In a quiet village in the province of Rizal in the Philippines, our small group of volunteers arrived with a vehicle filled with about a month’s worth of food items that could provide some relief for the one hundred families living there. The people greeted us with the same warm smiles of welcome as they always had before, but this time no hugs.
They knew us, of course, because we built this village side-by-side with them. The Teleperformance-Gawad Kalinga Village in Taytay, Rizal was built through the donations and hard work of Citizen of the World (COTW) volunteers and some partner clients, for the survivors of the devastating Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. Even after turning over the 100 houses and the community facilities to the beneficiaries in 2014, we continued to frequently visit and built a close relationship with the community.
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores and the government imposed strict quarantines, this little community was always on my mind. These were families that have been fighting so hard for so many years to build a better future – what’s going to happen to them?
And then my mind would turn to our family of COTW volunteers. How about them? How are our people holding up? The pandemic affected everyone and no one had an easy time with this. Some had it tougher, definitely, but we were all impacted, each one of us.
I should have known that our volunteers deeply shared my concern for the village and the various partner-beneficiaries we have been supporting these past years. Even as they themselves were in lockdown and in various stressful situations, they still were asking – how can we help?
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can sometimes appear distant and, well, corporate. But COTW has always been personal because it has always been about our volunteers, about one person reaching out to another, to spread the message of hope.
Taking on the responsibility of making a difference for our communities, that is what our COTW volunteers have always done, and continued to do even during the lockdown. We were able to raise funds to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate to health frontliners in public hospitals and labs. We’ve sent over food packages for a home for the elderly, an orphanage, and our partner-beneficiary caring for chronically-ill children.
Counterintuitively, on top of all the long hours and great amount of work many of us had to take on during these tough times, supporting COTW became even more important for us. Because it is when darkness threatens to overcome the world that the mission of bringing the light of hope is most essential.
Taking care of the practical and immediate needs such as food and PPE can also take on a symbolic aspect. It is our way of showing this small village, this group of elderly folks, this group of kids, that they are not alone. That there are people who care about them. And maybe, these simple acts of our volunteers can inspire others and spark action.
And the volunteer, those tireless Teleperformance volunteers, feel energized with renewed vigor because the hope that they plant in the hearts of others have already taken root in theirs.
We are so energized that new ideas are coming to us in droves -- new initiatives, new ways of doing things, fresh approaches to CSR and fund raising and so much more. We are excited to do even more projects into our new future. As the company carefully and safely transitions to a new normal in the workplace, we also look forward to continuing to help and make a difference for those in need.
In the meantime, we shall soon be going back to the village to continue helping our friends and extended family from the village. You will understand why, in the spirit of community that we’ve always nurtured in TP, we’ve called our fund drive “We Rice Together”. Because indeed, that is what our COTW volunteers do – we lift each other up so we can rise together with hope for a better future for all.