“Helping build and improve communities is my way of giving back after others have helped me rebuild my life.”
These words were from single mother Tess Malazarte, 46, who is one of the volunteers of the Bayani Challenge 2013— a five-day volunteerism event to showcase the Filipino bayanihan spirit community-building activities.
Aling Tess, who lost her house in a fire, has been active in outreach projects, especially those conducted by Gawad Kalinga (GK) after she had witnessed the goodness of people who helped her in rebuilding her home and her life.
After the massive fire in 2010 which destroyed 75 houses in Brgy. 185 in Malaria, Caloocan City, Aling Tess and other affected families were left devastated, unsure of how they would recover from the tragedy.
It was when the Gawad Kalinga went to them and helped them build their lives again through the framework of volunteerism.
“The Gawad Kalinga and their volunteers helped us build new homes for ourselves. We, of course, helped the way we could. We were their beneficiaries, but we became volunteers too, helping in rebuilding our community, and helping other communities, as well,” Aling Tess said.
She added that she is just paying back the help that she received by helping out other people and communities through outreach activities.
“It feels so good to be of service to others after they have been of service to us,” she added.
That is why together with her daughter, they have volunteered in the Bayani Challenge at the Intramuros site where they would help in the beautification of the area by repainting the alleys, sidewalks, and walls.
Aside from reviving the old Filipino practice of bayanihan, Aling Tess said the activity teaches her daughter to engage in meaningful activities rather than engage in vices or other unproductive activities.
Eda Berriber, 50 years old and a mother of four, is also a volunteer in the Bayani Challenge 2013.
She is also one of the beneficiaries of GK and among the 75 families from Brgy. 185.
Now, she is an officer of GK- Silver Heights where they spearhead in the activities conducted by their group.
“One thing about the Bayani Challenge is that it unites people of different age and economic status to work towards one goal. Here, you could meet a lot of people. The event is not just pure work; there is a fun side, too,” she said.
Aside from the painting activity, they also get some entertainment with concerts staged in the area at night.
Aling Eda added that though they provide their own food and other needs, and given the erratic weather of late, they do not mind because what they are doing is meaningful and gives them a sense of fulfillment.
For her, volunteering in community-building activities has been part of her life after the fire that destroyed their homes. “When we saw the goodness of other people in helping us rebuild our homes, we realized that kindness shouldn’t end with the beneficiary; one should learn to give as well,” she said.
Now, they have already completed 40 houses in Brgy. 185. In two years time, they project that all the 75 houses will have been constructed.
“One of the pacts that our community in Brgy. 185 made is that we wouldn’t move to any of the new houses yet unless all houses have been completed,” she said.
“This is to observe fairness and oneness or “sama-sama” in that endeavor. We want to let each other know that we are together in this project, and no one would be comfortable while the other is still suffering,” she said.
“That for us is true bayanihan,” she added. “And the Bayani Challenge is just among the many activities we have joined in to further spread bayanihan.”
The Bayani Challenge is a five-day outreach activity where volunteers build communities for their fellowmen by building and repairing schools, and conducting health missions and climate change mitigation activities. It started last March 23 and will end March 27.
Under the theme, “Isang Bayan, Isang Bayanihan,” this year’s challenge enjoins around 80,000 participants from all sectors of society to put up to 783 houses in 37 sites, 34 provinces across the country.
It is an activity under the Pilipinas Natin—the government’s campaign to build a volunteerism movement among Filipinos to effect positive change to the country.
The Bayani Challenge is among the activities of the government’s Pilipinas Natin launched in 2011 as a response to President Benigno Aquino’s (PNoy) call for the Filipinos to work together in empowering the nation through patriotism and the Filipino concept of “Bayanihan” or working with each other.