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Young volunteers Go MAD (Make A Difference) to make peace


Many young people take up the spirit of volunteerism in their community simply because they believe each individual has a big responsibility in nation building. People volunteer for a number of different reasons, ranging from a desire to learn new skills, have fun or make a difference. While some are completely devoted to the cause, others simply wish to do a bit where they can.

Twenty-one year old elementary teacher and Western Mindanao State University graduate Princess Rodessa P. Ribo is a Youth Solidarity for Peace (YSP) volunteer since 2008. She was a scholar of World Mission and comes from a religious Christian family. Her mother was an active volunteer in their community and she was influenced by her mother.  She has spent time doing voluntary service for more than three years now.

Says Princess Rodessa: “When I decided to become a YSP volunteer,  at first I was hesitant because I thought that the little bit that I can do will never help much.   But I knew, too,  that if I will start doing small deeds for my students,  giving my work a little compassion and attention an make a world of difference for them.”

“I believe that no person can solve the world's problems, but what little you do can make your little corner of the world a happier, healthier, safer place to live, especially for those who need your help and so from that I gave my service doing voluntary works to the organization”, Rodessa said in Taglish.

Rodessa also said that being a volunteer also improved her skills in various disciplines while she enjoyed the team spirit of her co-volunteers.

Meanwhile, 18 year-old half-Christian half-Muslim Earl Rasheeda D. Joe said that volunteering for her is inherently an optimistic activity. According to her, she relishes her voluntary service because she is devoted for its cause and that cause is never hopeless. There is a result from her action and participation. “So the very act of my involvements imply a dream: this problem can be solved, this cause can succeed, and this effort can make a difference. I believed that if I am going to start doing voluntary service now, and start doing things right, then I’ll end it right ”, Rasheeda explained.
One reason that motivated the 18 year old Political Science student to join YSP is her family situation. According to her, she experienced being discriminated in their family because she is not a pure blooded Muslim. Oftentimes, she was called by names like “Bisaya” by her relatives - a term which means child of a non-Muslim and thus not considered part of the family.

Amid this discrimination by her relatives, Rasheeda is optimistic that it is never too late to achieve peace in Mindanao because she can see the tangible results of different sectors,  and racial discrimination will also be erased in the minds and hearts of Mindanaoans.

Aldrin Abdurahim, Executive Coordinator of Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP), said Youth Solidarity for Peace is the youth arm of Peace Advocate Zamboanga and IRSMP. It is a society of young peace builders coming from different communities.

At present, YSP has around 250 YSP volunteers and 1,000 indirect volunteers. Some 137 of them were recipients of the annual Young Peace Weaver awards from IRMSP and PAZ.

“These volunteers joined different activities like fellowships, peace advocacies, peace education, peace camps, trainings, interfaith, community service, ecology and organizers of the week of peace”, Aldrin said.

Meanwhile, a pure Muslim and a native of Sulu Province, Alinasser Alfad Yusop, said while growing up in the war-torn island he witnessed  the worst conflicts in his province. All he ever wished was for a change.

Hoping for a more peaceful life, his family moved to Zamboanga City and resided at Talon Talon,  a village where crimes are rampant. But though living in the middle of a troubled environment, Alinasser is hopeful that being a YSP volunteer will somehow give him strength in becoming a peace advocate, even in his own little ways.

Alinasser says: “Now and then we come across news and reports on televisions and radios about people on all walks of life who live a miserable life, however rarely we pay attention to their cries. When I started with my voluntary service, I got the wonderful opportunity to teach and help wonderful underpriviledged street children. YSP gave me a completely new view of life, communities, and education. It is so heartwarming to see children with big smiling faces, some shy and quiet, others bouncing around as if their legs were of springs.  If it were not for these bright faces, I wouldn’t have learned that true development doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow process. That is what my greatest learning was, I guess. Getting to know the children, and through them I get to know more wonderful folk and set aside all the bad views that I have in my native province.”

“I feel so blessed to be part of this group and I’m so proud of myself knowing that I’ll be part of history when it comes to peace advocacies”, Alinasser proudly said.

These volunteers are among those who facilitated their 3-day Youth Summer Peace Camp held at Ebenezer Bible College in Upper Calarian from May 5 – 7, where they passed on their skills to over 40 younger children.

So it seems that whatever the purpose or reason an individual has in becoming a volunteer, its importance to him or her is because he/she simply loves doing it to get MAD (Make A Difference)! (Peace Advocates Zamboanga)

By Ma. Cristine Jean C. Taola

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