Volunteerism as a Way ofLife: Excellence and Efficiency in Pahinungod’s Public Service Programs
Bitin Elementary School lay there a typical public elementary school at the edge of Laguna where the towns of Bay, Laguna and Sto. Tomas Batangas met. In 2006, it ranked among the three lowest performers in the National Achievement Test(NAT) for the entire province.Elsewhere in Laguna, another school, the Lousiana Central Elementary School (LCES), lay indistinct at the outskirt. Up until 2005, it ranked as a perennial average performer in the NAT.
When stakeholders in the area decided to tap UP Los Baños Ugnayan ng Pahinungod for assistance, it couldn’t have been more dramatic.
Pahinungod and the National Service Training Program
The UPLB Ugnayan ng Pahinungod is the flagship volunteer service program of UPLB. Formally instituted in 1994, the program was designed to harness the university’s human resources towards public service and in the process, engender among its constituents the spirit of selfless service.Since then, it has engaged in various volunteer activities in famers’ technical assistance, youth and women development,educational enhancement and more recently, in literacy and civic-welfare work through two components of the National Service Training Program (NSTP): Literacy Training Service (LTS) and Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS).
Bitin ES and Louisiana ES are among the beneficiaries of Pahinungod’s volunteer services. In 2004, the Cavinti-Botocan-Caliraya (CBK) power Company Limited Plant and the Foundation for Worldwide People’s Power (FFWWP), sought UPLB’s Pahinungod-NSTP-LTS assistance for NAT reviews in LCES. After one semester, the schools’ performance ranking in the NAT radically improved from below average to top performing school in the entire province. Similarly, when Chevron Geothermal Holdings Philippines, Inc. (CGHPI) tapped UPLB through Pahinungod-NSTP-LTS to provide special tutorials for Bitin ES, the school’s rank improved from below average performer to average performer in 2007. With sustained educational enhancement assistance from UPLB since then, Bitin now ranks as the top performer in the district division of Bay. In fact, the top 1 and 4-8 performers in the NAT 2009 pre-test are all from Bitin ES.
The NSTP-CWTS component on the other hand, provides special skills training in arts, music, special interests, sports, gardening and environmental advocacy and conservation.In 2008, the UPLB NSTP-CWTS forged a long-term partnership with TEAM Energy and the local government units of Pagbilao and Padre Burgos, Quezon and launched various environmental projects in coastal resource management, livelihood, nutrition and ecological awareness. The series of developmental activities was recognized by the National Youth Commission (NYC) and UPLB CWTS was credited as one of the Top Ten Outstanding NSTP Programs in the country. It was the only UP unit to earn such distinction.
Schools like Bitin ES and Louisiana CS and communities like Padre Burgos and Pagbilao are outstanding examples of the kind of quality public service that UPLB practices and aspires for. Today, the NSTP LTS trains an average of 1,376 students per semester and deploys them to around 88 public elementary schools, communities and institutions in Laguna, Quezon and Batangas area.
Partnerships and Public Service
Aside from the NSTP, Pahinungod’s institutional programs also provide much to venerate. A noteworthy case is its Sustainable Agriculture Participatory Research and Extension Model (SAPREM) Project, which was implemented between 2002 and 2007 under the Technical Assistance Program (TAP) of Pahinungod. The project benefitted a total of 12 regions and 180 agrarian reform communities throughout the country and was acclaimed as Outstanding Extension Project by UPLB in 2007 and by the Philippine Extension Network in 2009.
The Gurong Pahinungod Program (GPP), one of the major programs of Pahinungod was formally terminated in 2007. But along with the Affirmative Action Program (AAP), the summer bridge program of Pahinungod, the framework and mechanisms of GPP are currently being adopted as exemplary models for development intervention through education in Mindoro, Quezon and Albay.
The awards and impressive results do not merely reflect the productivity of Pahinungod as a program. More fittingly, these distinctions showcase UPLB’s resource efficiency. According to Dr. Rowena Baconguis, current Pahinungod Director, most Pahinungod projects are implemented through resource-sharing, partnership schemes and thus the University expends very minimal, if at all, financial and physical resources. She explains that “this creative approach to public service has allowed the University to utilize and mobilize its rich human resources towards quality public service programs without compromising UPLBs financial status and targets”. But more importantly, she believes that the awards and impressive results attests to UPLB’s unyielding commitment to excellence not just in instruction, research and extension but in its public service undertakings as well.
Answering the Call of the New UP Charter
The new UP charter of 2008 stipulates that one of the main role of UP as the one and only National University is to “lead as a public service university”.
As a response, Pahinungod hopes to expand its programs, revitalize its linkages, support and complement the University’s banner initiatives: Iskolar Para sa Bayan and the Chancellor’s Luis Rey Velasco’s Town and Gown Project. It aims to do so by intensifying the enlistment of volunteers, promoting and coordinating more institutional collaborations and taking initiatives of sourcing funds for more public service projects. It is also currently conceptualizing special incentive systems for UPLB constituents involved in public service activities.
As schools like Bitin ES and Loiusiana CES now stands proud in the hearts of their respective districts, UPLB is simply touched by the humbling experience of being part of their transformation. According to Glenn Lubuguin, Pahinungod Programs Coordinator, with the New Charter, such accomplishments must be treated as usual functions of UPLB. “There is reason to be proud but very little reason to celebrate. Because i f public service is a natural way of life and excellence is a natural standard, there is nothing extraordinary in what we did. We succeed in helping schools, communities, groups or individuals simply because that is our mandate and privilege as a public service University.”