My name is Jasmin Jamora. I am a dermatologist by profession, but I have always had a heart for helping people. This was always a sincere desire, even in childhood, when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say, “A doctor. So I can help people”. Pretty stock and standard answer for a 5-year old. But as I went through medical school at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, this heartfelt desire blossomed. Daily, I would encounter sick patients and their families falling into and struggling through extreme poverty, unable to commute to the hospital to get check-ups, unable to eat properly or feed their children due to lack of food. I encountered disempowered women resorting to desperate means to abort a child they could no longer afford to bear or raise; three women to a single bed, having just given birth to a healthy pink baby, their first or their fifth child; dying patients struggling to have dignity in their last breath. I was honored to serve these fellow men, the 90% of the “real” Philippines that I myself didn’t exist in.
As my career in medicine and dermatology progressed, I felt I was able to balance personal success by “giving back” to the Philippines through my participation in local medical missions. I felt temporarily satisfied after these occasions, but realized a deep gap between the level of health care that should be regularly and widely available to the Filipino communities, and the actual access to health care that they didn’t have. Having gone on a medical mission to serve the Manobo tribes in Bukidnon in 2006, I was moved after talking to a lady rancher who spoke about a personal advocacy she had, which was improving the quality of education at her local elementary school. She counted her little school having won a science contest in a regional division as a “little win”. That phrase rang in my head through the years. What does this mean? Whenever I think of the massive corruption, indifference and seemingly unbreakable apathy in ourselves and in our systems, usually failing to hold each other to account, it’s tempting to think that “just myself” or “just one person” cannot make a difference. But the phrase “little win” really stuck with me. “Little wins” slowly and persistently over time will amount to something big, something great and it will result in something bigger than you can achieve as just a single person. As I heard generous and authentically loving people in the Philippines talk about their personal advocacies, I was inspired to feature these in a published column. My brother-in-law suggested a web blog, but I felt the prohibitive burden of maintaining a blog along with my other work responsibilities.
Things finally clicked for me this year, when it finally dawned on me that I could feature local advocacies and encourage volunteerism in the Philippines at the same time. I created http://www.helpthephilippines.com as a means to revive our “bayanihan” spirit and encourage Filipinos, especially the youth and even balikbayans, to be involved in our beloved country. “Bayan” means nation or community in Filipino, while bayanihan” refers to a spirit of communal unity or effort to achieve a particular objective. (1) This would be a directory of all interested private, charitable, non-governmental, socio civic, and faith-based advocacies and causes that are run by Filipinos for Filipinos. This would provide widespread access to information, reaching out not just to Filipinos in the Philippines, but Filipinos abroad, and other people wanting to help the Philippines.
Additionally, anybody wanting to start an advocacy can see if there are existing organizations targeting the same beneficiaries, and pool resources if they desired to do so.
Why encourage volunteerism in the first place? Fittingly, 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the Year of the Volunteer, started in 2001 by the United Nations. Their website states that “volunteering empowers people to take an active part in development, to take responsibility for the needs of others, and to make an impact in their own lives. Volunteering often starts at home: but together, volunteers can change the world” (2)
Pastor Timothy Keller in his sermon “Missions” states that the lack of joy in life is due to lack of mission which humans are created by God for. (3) There is a link between joy and sentness. Jesus, the “Sent One” of God in John 17:18 prayed “Just as You sent Me into the world, I am sending them into the world.” (4) “Sentness” refers to being anointed and appointed by God for mission, representing and revealing God in our world. (5)
Even as children, we all dreamt of doing something great. We wanted to change the world, never compromise or fall into corruption, and stand for love, peace and justice. But as we age, we tend to fall into complacency and indifference. We get caught up in surviving the daily grind, and are taught by culture that nothing is more important than personal fulfillment. The quest for individual happiness destroys mission, leaving us nothing to live or die for, no cause we are willing to sacrifice for. We gain “personal freedom” but lose our joy, leading to a life without flavor. But the higher causes of grace, love, peace, justice, generosity and joy, patriotism, love for God and family still remain true and important to all human beings. Thus, there is a need to serve, to be in mission, to volunteer, for these help fulfill the higher causes.” Jesus says in Matthew 16:25 “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
Compassion for others is also our usual reason to volunteer or help. David Bonifacio of Victory Christian Fellowship defined “compassion” as a combination of a “compass” (what directs our lives) and “passion” (motivation for being). Anyone who has helped someone has felt the soul-filling joy of making a difference for someone other than themselves. When we realize that our “selves” are just part of a greater “self” that includes family, communities, society and country, then volunteering should be as natural as loving oneself.
I’ve met so many personal “heroes” in my lifetime and I’m sure you have too. My uncle Jun volunteers at Muntinlupa Bilibid prison to pray with prisoners one Friday a month. He’s made friends with these prisoners in maximum security. When I went with him to do a medical mission I could see that they had become his friends. Their life was that much better by him being there and volunteering. Just his sheer presence made them feel that they deserved respect and dignity, that they were worth something. My cousin Paolo volunteered for 3 months teaching for Chosen Children, an organization for handicapped orphans. His teaching them shows them love and grace that they may not otherwise have experienced, but at the same time, being with the children changes and blesses Paolo. He expands his limitations and goes out of himself, and I see the light in his eyes when he talks about his work there. Now because of that short period of volunteering, he has committed his life to educating special children.
If you think about someone you admire or who inspires you, someone you consider a hero or a great cause or organization, you’ll find that it only takes ONE person to make a HUGE difference in the world, regardless of the hurdles and obstacles. Mahatma Gandhi. Cory Aquino. Jose Rizal. Martin Luther King. You could be that person. You could be the means to change another person’s life for the better. You could impact your community in a positive way. You can make this directory the starting point for your journey to a life of fulfillment and joy.
“Greater love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
-John 15:13 (NIV)
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45).