From doing the rounds at Rashid Hospital for Filipinos needing help to buying hand-me-downs regularly sent to the Mangyans of Mindoro, joining triathlons to raise funds for tribal communities in Palawan, and raising support for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) under the care of the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Consulate General’s Office.
Add to this list is an advocate who organized volleyball tourneys to have proceeds sent to cancer-stricken children in the Philippines, an educator who works to provide General Santos City school children with adequate learning materials, and a husband-and-wife team of doctors who have been involved in outreach medical missions for OFWs.
Indeed there is no shortage of Pinoys who have taken the road called, “Kawanggawa” (charity) in the spirit of “Bayanihan,” or working together for a common goal.
When Filipinos hear the word “Bayanihan” – the image of Filipino citizens lifting a hut together would always be the first image that comes to mind.
Filipinos who are now working here in the UAE grew up learning and embodying this trait of whole-hearted service and cooperation as they now spearhead several initiatives where they actively participate to aid fellow Filipinos in need of guidance and direction towards living a more fruitful life.
The Filipino Times interviewed individuals in the UAE who have made a difference in the lives of Pinoys back home as well as the distressed Filipino community here in the UAE.
Aiding future leaders
A child’s eagerness to learn about the world and what it has to offer begins at home and in school. However, several schools in the Philippines have had their share of struggles as they continuously require more teachers and better facilities.
This is why Dr. Nino Decenorio, 2018 The Filipino Times Educator of the Year, has collaborated with the Al Alfiah Filipino Private School (AFPS) in the UAE and the Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Colleges (RMMC) at General Santos City in Mindanao to collectively spearhead the “Akbay Agapay Program” to help young students engage in a more conducive learning environment by providing them with adequate educational materials.
“It is such an honor to work as the International Linkage Coordinator between all these institutions. Soon, more organizations here in the UAE will be participating in sending educational materials to the school children in Mindanao. This means that more school children will be covered by this program,” shares Dr. Decenorio.
The project was one of the outcomes of the memorandum of agreement signed between RMMC and institutions including AFPS, Bath Spa University – UAE, Skyline University, Dusit Thani Hotel, and GeoScience Testing Laboratory.
Dr. Decenorio described the signing, which was witnessed by Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes, as a historic move for the educational institution to “showcase the College’s thrust to gravitate from being a local institution to a global higher institution.”
Moving forward, Dr. Decenorio is optimistic that more opportunities will soon be available for school children as they continue on with their studies: “The community services that RMMC and Al Alfiah Filipino Private School for the indigenous school children is just one of the many initiatives to help our kababayan back home. In the coming months, students from Mindanao will be given the opportunities to experience internship, immersion, study tour, student and faculty exchange programs.”
He also hopes to inspire fellow Filipinos to spread positivity and good will towards others no matter how small or how big their contributions are.
“To all my kababayans, it does not matter whether our help is enormous or tiny. The most important thing is your desire to make a difference. Even the smallest kindness or generosity will have an impact if done out of genuine intention. I encourage you to start reaching out to schools, non-governmental organizations, and charities in your respective sector or community. I encourage you to look for an avenue where you can help most. It may be in education, sports, arts, medical, among many others. There are so many reasons to be thankful and to feel blessed. So, act now and be a blessing to others,” said Dr. Decenorio.
Building better communities
In addition to providing educational materials, students likewise require facilities that would provide them with a space to interact and satisfy their curiosities in life beyond the four corners of their classroom.
Dan Lester Dabon, 2016 The Filipino Times Healthcare Professional of the Year, spearheaded the annual “League for Legacy” volleyball tournament with the Filipino Expatriate Volleyball Association (FEVA) to raise funds for a project that would help shape the future of tomorrow’s leaders.
“This advocacy was initiated in the hope of redefining the former meaning that volleyball is just a sport that promotes health and wellness. While we put so many efforts in gathering all the volleyball enthusiasts in the UAE, we also slowly introduced the concept of “building a community that genuinely serves the underserved/ underprivileged”,” said Dabon.
The project had also covered cancer-stricken children: “I must say that in 5 fruitful years, the initiative has already helped thousands of kids. If I may humbly recall in 2016, we were able to donate Php 100, 000 at the House of Hope Foundation for Children with Cancer in Davao City. We also helped our 2 scholars finished their studies in the university in 2018,” shares Dabon.
