Issue of June 18, 2017

Plus Juan
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Josel’s chronicle of service with a heart

Gender, age, and educational attainment are no barriers in serving your community. Twenty-four years old Joselito Rodriguez, a member of LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender) in Villaviciosa, Abra proved this.

“Josel” as he is fondly called became the youngest Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee (BSPMC) chair of Department of Social Welfare and Development Kalahi-CIDSS in the region when he responded to the call of service to his community.

His story echoes a journey of learning while serving his community. As a high school graduate, his willingness to serve pushed him to enhance his knowledge and skills in community work.

When Kalahi-CIDSS was introduced in Villaviciosa in 2014, Josel admitted that he was reluctant to join the committee of volunteers. Through the encouragement of his community and after much reflection, he decided to take the challenge.

He joined as a participatory situational analysis volunteer and was eventually chosen as the BSPMC chairperson at the age of 22.

Since then, he diligently learned the processes and purposes of Kalahi-CIDSS.

“There were a lot of things to learn and there were times that I thought I could not do it,” he said. The kind words and encouragement from the people in his barangay gave him strength to push himself and learn.

Josel started to understand the purpose of Kalahi-CIDSS after attending capacity building activities organized by the DSWD with the local government unit of Villaviciosa.

As a volunteer, Josel had seen and heard people complain on the slow and long process of the program. “At first, we were impatient on how things are being done but as we continued, I understood that the meetings or consultations are important in making our decisions,” he said.

“Explaining to our fellow residents became our job as a volunteer.” Young as he is, he acknowledged that learning and understanding community-driven development would take a long time to accept and practice by heart.

Many from the community still failed to understand the need to have volunteers. “During the second cycle, nobody wants to serve as volunteer anymore because it seemed like all of us were caught up in our daily life trying to work for our families,” he said.

Josel said that they experienced challenges during the first cycle of the program as gathering at least 80 of the household population was difficult.

“However, when we were prioritized during the second cycle, we were relieved and reenergized,” he said.

Josel also talked about his two thick notebooks where he wrote everything he learned and every transaction the committee made.

“My fellow BSPMC chairpersons from other municipalities were wondering why I have such notebooks so I told them that this is my reference every time other volunteers ask about Kalahi-CIDSS,” he said.

“One of the biggest impacts of Kalahi-CIDSS in our barangay is gender and development. During the implementation of the program, women participated not only as vital part of decision-making but also during the paid labor.

“Our barangay embraced gender and development which is one of the things being embedded by Kalahi-CIDSS,” he added.

After more than two years of serving as a community volunteer, Josel recognized that the program is trying to eliminate poverty and that became his motivation to continue serving.

“Volunteering made me realize that my heart tells me to become a servant-leader,” he said.

“Our place is just like Baguio where we have beans, cabbage, pechay, and other vegetables but the only difference is we struggle in transporting our products to the market,” he said.

They can reach Barangay Poblacion after two to three hours through motorcycle. There is no public transportation in the area. Thus, the whole community worked together so that their proposal for a farm-to-market road is prioritized. They succeeded in completing on time the 300 linear meter road in their barangay.

“I like the challenges that come with being a volunteer because I’m learning along the process. I guess if given the chance, I would still want to continue as a community volunteer,” he said.

He said his perspective about service and leadership changed in many ways. “Through the series of trainings, I realized that I should never stop learning but should instead strive to be a better person and a leader,” he said.

Despite being discriminated for being a member of the LGBT, Josel showed his abilities and passion in making his community realize that he has unparalleled potential vital for their development.

“Now, they started giving us important roles regardless of our gender,” he said.

In 2016, Josel was tapped to become a barangay health worker. He said they were called for a training in Bangued, after Typhoon Ineng hit their barangay in 2015. His days are now filled with accompanying and transporting patients from their barangay health clinic to hospitals nearby.

Reflecting that his deepest passion is service for his community, he said he would happy in social work.

“When I was younger, I wanted to become a teacher, but then when I started as a community volunteer, I think being a social worker would suit me better,” he said.

“I’m a high school graduate and I still wish to finish college or vocational course, but I guess my service to my community is enough,” he said.

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