To help is every Filipino’s obligation, says volunteer PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 12 October 2013 15:04

The petite and cheerful Ramona Liza Barbaso is a familiar face in the child-friendly space near the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) tent inside the Enriquez Sports Complex. Immediately flocked the moment she enters the grandstand by children who evacuated there, you will normally catch her leading them in an art session or an afternoon game.

The 29-year-old psychology graduate is a volunteer of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) who gladly spends her time conducting art, play and music therapy sessions for the children to help them be relieved of the stresses caused by the armed conflict in the city between the government troops and the MNLF-Misuari faction.

She patiently deals with children four to 12 years of age, ensuring that her actions exude warmth and understanding towards her young wards.  Always looking bright and joyful, Barbaso treats each child with care, who in turn affectionately calls her “Ate Munyeen.”

Full support

Barbaso remembers the day the news broke out about the Zamboanga siege.  Having see the events unfold, she called up a friend in Zamboanga City to ask if volunteers are needed. After coordinating with the DSWD, Barbaso became a volunteer for the conduct of CISD sessions with the affected families.

She travelled for five hours from Dipolog City to Zamboanga City during the first week of the conflict. And she has not stopped her volunteer work since.

Barbaso proudly shares how supportive her mother was in her desire to volunteer and help the children cope with the trauma of the armed conflict.  “My mom said it would be better to send me off to Zamboanga City than just see me simply watching the news and silently wishing I could be of help,” she recounts.

Her team carries out three therapy sessions a day with other student-volunteers from the Western Mindanao State University. “Ang session ay tumatagal ng isa hanggang isa’t kalahating oras. Karaniwan, isa sa umaga at dalawa sa hapon. Binabagay namin ‘yung sessions kung ano sa tingin namin ay mas fit sa mga bata o kaya kombinasyon ang ginagawa namin ng art, music at play therapy sessions  (Every session lasts for an hour to one hour and a half.  We normally conduct at least three sessions a day – one in the morning and two in the afternoon. We match the session with what we think is fit for the children. Sometimes, we combine art, music and play therapy sessions),” she narrates.

Vocation

Their priority, she says, is to help the children process what they have gone through, while helping the children be children again, by having fun and playing.

Asked why she does all of these, Barbaso smiles, “Bokasyon ko kasi ang pagtulong sa kabataan. (Helping children is my vocation.)”

Sha adds, “I was also a Jesuit volunteer in Davao City; I handled street children and children in-conflict with the law (CICL). Nagbibigay ako ng psychotherapy at counseling sessions sa mga bata. Iyong mga natutunan ko bilang psychology graduate at ‘yung [volunteer] experiences ko ang naisip kong ipangtulong dito. (I used to provide psychotherapy and counseling sessions to children.  The skills I learned from being a psychology graduate and my previous [volunteer] experiences are what I thought I can offer as help here.)”

Looking at her eyes, you can feel her sincerity when she tells that she finds fulfillment in working with kids.

Inside the Enriquez Sports Complex, she was met with kids sharing in the sessions their fears and experiences. One of the kids, she recollects, drew a burning house during their art therapy session. Some kids, she mumbles, even saw some family members die during the siege.

“It is so sad that these children have experienced such violence at young age.  I believe it is my duty to help even if just through this simple gesture of volunteering my knowledge and experience,” she continues.

She stops, “May isang bata, sabi n’ya masaya na siya kasi nandoon siya sa evacuation center. (There was this child, she said she is just happy to be there at the evacuation center). This means the child understands the value of life.  Nagpapasalamat din ‘yung ibang bata na nasa evacuation center na sila, ligtas at malayo na sa labanan. (The other kids are also thankful that they are in the evacuation center, safe and far from the conflict.)”

“‘Yung isa namang bata, nakakatuwa at mapagbigay.  Sabi niya, nami-miss daw niya ‘yung mga laruan niya kasi gusto sana niyang i-share sa mga kasama niya dito sa center (There is this kid, a generous one. She says she misses her toys and she would have wanted to share them with the other kids there),” Munyees continues while glancing at a group of playing children.

It is important for Munyeen that the children will feel that they can trust the volunteers. “We need to show these kids that we are here for them as their Ate’s and Kuya’s,” she asserts.

Volunteerism

Munyeen is just one of many DSWD volunteers providing special care for the children-evacuees inside the JFE Sports Complex.  The conduct of art, music, and play therapy sessions is part of the activities being done to ensure that the children are cared for and protected inside the evacuation centers

DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said, “The most vulnerable sector must be protected.  The growth and development of children must not suffer amidst the crisis brought about by the recent armed conflict Zamboanga City.”

It is Munyeen’s personal desire to help these kids realize that despite what happened, they are still the future of Zamboanga City.  She prays that the kids grow up strong and courageous.

She encourages other people to volunteer and help the Zamboangueños, especially the kids, affected by the armed conflict.

“Kahit pagpapadala lang ng simpleng mensahe na puwede naming basahin sa mga bata, sapat na.  Kung mayroong gumawa ng Facebook account para i-share ‘yung suporta nila sa mga bata, ayos din ‘yun.  (Even just sending a simple message which we can read to the children, that is enough. Or if there are those who have created Facebook accounts which call for support to these children, that is also good). Simple gestures can help these kids heal faster,” urges Munyeen.

Volunteering is her way of acting her faith. She reasons, “To help out is not an option or a choice; it is our obligation as fellow Filipinos.”