Sometimes, all it takes is one person to change someone else’s life
WHEN IT COMES TO volunteerism, one doesn’t always need to be part of a group to do something good. Sometimes, all it takes is one to change someone’s life and make a whole lot of difference.
This is how it all started for Emmanuele Marie ‘Em-em’ Parra, a 22-year old volunteer who advocates against human trafficking and modern slavery. Parra has been doing volunteer work since 2014, a personal advocacy she started when she visited a slum area in Tondo.
“My passion for volunteering started when I visited a slum area in Tondo, Manila for our photography class in 2014. It was there where I met kids who worked in a charcoal factory just to provide for their family’s basic needs, especially to pay for their school supplies etc. It made me realize that there are many people who don’t have access to quality education, proper housing, and people who are suffering from hunger and poverty. From then on, I became eager to help others in any way that I could,” said Parra, a MassComm graduate of the Far Eastern University.
Since then, Parra has been organizing events and various outreach programs for groups and NGOs who want to conduct CSR projects, especially during Christmas.
“Christmas is my favorite time of the year because this is the season of giving and spreading love and happiness to people.”
Although Parra has joined and conducted various volunteer works, the young volunteer shared that groups working with rescued victims of human trafficking is closest to her heart. One of these groups include Visayan Forum Foundation, a non-profit, non-stock, org that works for the welfare of marginalized migrants, especially those working in the invisible and informal sectors. It works in issues of domestic work, child labor, and human trafficking particularly of women and children. This is where she did her first outreach project.
“The girls in Visayan Forum is where I get my inspiration to do what I’m doing. This is the organization which I am really focused on helping.”
Passion in helping
Despite adopting this organization as the center of her volunteer work, Parra shared that she has not stopped helping other groups that she was able to participate in before.
“I have volunteered and continuously volunteering to many organizations, but the main NGO that I ‘adopted’ is Visayan Forum Foundation. I adopted this organization because I truly believe that they are doing a vital work in the society. Human trafficking is a big issue in our country, and it affects the lives of many innocent people especially children. I also became attached to the girls in our Center of Hope (safe house), because they are very kind, sweet, loving and intelligent. I was truly amazed with their courage and they have become my inspiration. They are like my little sisters.”
Her biggest take from these experience is meeting different people from all walks of life, describing each encounter as surreal.
“Meeting people from different walks of life and hearing their personal stories really moved me. It inspires me to continue what I am doing, and it was an eye opening experience especially listening to the stories of the girls of Visayan Forum Foundation. It pushes me to work even harder to help them and raise awareness about this issue to gather more support from people.”
The most recent outreach program she organized was a Christmas party for the girls of VF. “We organized this event because I know that the survivors will not be celebrating Christmas with their families, and this is the least that we can do to show them that many people love them. The event gave them hope and happiness, and most importantly, we thanked them for inspiring us because of their courage for not giving up despite of what happened.”
Just like her other outreach events, Parra and her team also conducted town halls to raise awareness about human trafficking. They also had different workshops such as self defense, arts and crafts, dance, soap making and polvoron and pastillas making.
“I guess the main impact is that it became a learning ground for them to enhance their skills, and widen their knowledge. For the self defense workshop, this will help them learn how to protect themselves once they out along with the rest of society. We taught them how to make pastillas and polvoron which we will sell during Christmas where all the funds raised will directly benefit the beneficiaries of VF.”
Parra already has many cherished memories doing her volunteer work, but continues to be amazed at how much she has touched the lives of others, and how they are doing the same for her.
“During our Christmas party, the girls expressed how happy they were that even if they cannot spend Christmas with their own family, they are still happy because they have us. They also gave us personalized thank you letters, and it was so touching because you can really feel how happy and sincere they were.”
For Em-em, doing volunteer work has significantly changed her outlook of life. “It opened my eyes to the pressing issues that we are facing which made me an active citizen because honestly before, I am not aware. Volunteering also brought out the best of me, and has sent me extreme happiness when I see that the kids are happy. It also brings fun and fulfillment to my life. I must say that volunteering is the perfect way to unwind after a hectic week at work. Giving back to the community gave me pure joy and uplifted your spirit!”
But more than just an option to help, Parra hopes that people will see volunteering as an important aspect of their life.
“Outreach program is not just about giving food, money, clothes or any other material things, it is about giving love and happiness to your beneficiaries. I swear, the beneficiaries don’t care how much or how big your gifts are, but what they will truly value the most is your presence, time and making them feel that they are loved and there are people who are willing to support them in any way they can.”
HER TIPS ON VOLUNTEERING
1) Ask these questions to yourself, ‘Who do you want to help?’ (Elderly, children, animals, environment, etc). Next, ‘Who are the people who can help you organize the event?’ And lastly, ‘What you can give to them (time, skills, etc)?”
2) Just do it! Don’t hesitate to start a conversation or make a step in organizing volunteer activities because I know that there are a lot of amazing people in this world who want to help, but they don’t know how to start or who to ask. Be that person who will start the action.
3) Use the power of social media! In this generation, social media is a powerful tool to disseminate information, especially to millennials. So I suggest you use social media to ask support from your family and friends.
4) Once you’ve already began volunteer work, show your biggest smile. Give unlimited warm hugs! It’s what they need the most!
5) Interact and talk to your beneficiaries. Make long lasting connections with them. Motivate them, inspire them, and you will notice that at the end, it’s you who will be motivated and inspired.
To join in outreach activities, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.