THE spirit of volunteerism can permeate anyone especially during trying times. In times of crisis, some reveal themselves as inspirations, enjoining others to try and make the lives of those around them a little better and happier.
Asima "Sim" Pangandaman was one of the very first to respond to the needs of her brothers and sisters after fighting broke out between government forces and extremists in Marawi City last May 23. A Maranao by blood, the 29-year-old Liceo de Cagayan graduate said seeing the images of the fighting in Marawi brought so much worry and fear.
"We were close to tears that day because we could see what is happening in Marawi through the TV. All I could think about what would then happen to those people who were going away from the place? Where will they go?" Sim, one of Cagayan de Oro City’s emerging artists, said.
Although most of her childhood was not spent in Marawi City having grown up and studied in Cagayan de Oro, Sim said she has roots in the country’s only Islamic city.
With that, she lost no time and volunteered to cater to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the areas of Opol and Balulang here in Cagayan de Oro. Since day one, Sim has not stopped thinking about the ways in which she could help not only feed the IDPs but also provide them with other necessities.
"One of the first things that I did was to help in the soup kitchen there in Barangay Nazareth. The Pane e Dolci restaurant was making soup for the IDPs and I was the first ones to help them. We fed so many people in Balulang and for me, being able to see all those people eating food aside from the ones being given in relief packs was such a good experience," she said.
As a local artist, her contacts helped so much in finding people to either donate or volunteer in various parts of the city and even in Iligan City. One of the people who were able to assist her in her mission to gather food and sanitary packs was the owner of the Pacifico hotel, Eleanor Pabayo.
After realizing her noble intentions, Pabayo opened her hotel as a drop off center where Sim and her volunteer friends could arrange and pack relief goods. Sim explained that if anyone wanted to donate anything for the IDPs such as clothes, sanitary necessities, food, or even cash, they could drop these off at the Pacifico hotel. A sign is posted near the hotel to inform the people that their donations are welcome in the hotel.
"And so many people have been coming and have been giving us donations so far. We have made use of one of the rooms here in this hotel to arrange and pack the relief goods," Sim said.
For the past two months of tirelessly tending to the mountains of donated goods and sleepless nights of finding contacts and more possible projects to raise funds for the IDPs, Sim could only say that she is not tired but contented.
"It is such a good feeling, when I see someone I helped, when I see a child or anyone being fed. I think that even if it is hard but when you do something good, it will always come back to you no matter what. So we should not get tired of being good and doing good," she said.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 16, 2017.