He has worked in collaboration with the New City Commercial Corporation Cares (NCCC Cares), LBC Express Inc., and the Upper Sirib Elementary School at Calinan District at Davao City to help build a multi-purpose center for the students to have a place to channel their creativity and show the world what they have to offer as they become more motivated to accomplish their goals towards helping to build the country in their own simple ways.
In addition, the initiative has also provided a waiting area in the form of bamboo hut for parents while looking after for their preschool children in Iloilo.
Dabon reveals that his drive to spearhead this initiative stems from his hope that other children wouldn’t have to experience being deprived of access to education. “I was not born with a silver spoon, my childhood was not the likes of many and I was deprived of having a full access to education where it reached the point that I had to stop because we were financially challenged. Therefore, the purpose of giving back has been initiated at the early stage of my life because I “literally” know the feeling of having nothing.”
He also shares that it’s helpful for those who plan to help others to think forward about their long-term mission and vision to be of service for the betterment of their fellowmen.
“If you have the heart to help but don’t know how to begin, ask yourself these simple triggers:
- What is my deeper purpose in life?
- When should I begin being an advocate?
- How can I utilize my influence to help others succeed?
- Why am I doing this?
- Who should be involved to make this initiative successful and for whom I am doing this?”
Hope for distressed Filipinos
Here in the UAE, many Filipino expats have also brought forth their sincerest intentions to help distressed Filipinos who have sought shelter in the Philippine Embassy and Philippine Consulate through continuous donation drives and programs.
Among these initiatives and programs is the monthly medical mission led by Drs. Joey and Aileen Villanueva, recipients of the 2015 and 2018 The Filipino Times Awards Healthcare Professional of the Year, as they are joined by several Filipino doctors and experts of the League of Filipino Healthcare Professionals in the UAE.
Dr. Joey Villanueva
“The League of Filipino Healthcare Professionals (LFHP) was founded on 17 June 2010 at the residence of the former Ambassador Grace Relucio Princesa. The vision of the League is to have a fellowship of Filipino physicians, nurses and other allied healthcare professionals united in the common goal of acquiring the highest level of medical knowledge and skills (and) in conducting medical missions to our countrymen in the region, and to promote the healing ministrations of its members in the delivery of healthcare services to patients in the region,” shares Dr. Joey Villanueva.
One of their most prominent projects is a whole day free medical mission to check the state of health of the distressed Filipinos in the shelter.
“Many of the wards or we can say almost all of them has no health insurances since their health insurances were left with their employer, therefore, they do not have access to healthcare except of course for emergency or highly significant debilitating illness. The medical mission provides free consultation, medication, counseling and other form of treatment within the capabilities of the members who attends the medical mission. This program provides primary, secondary as well as tertiary prevention to certain extent in order for their illness not to escalate or progress to significant debilitating illness or emergency that requires tertiary hospital management,” furthers Dr. Joey Villanueva.
Running for more than 70 missions equating to more than 70 months in total, the project is one of the longest-running initiatives here in the UAE that provides free aid for distressed Filipinos to make sure that their health is prior to their flight back home towards the Philippines, to which the beneficiaries have expressed their appreciation as it is their fellow Filipinos who look after their wellbeing.
“The overwhelming appreciation to each of us is more than enough for us to experience self fulfilment for our cause. It is our vocation to help by providing the highest noble service to mankind especially to our countrymen or kabayans who are less fortunate in life or health without expecting anything in return. If you join the cause, you will realize that the service you provide to others is not only for them, but it is for yourself, as the joy of self fulfilment is profound. Truly, it is gifting ourselves, more than a just a mere privilege,” said Dr. Joey Villanueva.
Dr. Aileen Villanueva adds that even the simplest act of giving some of their time just to be with the wards, listening to their stories, giving them counseling or advises, letting them know that they are not alone in their struggles provides them the glimmer of hope that they need.
“You should set your heart in doing good, by helping other people or even to uplift one’s morale will make a difference. We should a goal to make a difference that will make our efforts worthwhile. Think and do something good in the community with dedicated service and yet be invisible to the prying splendor of fame,” said Dr. Aileen Villanueva.