GoAbroad Interview

Helena Claire Canayong - Director

VFV staff

From Community Program Coordinator to Director, Helena Claire, nicknamed “Wimwim”, has not only helped lead Volunteer for the Visayans (VFV) but she even speadheaded the organization’s unique Dumpsite Program. Wimwim has been working with VFV from the ground up for almost a decade. Appointed Director of the organization in early 2013, Wimwim has worked hard to formalize all procedures within the organization and create efficiency and stability across programs. Faced with absolute chaos after a major disaster in November 2013, Wimwim overcame numerous challenges to build VFV back to what it is today, a flourishing community and volunteer organization. Now actively involved in daily operations, program implementation, financial management, and advocating for children’s rights, Wimwim is the staple of the VFV team.

Volunteer for the Visayans Sponsor-A-Child Daily Feeding Program

VFV Sponsored Children during their daily feeding

In your years of service in VFV, what do you think are your greatest achievement so far?

The greatest achievement so far of VFV is the creation of three inter-related programs, the Volunteer Program, Child Sponsorship Program, and Community Program, their inter-relatedness allows the maximization of limited resources without compromising the result in the end. It has become a good system that allows any participant to be flexible and resourceful, a system of program that offers more than just cultural immersion and implementation of humanitarian activities but a venue for learning, development, and appreciation of what you have in life.

Personally, my greatest achievement would be structuring VFV as a whole. When I joined VFV everybody was called a staff, there was no specific person assigned from one project to another. There were no distinction between one program to another. Creating programs and projects that would sustain with a visible result, let the organization, the programs, and project continue to run for years.

What makes your volunteer programs stand out from other volunteer programs around the world?

The relationship that you build with volunteers as it is more than just a program of giving and sharing time, but a program of passing on values to others to make a difference or improve other’s lives in a sustainable way.

Volunteer for the Visayans community center.

The VFV center in Bliss, Sagkahan Tacloban City.

How many participants do you accommodate per year?

As for volunteers, depending on the needs of the placement and availability of the homestay, in given year we can accommodate over 200 volunteers.

How do you manage this number in terms of ensuring safety and security?

With the help of the homestay, community partners, and whole team, and of course we give them proper orientation of what they should not and should do.

What else do you offer in your programs aside from travel and volunteer opportunities?

We have other programs and projects that they (volunteers) can participate in, from center-based to community outreach.

What are the common issues faced by your participants while traveling under your programs and how do you help them cope with these problems?

In a lot of cases some have challenges in coping the:

1.  "Culture of not having so much in life" -  they complain why this area do not have this or that, or why my homestay do not have this or that

2. Prematurely Helping - before they make a proper observation or study, they assume that this is what this particular institution needs. The most common mistake because they compare it with their home country, so when they extend help they get depressed with the response as they thought it could be used on regular basis or the way they envisioned it.

As far as how we cope with these problem, is that after orientation we encourage them to talk about their placement or where they came from so we can help them assess the situation and help them assist the them with the way they want to help.

How do you intend to further improve your current programs?

We make sure of its sustainability by making sure that implementation is efficient and effective, and all concerned parties are involved, the community, the volunteers, the staff, and the donors

Since the name is Volunteer for Visayans, does the organization have plans of expanding in other places in the Visayas region?

Originally the plan was to give services all throughout the Visayas region, but first we have to properly establish all our present programs and projects, make sure that all are financially stable and sustainable. So the answer to that is Yes, we intend to expand.