GoAbroad Interview

Ester Costim - Volunteer Coordinator

Volunteer for the Visayans staff

From earning a science degree to working in a government office and then coordinating over 200 volunteers a year, Ester’s career has taken an unexpected turn through her role at VFV. Though her educational background is out of the ordinary for a volunteer coordinator, Ester excels at managing and organizing successful volunteer experiences in the Philippines for individuals from all over the world.

VFV places volunteers in projects and placements on the island of Leyte in the Visayas region of the Philippines. What is the most popular placement?

The most popular placement is nutrition.

What is the most unique placement that VFV offers?

Volunteer for the Visayans community center 2014

The Volunteer for the Visayans community center in 2014

VFV offers a nutrition project like no one in other countries. Volunteers get hands-on experience and are able to apply their knowledge and expertise.

What does a nutrition volunteer do?

A nutrition volunteer takes charge of providing healthy and nutritious supplemental meals to malnourished children from a specific community. This also involves educating the parents about basic proper hygiene and nutrition. The kids are also introduced to healthy eating and hygienic practices. Volunteers however must only prepare Filipino dishes that the kids are used to eating so volunteers must also learn to prepare native dishes.

Environmental challenges are great in the Philippines does VFV offer any eco-projects?

Normally, VFV incorporates environmental awareness programs by way of planting trees and mangroves. This is participated in by staff, volunteers, and sponsored kids. Sometimes host families also join. Once a year we also conduct river clean up. Aside from these activities, one or two volunteers also hold environmental awareness lectures in schools for young students.

The Philippines is an English speaking country, VFV also attracts non-native English speaking volunteers. Do volunteers learn the local dialect? Do they need to?

Most volunteers learn only very basic waray-waray terms primarily because they stay only for a short while. They do not have enough time to learn a difficult language on such a short time. It is however helpful to learn some basic terms and phrases enough to help them get around. It helps when people learn that a foreigner is speaking the language.

Dumpsite Project by VFV

The Dumpsite Project aims to rehabilitate children working in a local dumpsite by giving them the means to go to school.

What brought you to VFV?

It was pure coincidence that I become involved with VFV. I am a science major graduate and had no prior experience in working for a non profit organization and with foreigners. I used to work for a government office with a foreign consultant. That was by far my only experience dealing with foreigners. I was looking for another job because I was not happy with my current job at that time. I just took the chance and applied as Volunteer Coordinator although I had no idea at all what I was getting into.

What is your favorite part about your job?

I like meeting and getting to know people from different cultures and backgrounds. By interacting with them, I learn so many things that I wouldn't have known had I worked solely with Filipinos.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?

The same reason that makes me really like my job leads to my biggest challenge. Because I work with foreign volunteers mostly, coming from different backgrounds and cultures, with different personalities, sometimes it is difficult to deal with their issues. Some find it difficult to adjust or understand even when they are made aware of the situation of the country. Some have trouble finding ways to improve their situation or focus on the doable stuff.

What is the most important thing a volunteer takes with them from their VFV experience? 

Changing his/her perspective in life. Learning from the people, how strong and happy Filipinos are despite having not much.

Volunteer for the Visayans Staff 2014

The staff of Volunteer for the Visayans (VFV) in the Philippines