WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE A VOLUNTEER

Eli Camacho, product development manager of Adarna House and recipient of a 2016 National Children's Book Award for her Haluhalo board book, describes the day she volunteered for AGFI:

Children, books, and toys are a wonderful combination. I was fortunate enough to see this for myself when I joined AGFI’s Barangay Early Literacy Program in Sitio Dueg, San Clemente, Tarlac, last March 7. The remoteness of the place meant that my fellow volunteers and I had to meet well before sunrise and ride a military truck up an unpaved mountain road, wrapped in our hoodies to protect ourselves from the sun and stray branches. Our base for the day was a resettlement community of Aetas who had been displaced by Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991. Armed with plastic bottles, beads, juice, biscuits, and books, we set up an assembly line and prepared to welcome the hundred or so women and children who had registered as participants.

After a short lecture on proper hygiene for the mothers and a storytelling session for the children, it was time for the arts and crafts activity: shakers made out of plastic bottles and beads. I walked around the venue, looking for little children who needed help dropping beads into their bottles. Later on, I kept the line in order when book-giving time came. Watching the children shake their finished bottles and dive eagerly into their books was a real delight. I knew that these toys and books, even if they lacked batteries and touch screens, would fill hours and hours of future playtime. I also realized (as AGFI already has) that it isn’t a long shot to think that a simple shaker and a book can make a big difference in each child’s life.

We ended the day tired, dusty, and wondering when our next opportunity to volunteer would come. We had just been let in on a big investing secret, and knew that the returns would be more than generous.