At last year’s Servathon, hundreds of volunteers from corporate offices all across the city gathered at the PICC to spend a day of volunteerism. Bankers, lawyers, architects, and engineers packed disaster relief parcels, decorated rubber slippers, poured citronella candles, and wove bags from newspapers. A yearly flagship offering of Hands On Manila, a nonprofit organization focused on providing its members with opportunities to volunteer at their own time and according to their personal expertise and interests, Servathon makes it possible for executives to mobilize their companies and organizations into community-driven socio-civic work. Organized by Patrice Tan and co-chairman Lizette Cojuangco, Servathon provides a chance for executives and their employees to participate in carefully selected volunteer activities, from building classrooms and solar light construction for typhoon-affected areas to feeding programs and teaching initiatives.
Servathon co-chairs Patrice Tan and Lizette Cojuangco
It all began when Hands On Manila founder and president Gianna Montinola saw a need for well-organized community activities in the early 2000s. “About 15 years ago, I heard about a volunteer organization called Make a Difference,” she shares. “I was attracted to its volunteerism model because it allowed busy individuals like myself to carve out the time to volunteer.” Eager to introduce the same concept in the Philippines, Montinola found a way to get in touch with the Hands On Network in the United States, the parent organization of Make a Difference, and was informed that there were no affiliated countries outside the U.S. “My reply was, ‘Why not start now?’” Montinola recalls. In 2001, Hands On Manila became the network’s first international affiliate, and Montinola approached like-minded volunteerism advocates such as Sandy Prieto Romualdez to comprise the founding board with her.
The Servathon model allows for flexibility, keeping the executives’ hectic schedules in mind while permitting some regularity and a longer-term commitment. For individual volunteers, Servathon provides a calendar with an extensive range of monthly activities to choose from. Corporations that want to provide its employees with opportunities to volunteer, on the other hand, are given projects that champion a specific cause. “We help corporations develop an advocacy and manage projects that revolve around it. For example, if they are interested in education, we can help identify a community or beneficiary that needs help,” Montinola explains. “We then suggest a variety of options, like painting and refurbishing classrooms, helping fix a library, doing tutorials, or teaching arts and crafts. Finally, we handle all logistical preparations and manage the project for you. In brief, what we deliver is personalized volunteer engagement.”
The group’s long-term vision is “