First Month with Save the Children in the Philippines

It’s crazy to think that 1 month ago today, I was on a plane from Philadelphia to Manila. (Three planes technically, if you count the 2 layovers in Seattle and Taipei…) In a blink of an eye, 1/6th of my PULSE assignment with Save the Children has come and gone.  But what a month it has been!  On my 2nd day at work, I was able to join in on the fun at the GSK Makati Office during Orange United Week by manning the Save the Children Booth.  The Philippines Leadership Team members were great baristas at the Starbucks Executive Booth.  Those of us who bought frappucinos to fundraise for Save the Children had big dollops of whip cream with orange sprinkles on top!

Manning the info booth with Ave, the Sponsorship Manager at Save the Children.

Enjoying my Orange United Starbucks Frappucino with a big dollop of whip cream and orange sprinkles

During my second work week as a Corporate Engagement Specialist in the Member and Donor Relations unit, I reached out to other companies with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs at the 12th annual CSR Expo hosted by the League of Corporate Foundations.  In addition to educating other exhibitors and attendees about the “Skills to Succeed” and “First Read” programs being implemented by the staff in the Philippines Country Office, I scoped out other potential partners and donors to see if we can pool resources for a common cause.  “Skills to Succeed” is a partnership between Save the Children and Accenture, focusing on providing disadvantaged and at-risk youths with business skills that strengthen employment opportunities.  “First Read” is a program supported by Prudence Foundation which works with parents of pre-school aged children to provide them with knowledge, skills, and materials to support their children’s emergent literacy and numeracy skills.

As part of Orange United, I pledge...
As part of Orange United, I pledge…

I’m observing firsthand how crucial corporate and institutional funding is to enable important programs to be carried out.  I’m also noticing how seemingly complicated the funding mechanisms can be for a Save the Children “country office” that is not a “member country” and is registered as an international charity rather than a local Philippines charity.  As an example (and one that I’m really excited about), GSK has approved funding for Save the Children to train frontline health workers to improve healthcare and nutrition services for mothers and children under the age of five in the Sultan Kudarat province in the Philippines.  However, since the Philippines country office is not a “member country”, the payment needs to be deposited to Save the Children UK and subsequently transferred to Save the Children in the Philippines.  Every time the country office needs to obtain corporate-funded money for program implementation, the awards management unit needs to reach out to a “member country” (like Save the Children US, UK, Australia, Sweden, or Japan) to access the funds, even if there is a local presence of the corporate donor in the same city as the country office…

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to contributing to this GSK-Save the Children initiative, which I recently found out there is a parallel program planned for Save the Children in Egypt.  I’ll be reaching out to the PULSE assignee in Cairo, Mahmoud Mohsen Emam, to see if there are any synergies for us to consider.

On a personal note, after an intensive apartment hunt, I settled in a condo near an easily recognizable landmark (Greenbelt Mall in Makati City, Metro Manila) so when I take taxis to and from my place, I can give a recognizable destination even though I don’t speak Tagalog.  Every day has been an adventure with various taxi drivers…  From a driver telling me that some of his customers pay him 3 times the amount on the meter because he’s willing to drive them in this congested traffic to another driver turning around to stare at me or the bag next to my feet every time the car stops at an intersection…  Or another taxi driver taking me to a different part of town so he can “create more opportunities for livelihood”.  But because I blend in here as a fellow Asian, I haven’t experienced the taxi adventures to the same extent as my British expat colleague who had a random purse snatcher open the car door while the taxi was stuck in traffic or another driver telling her: “You’re travelling alone?  You’re going to get mugged so don’t trust anyone…”  At least that particular taxi driver was trying to be helpful…

Aside from a bit of uncertainty during the daily commute, the people I met in the Philippines have been so welcoming and incredibly hospitable.  As the tourism marketing slogan in this country says: “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”  One example of the fun is my first karaoke experience with the Save the Children staff!  Such great voices!  They can audition for the Voice of the Philippines!

Karaoke fun with Save the Children staff in the Philippines

I haven’t been blogging nearly as much as I thought I would, so will make it a personal goal in month 2 to put my thoughts out in the universe more often and see what comes back!


  1. Vivian…. so great to hear from you and see a few photos from your assignment. I can not believe it has been a month already. I am leaving Ghana in two weeks time and can’t believe my time is already coming to an end. It goes by so fast, so continue to cherish every moment.

