Nonprofit group brings back in-person community engagement

The volunteers and participants of the first comeback in-person community engagement of I am M.A.D. (Making A Difference) at Tampayan Elementary School in Magdiwang, Sibuyan Island, Romblon.

After more than two years of lockdowns, quarantines, and social isolation, nonprofit group I am M.A.D. (Making A Difference) revived its award-winning flagship program called “MAD Camp” with its first comeback face-to-face community engagement held recently at Tampayan Elementary School in Magdiwang, Sibuyan Island, Romblon.

Awarded as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) in 2016 for Culture and the Arts, Peace and Human Development, I am M.A.D. regularly conducts a MAD Camp in key areas nationwide. The community outreach program gathers volunteers together to facilitate values formation activities and engage school children ages 10-12 with games, team-building, storytelling, and workshops. These activities are designed to promote positive Filipino traits, inspiring them to see themselves as dreamers and future leaders with a heart for service.

“The past few years have overwhelmed most of us, leaving some with a feeling of isolation and a sense of cabin fever. We strongly believe that volunteering and coming together again physically can help break the spell, and I am M.A.D. has always been open to anyone who would like to be of service to others,” said Maco Ravanzo, co-founder and chief executive volunteer of I am M.A.D.

“With so much going on in the world that seems out of our control, giving back to our local communities even in the smallest of ways can be tremendously empowering and make a real difference,” Ravanzo added.

Community engagement in a pandemic

Many things have changed because of the pandemic, including observing minimum public health standards, but not the importance of community engagement. Community engagement has the ability to reconnect people at a time when a helping hand or a sincere smile is appreciated.

Volunteering even with some physical restrictions is a great way to interact again with the community as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.

Although traveling in the era of COVID-19 creates much inconvenience with intensified local coordinations and activity protocols, this year’s 71st edition of MAD Camp in Romblon brought together 30 passionate volunteers from across the country, including six new recruits from Sibuyan Island. It was participated in by 53 school children who each received a “Bag of Dreams” gift set filled with school supplies and its very own activity booklet titled 10 M.A.D. (Munting Aksyon na Dapat) Gawin ng Batang Pilipino.

One of the highlights of the camp was a mini-retreat and an emotional encounter with the students and their parents or guardians after the latter’s short session with the volunteers.

Completing the voluntourism experience was a “MADventure” where volunteers had the chance to explore the raw beauty of Romblon by visiting some of its natural attractions such as the Dalipi River with the majestic Mt. Guiting-Guiting in the background, Sanctuary Garden, Lambingan Falls, Magdiwang Beach, and the Cantingas River.

Reviving voluntourism

Combining volunteer work with leisure travel—that is volunteer tourism or voluntourism—is I am M.A.D.’s approach in securing participant-facilitators for its MAD Camp program.

As the world reopens, it is clear that COVID-19 has had a profound impact on people’s lives and encouraged more meaningful and purposeful travel. I am M.A.D. expects to see a rise in travellers looking for more purely local experiences and transformational travel opportunities.

The group hopes to contribute to this revival of voluntourism that, when well planned and managed, can benefit volunteers themselves, community segments, the business and hospitality sectors, and the local environment. Voluntourism can add value to communities when it supports the achievement of a longer-term and sustainable community project or goal. I am M.A.D. does this by providing resources to initiatives that otherwise would not receive support or are being neglected.

I am M.A.D. relies on the goodwill of people through fundraisers and the power of social media. Support the organization by donating through bit.ly/bidadonate. For updates, partnerships, and volunteer opportunities, send an email to iammadph@gmail.com or via mobile at 0977 809 5093. Follow and message I am M.A.D. on Facebook (fb.com/IamMakingADifference), Instagram/Twitter/Tiktok (@iammad_ph), Youtube (bit.ly/IamMADYoutube) and podcast via anchor.fm/iammad or bit.ly/MADTalksSpotify.

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