Contributed by: Joan delos Reyes Bassig
When you’re burnt out from work, what do you do? When you’ve come to realize that no matter how much you love what you do, working 12 hours a day will not bring you success the way you thought it would. What now?
I decided to volunteer. I had a good talk with a friend of mine whom I haven’t seen for a year. He’s been doing volunteer work at PAFPI and he showed me his plans to help PAFPI become a sustainable NGO. Growing up, my mom would encourage us to volunteer to various churches and school activities. So I thought, this should be pretty straightforward.
It was not; it was more like learning a new culture, with its own language and expressions. Every Friday at PAFPI takes me to the Land of Sailor-moon, costume play and the like. Sex is always the hottest topic, next to hot celebrities and beauty pageants, both local and international. Now and then someone would start to catwalk and everyone else would follow suit. Suddenly, a flash of nostalgia would creep up, of a life that was. I can feel their pain, it’s overwhelming. I am learning a lot from these people; life, love, acceptance, family, sacrifice, hope and so much more. I love every minute of it.
For the past few months of being a volunteer for Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Incorporated (PAFPI), I’ve seen people from different walks of life share their stories to motivate newly diagnosed HIV positive individuals. Not only are they opening themselves to the possibility of new found friendship, but most importantly to give a physical and visual illustration of how a person living with HIV (PLHIV) regain the strength and confidence to continue what they started.
Helping others may seem like you are on a charity event, but there’s more to helping than spending time and energy for a cause. Perhaps one of the things that I learned from volunteering for PAFPI is the real meaning of contentment and joy. I’ve been consumed with activities involving learning group sessions and focus group discussions that I forgot how contented I am with what I have been doing.
Volunteering gave me a new meaning to the word ‘growth’ in which I don’t need to gain financial incentives in order to feel productive, happy and satisfied. Simple things that I already am experiencing through helping people who share the same situation as mine and people who are affected by it.
Most people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the Philippines became hopeless. They give up when the physician said, “You only have 24 hours or a month to live,” but with their will, they can survive. This is what we do when we visit them in the treatment hubs or in their houses to assist their family in providing them support and tender loving. We offer words of encouragement that there’s life after HIV.
It was early Friday morning and just like other Fridays, I was on my way to Bahay Kanlungan Drop-In Center to join the nutrition and feeding activity of the Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc. (PAFPI).
Why would you let yourself continue an unknown journey if its easier to end it right away? Perhaps this question was popular amongst other people living with HIV (PLHIVs) especially on the first few weeks, months or years after they were diagnosed. And perhaps this was a question often asked when one was trying to find out the reasons why they got the virus and the fear of not knowing what lies ahead after contracting it. But in the end, all the uncertainties and fears can be eased by a simple yakap or hug.
My name is Genesis and I’m 26 years old when I got diagnosed HIV positive. Yes, HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. And this is my personal testimony about how beautiful life is, specially if you are surrounded with great and positive people.
Being a Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc.( PAFPI) volunteer and peer educator, I got to visit different treatment hubs, meet a lot of people working in the HIV and AIDS advocacy and talk to people living with HIV. And talking to my peers and listen to their stories were only some of the perks for being a peer educator. But you may ask why? Simply because not all were given a chance to inspire others and to make them realize that there’s life after HIV. But before I bore you, read on to know my story on how I met my newly diagnosed client.
Home is sweet but it was made sweeter when there’s love to meet, welcome and greet us. This was truly important for me since most of the statements I hear from a person living with HIV (PLHIV) tell that they’ve been disowned or that they experienced stigma and discrimination not only by other people but including some members of their family. If this happens, many HIV positive individuals thought of ending their lives after facing the dilemma, anger, hurt and confusion when their family turned their backs on them.
One of my most memorable day as an active volunteer was to join hospital visits at San Lazaro as part of the program of the Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc.( PAFPI). Every Monday, we are able to give food to patients who are confined at the hospital. And that day, we’ve reached out to 22 patients and what I saw really broke my heart because many, if not most, of the patients were in dire need of support, both morally and financially.