trying to be the hero of a much bigger cause? I admire the people who make up GK. They have the biggest hearts and pure dedication and commitment.
#4 Explore new places
When you volunteer for the Bayani Challenge, you don’t only help rebuild the community, you also get to explore the hidden treasures of the sites. For example, we did a coastal cleanup at Barangay Nagaja only to find an astonishing view of the beach!
#5 Be a kid again
Image credit: Jon Piczon
One of the activities during Bayani Challenge 2016 was the Paraisong Pambata (Paradise for Children). Everyday, you can choose to volunteer to help facilitate activities for children like sports clinic, dance class and art class among others. If you love kids, you’ll definitely enjoy Paraisong Pambata.
#6 Share your talents
Image credit: Jon Piczon
Every night of the five-day event, there’s a Kalinga Night a.k.a. talent show a.k.a. sharing night. Anyone, literally anyone can go up stage and present his/her/their talent/s. I remember seeing one boy who performed for three nights! Talk about confidence. Haha! Kidding aside, Kalinga night is dedicated for volunteers and even beneficiaries to relax, let loose and have fun.
#7 Learn how to dance
I am, by any means, a good dancer. I would say I am frustrated at it but I hate dancing in front of a crowd. My friends would know. However, when you volunteer for the Bayani Challenge, you will have to learn how to dance. Every year, there’s a theme song for the Challenge and every year, a Unity Dance is choreographed. I can’t remember how many times we had to do the Dance in one day; once in the morning after waking up, a few more times during activities, and a lot of times during Kalinga Night. If you’d ever feel embarrassed, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Let’s dance!
#8 Step out of your comfort zone
When you volunteer, you have to be ready to sleep in a tent, or on the floor of an elementary classroom, there won’t be any “clean” toilets and bathrooms, you won’t find any chocolate cakes around the corner; okay this sounds like I’m talking to myself. But the point is, it’s not going to be luxurious and you won’t get paid. I hope I didn’t discourage you. Don’t worry, the best parts come right after this.
#9 Be inspired
When I left for Hernani, I asked myself several times if it was really what I wanted to do. I told myself I would go “soul searching.” I’m not even going to delve deep into that but I felt as if I was only escaping and not really facing my problems head on. But when I came home after four days (I had to go home early for some school work), I felt renewed. Chos. No really, I admit, I did not “find myself” but I did not lose myself either. I just felt more enthusiastic about life. I was inspired. Everyday not just when I volunteer, I am reminded that my problems compared to others are nowhere near unsolvable and there I was complaining about my life when other people didn’t even have roofs over their heads.
#10 Help end poverty
By 2024, GK will end poverty for five million families in the Philippines! Many would be too skeptical but the people who make up GK are clear in their mission. By volunteering, you can help end poverty for families who are in dire need.
#GawadKalinga #BayaniChallenge #WalangIwanan #EndPoverty
There is a reason why they call it Bayani Challenge. When you volunteer, you help rebuild communities, you help put smiles on people’s faces, you help them gain more faith and most importantly, you give them HOPE. With GK, you can be a hero too. Join the next Bayani Challenge! Ciao!