I really want to change the world. I have always been idealistic in terms of how I perceive the world and how it should be- free of sufferings, pain and danger. Every time I would hear news of disasters destroying communities and claiming lives, it would literally breaks my heart and at some point would make me feel depressed for not being able to alleviate their sufferings. Instead of being eaten out by my depression, I decided that even if I cannot help everyone, I know that I can help and improve the lives of as many people as I can. This is the reason why I am grateful to be part of the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program as this has provided me an opportunity to engage with local communities that are facing the wrath and threats of natural disasters through volunteerism. Along with the other 49 DRR Youth Leaders from the 10 country members of ASEAN, we were also able to participate in carrying out activities that increases and reinforces the communities’ awareness and capacities on disaster risk reduction management.
During the two weeks community engagement, I was assigned to Barangay Banaba in San Mateo Rizal, a barangay that is prone to flooding because it is located beside two conjoined rivers, The Marikina River (west) and Nangka River(south). In addition, informal settlements are also present in the riverside area, which are the most vulnerable during flooding. During our immersion in the community, we had a transect walk with the lead of Ka Noli (the founder of Buklod Tao, Inc , a people’s organization based in Brgy. Banaba) in which the realities of the barangay’s situation have been shown to us. Our information about the barangay have been deepen through the conduct of Community Risk Assessments with the participation of children and adults of the community as well as the support of the members of Buklod Tao.
In one instance, we experienced first hand the early onset of flooding when we were coming back to our dorm after our activity in the community. It was a bit depressing as we head home safe while thinking about the community having to face the threat of an imminent flooding.
Good thing, the community is able to evacuate and support such as community kitchen had been set-up by Buklod Tao to provide food to the affected communities. The presence of Buklod Tao in the community made me realized how volunteerism plays a vital role in shaping a community. I see volunteers coming from the community itself devoting themselves to help, educate and capacitate the community in increasing their disaster resiliency banking on their experiences with disasters in the past.
In the subsequent days, we were involved in some of the best practices of the organization in increasing the resiliency of the community through the boat paddle making, urban gardening(composting) and production of IEC Materials with DRR Key Messages. I was part of the composting team in which we were tasked to create a compost mix which will be put in pots made from recycled materials with seedlings on it to be distributed to 20 families.
Our community engagement ended when we distributed our outputs to the community and with high hopes that the boat paddles, compost outputs and IEC would contribute in keeping their community resilient especially during flooding.
My whole experience in AYVP have given me more time to reflect on what I can do for the communities that I support and for the communities I can still support in the future. I have learned that no matter how small or big what we can contribute as long as we put our heart into it, the journey will always be fruitful. The AYVP made it more fruitful as I get to work with 49 youth volunteers from all over ASEAN countries which made me realized too that I am not alone in this journey. We can do much greater things and reach more people because we share the same vision working for a community that supports one another as the DRR Youth Leaders .
I am still not giving up on changing the world and with the DRR Youth Leaders, I know that we can with one volunteerism journey at a time.