The Official Publication of Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health - Philippines

Confessions of a Volunteer

Written by Zapphire Zamudio*

Three years and beyond: How it was and how it is now for the Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health

What began as a half-hearted attendance to a forum that I knew nothing about has now turned into a full-blown advocacy filled with much inspiration, passion and dedication. Starting with zero idea of what Folic Acid, Newborn Screening and Orphan Disorders are all about, I now readily face a community to increase their awareness of these three important matters.

VOLUNTEER. It was in July of 2009 when I saw on my table in the office of the Silliman University Student Government a letter addressed to our university president with an invitation to send two student leaders to the Institution and Planning Workshop of the Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health - Philippines. I had two very valid reasons why I didn’t want to go. One, I was in my final year. I thought that if this “forum” needed a touch of continuity, I’d rather send someone who was in their junior year. This way they could carry on for another year after the forum. And frankly speaking, I was “busy.” Second reason: Health. That word just flashed “NO WAY” right to my face. I majored in Mass Communication. Need I say more?

But I went on and read further. I then thought of two reasons why I should go. One, the venue was in Tagaytay (who wouldn’t want to go?) and second, I thought, “this could be fun.” So it was 2-on-2 and I was on a crossroad. To go or not to go, that was the question for me. And then, there it was, the answer: I saw on the side of the communication letter the words “Send SG President.” It was a direct order from the university president. An order I dared not decline.  

At this time, I remember telling myself “So much for being a volunteer.”  But I went on with it. I took the plane and reached Manila then Tagaytay. I didn’t look forward to anything, if truth be told. I went there and thought I’ll just get this over with. I’ll go home at the end of Day 3 and just go back to how I was before I left. And I was wrong.  Reaching Manila and travelling to Tagaytay was a rainy day. A lot of flights were cancelled and I later found out that I was one of the 64 (out of the possible 200 delegates) who made it to the forum. With that thought alone, I slowly changed my mind and allowed myself to be open minded to the many possibilities and opportunities the forum may present.

All those years in the student government taught me to be a servant-leader. But I never thought of myself as a volunteer. I didn’t demand rewards or payments for the things I did, but I also didn’t do everything voluntarily. Most of the time, I thought of the things I did as a call of duty, things that were just “all in a day’s work.” I didn’t get the concept of being a volunteer until I was with VYLH-Philippines.

YOUTH. 2010 was the year after I pledged commitment to the VYLH-Philippines. This time, the most important task to be accomplished was to expand the network. And so the K4 batch was born. We, as Pioneers, had the burden of identifying those who fit the role of being VYLs. 

Island-wide camps took place with the theme “VYLH Philippines – K4:  Kabataan Kabalikat ng Kalusugan para sa Kinabukasan”. Clearly, the emphasis was placed on the word Kabataan (Youth) and what role this dynamic and innovative age group plays in the promotion of health.

It was such an irony, for a youth, such as myself, to be unhealthy during the Visayas (the cluster where I belong) Island-wide Camp. The moment the camp started in Danao City, Cebu was also the moment I stepped out of the hospital, having just recovered from Stage II Dengue Fever. I hated myself (but I hated the mosquito more), for not being able to go. But I looked on the bright side and told myself, that at least I have something to look forward in the coming year: to meet the new batch of volunteers from all over the Philippines. I was excited to be in the presence of like-minded and hearted individuals who, despite the young age, advocated for something as noble and humble as the advocacies of the VYLH-Philippines

Truly, age is just a number. And to have been commissioned to fulfil the tasks of being a member of the VYLH-Philippines is both a privilege and responsibility. With a little more than seven years to go, I will soon graduate from being a youth. But I will never cease to be a VYL.

LEADERS. 2011 was the year when the Pioneers and the K4 batch got together. Day 1 may have been a little awkward. But being the kind of people that we are, gregarious, social and just fun-loving youths, the gap between the two batches seemed to have never existed in the first place.

The 1st VYLH-Philippines National Leadership Congress themed Strengthening Unity Leadership and Commitment to Health, held in Pampanga, was an event filled with so many accomplishments that resulted to a more inspired membership. The first set of officers was elected and the discussion of the VYLH-Philippines Constitution began. This was a time when every single member was able to display not just their leadership skills, but their commitment and dedication to the organization. 

1st VYLH National Leadership Congress

Being assigned to be one of the moderators for the discussion of the Constitution, I was one of those who truly saw how everyone wanted the best for the organization. Some voices raised, some eyes rolled, and some who were more demure than others all of a sudden broke out of their shells and had their thoughts known. 

It was a surprisingly awesome display of heart and spirit for the organization and its advocacies. All the while I thought it would be difficult to handle at least 200 “leaders” in a single event. But for the nth time already, VYLH – Philippines redefined the meaning of the terms that I was accustomed to. For during that moment, I believed that being a leader was beyond the rank and position. In VYLH – Philippines, everyone was a leader and everyone was humble. And as leaders, we were able to work together and accomplish something as one organization.

HEALTH. Quite honestly, this word continues to make me question my “credibility” as a member of the organization. When everyone expressed and affirmed that I had a place in the organization, I continued to doubt myself. So when the accidental invitation to be the secretary of the Steering Committee came, I thought that I had a limited time to at least make up for the shortcomings I had as a volunteer. 

The 2nd VYLH-Philippines National Leadership Congress was appropriately themed One Heart. One Vision. One Goal. Sustaining the VYLH Commitment to Servant Leadership. Three things made this gathering extra special for most of us, especially for me. Firstly, we welcomed the I3 batch. The newest members, who are as dedicated, passionate and inspired as the first two batches were. Second is the ratification of the VYLH – Philippines Constitution done by the first two batches. Losing my voice for the second year in a row, discussing the same piece of document was more than worth it. It was a huge accomplishment and step to further the organization and its advocacies. And thirdly, the National Team Building Activity participated in by the 3 batches, as one organization.  

Now, if I was to assign the different body parts to a certain group of people and things, I would do it this way:

The “titos and titas” (formally Board of Advisers) make up the Central Nervous System (the brain and the spinal cord), the secretariat on the other hand makes up the rest of the Nervous System acting as receptors and effectors. The VYLs are the different organs of the different systems, each performing their tasks to make the organization live. And of course, the heart, that thing that pumps life into the organization: the advocacies (Folic Acid Awareness Campaign, Newborn Screening Promotion and Orphan Disorder Support). 

With the organization in its present form, the only direction to go is to continue nourishing and nurturing its members and its advocacies.

This is my journey as a volunteer for the Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health – Philippines. It’s been three years already, and it’s just the beginning.

(Photo credit: Renz Bulseco)

*Zapphire Zamudio is a graduate of Silliman University with a degree in Mass Communication. She is currently taking up Master of Arts in Education major in English at West Negros University while working as an English instructor in a language school.

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