If there is one thing that is totally satisfying, it is sharing one’s gift of time, talent and treasure to those who need it most. I daresay that the volunteers and sponsors get more out of giving than the beneficiaries themselves. We’ve been so blessed to have this opportunity yearly. Little did we know that what we started in 2008 would snowball into a yearly tradition.
For the eighth consecutive year, the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) and TeamAsia organized “My Dream in a Shoebox,” a beloved tradition of collecting and distributing shoeboxes filled with school supplies to less fortunate Filipino children. With the increasing support of our compassionate industry friends, we’ve grown from 200 shoebox donations in 2009 to more than 50,000 in 2015. These shoeboxes were donated to public schools and foundations covering Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
This year, we set ourselves a goal of 75,000 shoeboxes, which we are still on the way to achieving. So far, we’ve received over 60,000 shoeboxes, and pledges are still coming in. Early December, we launched a digital campaign called #ShoeboxChallengePH, where volunteers take a short video of themselves pledging to donate shoeboxes, then nominate three friends to do the same. Several people joined in the campaign, and this started the ball rolling.
A friend of mine, Bea Tan, vice president at Citibank, gathered her children and godchildren at her home one afternoon to stuff 50 shoeboxes and wrap them in festive paper. They all had so much fun wrapping the gifts, and I am sure the children will remember this for a very long time. I am so proud of her effort to instill the values of generosity of heart in the young!
Another friend, Joel Pascual of PEP Group, did a video on Facebook, and he says there were so many people interested to help, even some from overseas who contacted him through Facebook. Friends of mine from San Francisco have also donated willingly to the cause, as have personal friends who learn about this project. At TeamAsia, we rang the bell one day to signal the stop of work and the start of an afternoon of wrapping shoeboxes.
Last December, I’ve helped out at three gift-giving days, and would like to share what happened then.
December 10, 2016
Early that morning, we trooped to Barangay Payatas, Quezon City for our annual gift giving day of My Dream in a Shoebox at the Payatas Orione Foundation, Inc. (PAOFI). Run by the missions of the Sons of Divine Providence Congregation, PAOFI provides social welfare development programs and services to the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged persons/families relative to their health/medical, nutritional and educational needs.
That day, however, Fr. Martin was in Lucena tending to their communities in Barangay Dalahican and Talao-Talao in Lucena City. Instead, it was PAOFI’s executive director, the genial Fr. Julio who welcomed us at Payatas, together with Michelle and Shyla.
We expected 500 scholars at PAOFI, but sadly only 300 of the kids could attend the actual gift giving because of the National Achievement Test that was being administered that day. However, 133 volunteers had signed up for that session, and we were a bit worried that we had too many volunteers. This turned out to be a boon as the volunteers had more opportunity to interact with the children.
First, we grouped the children into tens and assigned each group three volunteers to serve as their big sisters/brothers, then had them come up with a group cheer. This was a tremendous success as each group tried to outdo the other in their cheering prowess. Thanks to Bea Lim and Armo Armovit for serving as judges for the cheering competition. The groupings also allowed the volunteers and the children to bond.
We had two games, the Newspaper Dance and The Boat is Sinking, with United Health Group (UHG) volunteers serving as game masters with the help of FIS Global. Emerson and UHG comprised the food distribution committee. The big brothers and sisters took charge of distributing the shoeboxes to the kids in their care, as well as, getting them hotdog sandwiches, orange juice and Picnic shoestring potatoes.
We also had a storytelling session in Filipino, which I led based on a story of a young boy who was at a loss as to what to give to his teacher on Christmas. He was sad because he could not afford to buy a gift because of his poor circumstances but was inspired when his mother told him a story about another young boy in a similar situation who drew on his creativity to come up with the best gift in the world. I told them that the gift of love is the most important thing in the world.
And love it was that we experienced that day. Hearty thanks to our selfless volunteers from Emerson, FIS Global, P&G, United Health Global, TeamAsia and IBPAP. Thanks too to Emerson for sponsoring the food and drinks for the activity, to P&G for providing the prizes for the games, to Megaworld for the Picnic shoestring potatoes, to Asia Brewery for the yoghurt, and to all those who donated shoeboxes filled with school supplies! And congratulations to TeamAsia’s Clah Salindato and Beverly Aguilar and to IBPAP’s Cholo Antonio for organizing this gift-giving day! I daresay that the volunteers left PAOFI with hearts full of happiness and contentment for sharing themselves and their morning with the children. And the smiles on the faces of the children were priceless!
