“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” - Mother Teresa
When we co-founded Enspire Foundation in September 1999, little did I know that giving back was more than volunteering. Although I was raised to believe that helping others was a good thing, I felt I was moving through the motions and was not fully connected to “why” I really wanted to be part of this initiative. As I continued on with all of our amazing projects, I began to realize later that giving back was actually more of a gift for me and I was the one that was receiving the gift of giving.
The journey of creating a non-profit organization with four other newly graduated University students was definitely a learning experience of trials and tribulations. The one thing that has kept our group together all these years has been our collective desire to serve our community anyway we can.
In the beginning, every little act of kindness was significant. We started holding monthly soup kitchens to increase awareness within our community. A year later, we were introduced to Pag-aalay Ng Puso (PPF), a family run non-profit organization based in the Philippines and focused on raising the social economic welfare of a shanty town called BagongSilang in Navotas City, Manila. After meeting the family of three sisters and two brothers and hearing their vision, we immediately committed to raising funds to support the education of 18 students. We held hip hop and breakdancing competitions to connect to the high school and university students and raised over $15,000.
After a few years funding the education of these students, we then decided to make the volunteer experience more meaningful and lasting. The result of our visioning exercise was creating a Shared Experience Program that would give Canadians an opportunity to meet the students and families we were supporting and to build a community that would last beyond our years.
In 2006, we sent our first group of 15 Canadians to build a library. The 7 day trip consisted of 2 days connecting with the families in BagongSilang followed by 4 days of constructing the foundation of the library. On the last day of the trip, the volunteers celebrated and reflected on their life-changing experience.
Since that first trip, we have sent over 60 Canadians to build an additional five homes in the new and clean area of Norzagaray, Bulacan, Philippines. We have held a variety of fundraising events to fund the community building project including six choir festivals called Resonance and two Enspiring Races, an Amazing Race like event where teams completed challenges that were random acts of kindness in downtown Vancouver. Both events have raised a combined total of almost $100,000.
To keep the SPARK alive, we are planning a new Shared Experience Project to build an orphanage in the Philippines in early 2017. This building project was inspired by my business partner and friend, Aileen de la Torre with her sister-in-law, Myla Bicol who adopted a daughter from the orphanage. In the spirit of giving back for receiving this wonderful child into our lives, the non-profit organization named after the child Alexa Mira Society Inc., our company SPARK Creations, and Enspire Foundation will join forces to build the eco-friendly building and provide personal growth learning programs for this new orphanage to support the mothers and their families.
The experience of witnessing these volunteers over the years receive the gift of giving has been one of my most memorable moments in life. It is humbling to reflect on where we started and what we have been able to accomplish with all our dedicated volunteers. Seventeen years later, community work is now part of my DNA and has been fully integrated into my life. Volunteering is living a life with purpose and in my opinion, the only way to live.