AUSTRALIAN Volunteers have returned to the Philippines to work with local communities in Manila and Camarines Sur.
Their comeback is the first in-country deployment since March 2020, when the program shifted to remote volunteering because of the pandemic.
The Australian Embassy’s deputy head of mission Dr. Moya Collett welcomed the new volunteers. She commented that her country “has a long history of volunteering in the Philippines, with over 800 [Australians] deployed since 2000. I am excited that we have resumed our deployment.”
Peng-Sim Eng will volunteer at the Centre for Excellence in Special Education Foundation Inc., or Steppingstone Foundation, as a behavior management coach who will mentor Filipino teachers in developing plans for children with special needs.
Meanwhile, Judith Berghan will share her skills with the Development Action for Women Network, or DAWN, a nongovernment organization that assists returned migrant workers, especially distressed women and their children. Berghan will help develop the NGO’s strategic plan.
For her part, Lydia Jovero will work in Canaman, Camarines Sur as a sustainable livelihood officer. Born in the Philippines, she is being deployed for the third time to help develop the local government unit’s sustainability projects.
An Australian government initiative, the Australian Volunteers program supports global volunteering by matching skilled “Aussies” with Philippine organizations to help the latter achieve their goals. The approach is aligned with its new “International Development policy,” which aims to aid locally led development, said the embassy.
The program works closely with the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA), which coordinates international and local groups providing volunteer services.
“Over the years, our partnership with the Australian Embassy, through the Australian Volunteers program, has seen lives improve and communities transformed,” said Deputy Executive Director Ela Sarmago of PNVSCA.
Socioeconomic Planning Assistant Secretary Greg Pineda also joined the welcome ceremony for the volunteers, as he hoped that “through collaboration and sharing of valuable skills and knowledge, [they] can help our Philippine organizations foster an environment of cultural sensitivity and understanding.”