“My life has but one purpose; I was born to CARE, SHARE and SERVE.”

– Mrs. Tomasa Baptista Galbinez

“The greatest heart is that of a volunteer.” Often times, people seldom overlook gallant acts of kindness and selflessness. There are dire times that people step up and accept challenges without having to be recognized for deeds of such great heights. These people get to do the job without being compensated; all because they have the heart to serve.  Indeed a heart of a volunteer is unique especially if their intentions for volunteering are noble.

Mrs. Tomasa B. Galbinez wakes up at 4:30 AM, prepares breakfast for her husband and son, freshens up, and by 7:00 AM goes to the Kapit-Bisig Laban Sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) sub-project site at Barangay Poblacion, Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte. This is her daily routine from Monday to Friday, a common day for her, and definitely for a majority of working wives all over the country.  But what is unique about what she does is that she is working as a volunteer for the Kalahi-CIDSS Project, and wait, here comes the unique part – she is an 83 year-old retired teacher. Now, could anyone say that her daily routine is a typical day, just like everybody else’s day?

Nana, as she is fondly called in their barangay, started volunteering for Kalahi-CIDSS in 2010 (Kapatagan’s first cycle implementation of the program), and has since been a volunteer for three cycles for three years. “When I first heard of the project during the municipal orientation in 2010, I was excited to be part of it. It was unique. At my age, I was hoping that there was something I would be able to do. When I was asked to be part of the volunteer’s pool, without any hesitation I said YES,” Nana said.

The Kalahi-CIDSS is one of the banner projects of the Department of Social Welfare and Development that utilizes the Community-Driven Development strategy in implementing sub-projects in the community. Through the project, the community is given an opportunity to address their most pressing needs and problems with a solution that they themselves would work on. The project allows communities to handle the funds for the project that would solve their problems and community volunteers are utilized to have a hands-on experience in implementing the sub-projects.

“I could still remember how people told me that volunteering would be a bad idea since I am already old. I could still remember how our neighbor, who was also our schools superintendent before I retired, told me – Tomasa, are you really serious with your decision on volunteering for the project? Maybe you would be the cause why the project won’t work out for our barangay. When he passed away, while looking at him on his coffin, I jokingly told him, – look who’s still up and at it, superintendent,” Nana shared.

Nana was chosen as the Monitoring and Inspection Team head for the first cycle.  It was something she was comfortable with. The members of her team respect her, this is why even at her age, members of her team still look up to her capacity to lead.  “I spent my days monitoring work in the field. Amidst the hot rays of the sun and cold pouring rain, we endured it just so we could finish our job on time. They called me the team janitor because I spent a lot of time cleaning up the mess we left behind while working on the field, Nana said.

It was fulfilling on the part of Nana to be part of the program. For her, service was a way of life. After spending more than 37 years in teaching, she said that she has never felt more important than serving as a volunteer for Kalahi-CIDSS.  “My life has but one purpose; I was born to CARE, SHARE and SERVE other people.  That is why I loved teaching so much, because I get to be part of the lives of my students. Now, Kalahi has paved another way for me to share my life for an important purpose and this is to help our barangay,” Nana added.

Through the Kalahi-CIDSS project, volunteers are exposed to different trainings to capacitate them in carrying out the job needed in the project implementation. One funny thing Nana shared was that because of the engineering seminars she had with the project, she was turned into an overnight engineer.  “I would remember meddling with the laborers in the field working with our Drainage Canal Sub-Project. I would tell them to place the bigger rocks on the base to strengthen the canal.  They would just laugh and say yes, Madam Engineer,” Nana shared.

“Kalahi-CIDSS was really important to us. It provided a solution to our worsening flooding problems. But more than that, it gave each and every one of us something life-changing. It showed us that we had something more than what we had; that we possessed something special, and that what we really needed was to trust ourselves that we are capable of doing incredible things,” Nana said.

During the three cycles of Kalahi-CIDSS in the municipality, Barangay Poblacion has been prioritized all because the volunteers believed that they were capable of handling a multi-million project; regardless of their age, sex, educational background, and religion.  In all 3 cycles, Nana led the Project Implementation Team in ensuring that the quality of work provided by every laborer and volunteer was close to perfection.

“I maybe old but I never gave in to the notion that old people are incapable of doing amazing things. 83 is just a number, I never feel that I am old. In fact, I feel happier and younger with what I do. I am 83 and I love every bit of it. What matters is that I have a young heart and a young mind that keeps me going.  I am proud to be a volunteer. At least I get to have the chance to impart my life to something significant not just for me, but for other people,” Nana said.

Volunteers are supposed to be young and agile. Volunteers are supposed to be strong and fast. Nana discredits these notions. What she says is critical is one’s heart. “A TRUE VOLUNTEER IS SOMEONE WHO IS WILLING TO SERVE REGARDLESS OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES.”