Monday, June 11, 2007

On Stewardship: Reflections from the CBR Volunteer Workers Basic Training Program

I wasn't able to really relish the latter months of summer vacation as I was deeply involved in setting-up the Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) Program in San Mateo, Rizal. After a year of scheduled meetings with the key stakeholders in the municipality, implementation of research and extension teaching services (embedded within the curriculum of OPST 131: Introduction to Community Health), the time is finally getting ripe to start anew. Of course, there are many obstacles yet to conquer, one of which is the result of the recent elections where the mayor I was planning with did not win. It has to be ensured that what was set be properly endorsed to the incoming municipal administration, otherwise plans will be set back. The CBR Program in Montalban is assured of its place and support by their municipal government, but consultancy programs must be properly set to ensure a smooth exit.

The CBR Volunteer Workers Basic Training Program was successfully implemented at the Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu Parochial School from May 28 to June 1, 2007, attended by participants from both San Mateo and Montalban. Unlike previous runs of the Training Program which usually lasts a month, this only ran for a week, focusing primarily on the attitude and basic CBR knowledge of the CBR Volunteer Worker. The original training program included more technical topics ranging from basic anatomy, neuroanatomy and human development to PT, OT and SP assessment and treatment. This focused on the CBR program, the roles of the CBR Volunteer Worker (focusing more on the transdisciplinary approach) and it being a vocation. The training program turned out to be a seminar and retreat rolled into one, focusing on empowering the participants and forging their commitment and willingness to serve persons with disabilities (PWD's) within their community. With this as focus of the seminar, the participants will be ready to take in the more difficult technical aspects of the training (which will be provided year-round by the incoming interns and clinical supervisors as part of the CBR training program). We realized that it is better to create empowered willing volunteers than half-hearted trained intelligent workers. An empowered willing volunteer is more than ready to learn (in fact, seeks to learn!), and is much easier to teach than a worker with vested interests. It is sad to note that the "volunteer" ceases to exist once his/her services are equated with monetary compensation. Most of the problems related to the CBR Workers in Montalban (note, the word "volunteer" was dropped mysteriously) I suspect started when they were given monetary allowance by the municipal government as appreciation of their services. In time, and I guess it is sadly inevitable, they unconsciously equated it with "salary"… payment for their services. It was the design of the training program to instill a true sense of volunteerism – a vocation, essentially… among the new CBR Volunteer Workers.

The training program culminated in a mass celebrated by Monsignor Mediarito, the parish priest of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu shrine, who fully supports the program and recognizes it as a ministry activity of its parish. Providently, the gospel on that Friday Mass features the barren fig tree curse by Jesus. Monsignor Mediarito provided a very relevant homily which inspired not only the graduate participants but also the rest of the church attendants. Here are the thoughts on the gospel, heavily inspired by the homily:

All the famous philosophers are unanimous in saying that MAN does not live for his own alone. It has been often said "No man is an island…", "Man is a social being"… has been sung in numerous songs… "Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang…" which further solidifies the Christian concept of STEWARDSHIP. One thing can be sure, MAN was not created by GOD to serve man's own means, but he was created to be a STEWARD of the earth, its creatures and everything on it. He was created for others… his gifts and talent was not given for his own glory but for other. In our quest in discovering God's will, one thing surely to guide us is the knowledge that this will is not directed towards ourselves… NEVER to ourselves… it is ALWAYS directed towards OTHERS… for the service of others. We are expected to use our gifts and talents to the fullest, not for our own, but for the betterment of our fellowmen. Each of us, is called to a special vocation… whether it is for bringing joy to the sorrowful, hope to those down with despair, healing to the sick, guidance to those who are lost, and empowerment to those who are weak and disabled… the list goes on. We just pray that when the time comes when the Lord asks from us what He has given and how we have used it; when He asks for our FRUIT, just as when He asked the fig tree… that we will be ready to offer him our fruits.

Being a CBR Volunteer Worker is a vocation to serve. It is directed towards empowering those whom we call persons with disabilities (PWD's). And knowledge alone is not sufficient to help them, but primarily a desire… a genuine to help others. As rehabilitation professionals, we are expected to have a genuine desire to help others, more than a need to fill our pockets. It is amazing to note that 2 of my closest friends who are CBR Workers (Mommy Es and Tatay Ben) have passed away speaking their final words to me, "Sir Rev, kung bigyan lang ako ng pagkakataon na mabuhay pa, gugustuhin ko pa maging CBR Worker…" Amazing. Inspiring. It makes me reflect, that amidst our quest to enrich our knowledge and skills with cutting-edge advancements in our fields, whether we are also seeking to strengthen our resolve… the spirit that drives us to serve other people.


The above is my journal entry featuring my noted thoughts on stewardship. Pictures from the CBR Volunteer Workers Basic Training program can be seen at my Flickr account.

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