By Jesse Allerton, supervisor of Rotary Service Programs at Rotary International World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA.
On 22 August, I had the opportunity to attend a national Rotary Day in Manila celebrating the accomplishments of Rotary Community Corps (RCCs) and other community service partners. The event was held at the Tuloy Foundation’s Don Bosco Streetchildren Village, an amazing nonprofit institution that has provided residential care and vocational training to more than 17,000 disadvantaged youth over the past 20 years. More than 600 Rotarians, RCC officers, and civic leaders came together for the event.
The day included a keynote speech by RI President Gary C.K. Huang, an address from the Vice President of the Philippines, Mr. Jejomar C. Binay, who is a Rotarian, and inspirational remarks from Father Rocky Evangelista, the founder of the Tuloy Foundation. Father Rocky shared the story of the village’s rise from humble beginnings serving twelve children in a small room to its present-day 4.5 hectare (about 5,200 square foot) community serving up to 1,000 children at any given time. A group of the Tuloy children put on a fun song and dance performance displaying the confidence and optimism they’ve gained through the program.
A Rotary Community Corps is a group of non-Rotarians who carry out service projects in the area where they live under the guidance of a Rotary club. The program came to the Philippines in 1986, and throughout the day, RCCs were lauded (in the words of one speaker) as “the Philippines’ legacy to humanity.” President Huang praised RCCs for “finding solutions, not excuses” for community problems. Incoming RCC officers had the rare privilege of being inducted into office on stage by Huang and their country’s own vice president.
The Rotary members I met in the Philippines are truly some of the most friendly and hospitable people you could ever hope to encounter. While enjoying a Filipino lunch of lechon (crispy pork) and adobo (marinated chicken), I was introduced to several Rotary members who serve on the national RCC committee. They generously arranged to take me to visit several RCCs the following day.
The next morning, after several hours of driving through Manila’s notorious traffic, we visited the RCC Amparo group, a collective of eight RCCs whose members live in various public housing communities in Caloocan City. I was warmly greeted by the presidents and members of their sponsoring Rotary Club of Makati Edsa. We visited one of the public housing communities where their members live and work on various initiatives including cleanup projects, a children’s library, and health awareness and medical outreach campaigns.
A several hour trip into the rural, mountainous province brought us to RCC Calawis, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Makati-San Lorenzo, Metro Manila. It is a remote farming community where RCC members have carried out a wide variety of agricultural projects in just four years. With seed money from the Rotary Foundation and the Rotary Club of Taipei Capital, Taiwan, the RCC grows crops like yams and taro for sustenance, bamboo to make artisan crafts, and fruits like papaya and rambutan for sale in local markets. After a scenic uphill hike to see these projects, our hosts treated us to an amazing meal of rice, fish, and (of course!) adobo, cooked outdoors and served on a table of banana leaves.
All of the wonderful conversations and interactions I had with RCC members and their Rotarian partners during my time in the Philippines reinforced my admiration for this amazing program, which expands and multiplies Rotary’s community impact in ways that clubs can’t do on their own.
About the author: Jesse Allerton is supervisor of Rotary Service Programs, which supports programs and activities that help members connect, partner, and serve, including Rotary Community Corps, Rotarian Action Groups, Rotary Fellowships, and others. The team also helps members engage with Rotary’s online social tools and special campaigns like RI President Huang’s focus on Rotary Days.