Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Strengthening volunteerism through the Volunteer Act of 2007 (Republic Act 9418)

By Joselito C. De Vera *
Policy Documents, No. 2

Some may find it ironic that a law on volunteerism was passed. Why is there a need for a law on something that is inherently a social value, and a positive one that is intended to achieve a common good? Is there really a need for such legislation?

The reason and the answer can be gleaned from the declaration of policy of Republic Act 9418 or the Volunteer Act of 2007. This legislation recognizes that volunteerism or "bayanihan" can be harnessed as a strategy for national development and international cooperation. The Act commits government to partnership to achieve the needed social transformation and sustainable development through volunteerism.

There are three main interrelated objectives of the Volunteer Act of 2007. First, it aims to provide the policy framework that shall underscore the fundamental principles necessary to harmonize the broad and diverse efforts of the voluntary sector. Second, it aims to provide a conducive and enabling environment for the mobilization and nurturance of volunteers and volunteer organizations. Third, it hopes to strengthen the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) as an effective institution to support volunteerism in the country.

Being a framework, the Volunteer Act recognizes the different roles of different sectors of society, including government. It is tasked to provide the environment for volunteerism to prosper. It shall be facilitative, coordinative and promotive in performing its functions. To a certain extent, this means taking a backseat.

Photo by Baldwin Kho
Now, let me elaborate a little bit on the academe. The Volunteer Act specifically calls for integrating volunteerism in the education curriculum. This proposal will encourage academic institutions to continuously devise ways to effectively teach and practice the value of volunteerism. Such integration provides students with the volunteering arena by which they can channel their idealism and vigor into something worthwhile.

A parent in my child's school summed up our sentiments in a Parent-Teacher Association meeting, "If a child spends more than eight waking hours per day for five days a week in a school, then parents have indeed placed a lot of trust in the educational system to assist and influence in the formation of this child."

Let me cite other provisions that are of immediate challenge to us at PNVSCA.

One is the establishment of a National Volunteer Infrastructure and Forum. This aims to establish a national registration and networking system to improve coordination among volunteers and volunteer organizations, particularly in sharing and complementing volunteering information, experiences and resources.

Another is the establishment of a Volunteerism Consortium that will engage volunteer organizations in activities like research and modeling of best volunteer practices.

The Volunteer Act is not comprehensive to address all the needs of the volunteer community but it is a first great step and a step in the right direction.

With the Volunteer Act of 2007, the academe is expected to renew and assume a more dynamic role, more so in participatory governance and other developmental advocacies as volunteerism move to higher levels of civic engagements. Let us all welcome this challenge and join hands in promoting, nurturing, and sustaining the volunteers' spirit within the academic community.

* Excerpted from the Inspirational Speech on the Occasion of the 16th Inception Anniversary of the U.P. Manila--Ugnayan ng Pahinungod delivered by Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency Executive Director, Joselito De Vera, September 18, 2009.

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