December 22, 2016
One thousand thirty-six children from sixteen damayan centers. That’s how many children awaited us at the covered courts of Parokya Pedro Calungsod in Southville 3, Muntinlupa. This quasi-parish under the stewardship of Fr. Benjamin Molina, Jr., was established on October 14, 2012 to service the spiritual needs of the informal settlers that have located in the housing resettlement in a 50-hectare portion of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) reservation.
Not one to be fazed by such a daunting task, Fr. Didoy organized two gift-giving days for the children of the community, each one with 1,000 children. We were assigned to the second outreach. Come to think about it, Fr. Didoy has always set big, hairy goals when it came to helping people lead better lives. He was our parish priest at the Ascension of Our Lord Parish for three years, and he was (and still is) very much loved by the community. Which is why there were volunteers from Southbay and Goodwill who came to help that day.
But before the actual gift-giving, Fr. Didoy celebrated Holy Mass to remind everyone that we must first give thanks to the Lord for his many blessings. During his sermon, Fr. Didoy recounted the story of the very first Christmas tree that wanted to give homage to the King. The children were enthralled listening to his story, as they were, to my Filipino version of the “punong-kahoy na Pamasko.”
What is amazing is that despite the large number of children, they were all extremely well-behaved, following the instructions of the youthful volunteers. Soon, the volunteers from the different companies began arriving: Henkel, Alorica, Infosys, Intelenet, Northern Trust, Asurion, DSM Manila, Serenitea and IBPAP and TeamAsia. And just like the multiplication of bread, the blessings overflowed that day. Earlier, we had sent over 1,000 shoeboxes filled with school supplies for the children. On the day of the outreach, however, Henkel delivered an additional 1,500 shoeboxes, followed by Asurion with 150 boxes and Serenitea with 155 boxes. The children were so happy, as they each brought home not one, but two shoeboxes, ensuring that that their siblings too would have supplies for school.
The children sang, danced, and played games with the volunteers eagerly helping out, especially when it came to distributing food and beverages as well as the shoeboxes. I noticed too that some of the volunteers brought along their own children, which is a great way to teach them the importance of sharing with those less fortunate.
After the outreach was over, the volunteers gathered for a souvenir photo. There were so many that we could hardly fit them in the photo, and had to take it from the second floor of the gym.
Once again, the gifts multiplied, this time at the Ascension of Our Lord Parish outreach. Five hundred children from the developing communities of Estrada 1 and 2, Mangga, Aratiles, Silangan, Villonco, and Waterfun were gathered early in the morning at the parish church. Outside the church, another hundred or so children waited in the hope of being allowed to join the festivities. Earlier, we had delivered 600 shoeboxes to Ascension. To our surprise, Alorica arrived with another 500 boxes. This meant we could give more than one box to each child inside the church, as well as, to the children waiting outside. Wonder of wonders!
While the children were singing in the church, the parish commission and youth volunteers, the corporate volunteers from VXI, Alorica, TeamAsia and IBPAP, as well as, individual volunteers like Michelle Cruz, Olette Gonzalez, Lou Mercado, Juliet and Rene Cinco, Jun and Tess Latorre, the Liwanag family, and many more were busy preparing the games, food and drinks and shoeboxes that would be distributed that day. Everyone had a task to fulfill, some as game masters, others as marshals, gift coordinators, food coordinators, and so on. There was even a clean up committee to pick up debris left by the event.
A surprise visit by the Jollibee mascot got all the children excited, as did the various games organized for the children, like the straw relay, balloon relay and Japanese walk. Even my storytelling was listened to attentively by the children.
After the children had their snacks provided by VXI, they lined up to get their shoeboxes and other gifts from the volunteers. After this, they had their photo taken at the belen together with Fr. Joseph Landero, parish priest of Ascension of Our Lord.
When the happy children had left, the volunteers broke bread and had souvenir photos taken at the parish. From the smiles on their faces, one could see that they were very pleased with themselves. And that’s the real blessing one gets from sharing.