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.
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.
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!
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!