    I know we exchanged an email or two, but please send me some information about your project and how we can help. When I get back, I plan on helping with the fundraising efforts for Save the Children and I think it would be great to gear the efforts towards a specific project and goal…. maybe some pictures and some ways that the money might help. Or if you think of a side fund that might help your project in a way that you have found a need, please let me know and we will help in anyway possible.

    I am glad to hear that all is well!! Take care and good luck on your taxi adventures!!

    1. Hi Christie! Safe travels and enjoy your last 2 weeks on assignment!! I actually just discussed your idea this past Friday with the GSK HR staff here in Makati, Metro Manila. We wanted to brainstorm ways to make the fundraising efforts more tangible. One quick way to do so is to sponsor a child in the Philippines, or a country of your choosing via Sharona Waldman, who is currently on assignment with Save the Children in Laos, personally sponsored a child in the Philippines as well. There are currently about 8000 sponsored children by Save the Children in this developing country and there’s certainly room for more!

      As I alluded to in my blog post, the funding behind the scenes can be convoluted… The money from the donor in a sponsorship arrangement is actually collected by Save the Children US and then transferred to the Sponsorship unit in the Philippines. The interesting set-up is that the money is pooled and goes to benefit the community of the sponsored child via programs, not just that particular child or family only. But the sponsored child can correspond with his or her sponsor, and vice versa. In fact, there is a sponsor from Upper Darby visiting the Philippines later this week and the staff at Save the Children is arranging for him to meet his sponsored child! How exciting…

      When you get back to the US, let’s talk in more detail about your ideas for fundraising in connection with the projects here in the Philippines. Thanks for getting in touch!!

  2. Hello Vivian. Glad to hear that everything is going well for you. Happy that you have found a place to live. I can only imagine how exciting this adventure is for you. I know you will do a great job and leave STC with lasting change. Ciao.

  3. Hi Vivian,
    Great to see that you are settling in well and I look forward to hearing more about Save the Children in the Philippines from you. Taxi men appear to operate under the same umbrella no matter which country you are in though. Samy and I have had to be extra careful with them in both pricing and directions.
    I have no doubt that you will make an excellent contribution to your NGO while there. All the best.

  4. Hi Vivian,
    Glad to see that you found a place. Good thing you have a Starbucks there. You won’t one of them or a McDonalds in Kenya. Sounds like you’re really contributing to STC. Keep up the good work.

  5. Hi Vivian! So nice to hear from you. It truly sounds like you are contributing sooo much already. Love seeing your genuine smile! Julie Yake

  6. Hi Vivian, Your taxi adventures seem to be added “excitement” to what must already be an exhilirating, if not at times overwhelming experience. Sounds like you are learning alot about the behind the scenes ways of working of Save the Children and where efficiencies can be made. Keep your purse close! Looking forward to your next post.

  7. Hi Vivian, It was great to hear from you. It sounds like you are already deeply into process improvement with ironing out funding! Best of luck with the taxi drivers! That sounds like enough of an adventure on its own to write a blog. Glad you found an apartment next to a well known attraction too, that makes a lot of sense….plus now you have easy shopping.

    You are most definitely missed within RCTS, but we are so happy you are having this experience and supporting such a great cause.
    I’m looking forward to more blogs. Jen Van Ekelenburg

  8. Hi Vivian, it is lovely to hear from you again and that you have finally found a suitable place to live ! Your assignment sounds fasinating and it is lovely to know you are enjoying the overall experience working for such a worthy cause. As Jen mentioned you are sorely missed within RCTS, particularly in the Annual Reporting area ! However, don’t worry about us because you need to enjoy every minute of this wonderful assignment as time passes by so quickly. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures soon. Take care Wendy Sutton

  9. Hi Vivian, It is nice to hear from you and glad that you have found a place to live. I cannot believe it has been a month already and seems like you are deeply involved and having fun with this great assignment. I look forward to reading your next blog. Have fun.
    Kris Veeravalli

  10. Hello Vivian. It is great to hear that you have found a place that is easy to return to everyday. I have enjoyed reading your post and looking at the pictures so keep them coming. For only being gone for a month, you have had quite the adventure already! Whish the blogs had sound so we could hear you at karaoke…

  11. Hi Vivian, I’m so glad to hear that you are getting settled in and that you’re adding value already! I look forward to hearing more about your journey soon. You are missed :o)

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