FOR the second year in a row, I was honored to have been asked to give the closing message to the Madaris Volunteer Program’s Batch 4 Culmination Dinner. I was also fortunate enough to be with such esteemed people such as Rev. Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ, president of the Ateneo de Davao University; Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla; Ateneo faculty and administrators; Hon. Dalisay N. Macadawan, commissioner of the women’s sector of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos; Atty Al Julkiin of UNDP; representatives from the National Association of Bangsamoro Education, Inc. (NABEI); partner Madaris schools in Cotabato, Basilan, and Maguindanao; and, of course, the fourth batch of volunteers from the service.
The Madaris Volunteer Program is unique among other forms of volunteer services. When one opts to volunteer for the program, you end up being engrossed in the Bangsamoro areas and helping to teach the madaris students there. It has always been uplifting to see volunteers coming to this tribute dinner, and this batch has been the largest one yet.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “The most beloved people to Allah are those who are most beneficial to the people.” (Al-Mu`jam Al-Awsat)
But how does one become “beneficial” to the people? I’m sure that, for all the volunteers that started to apply for the Madaris Volunteer Program, they have asked themselves that question. It is a daunting task to leave one’s home to be deployed to a far-off area, and to give of one’s self as wholly as the MVP asks you all to do.
And yet, they have been able to render their term of service with honor and dignity. They have arrived back home, and each person has a story to tell and experiences that will last a lifetime. As a former UNDP volunteer myself, I have seen that we always focus on being able to deliver what is expected of us. Somehow, along the way, we end up with something far greater than what we expected.
When we volunteer, we do not just give of ourselves to an experience or an event. We end up with something far more than what we have given. Without asking for return, we end up far richer at heart than we are in the long run. It is not just an Islamic principle, or a Catholic principle. To give, without asking for reward, is a value that is seen in all religions. It is seen in the Prayer of St. Francis, and one of the pillars of the Islamic faith – zakat.
At the heart of our service, is indeed, volunteerism. The value of giving without reward, because the giving is the reward.
I asked the volunteers to look back at what they remember most. Is it the families they stayed with? The students they have taught? The friends they made along the way? I am sure that their students might have taken inspiration from the teachings and the positive relation that they were able to share with each other.
It is, indeed, a proud moment to know that you made an impact with your students, one that will affect their whole life. You may have become their inspiration as well -- that is the sense of fulfillment in your life that volunteerism gives you.
It is my hope that with these volunteers’ experience in the Bangsamoro, they may serve as a tool in breaking cultural and religious misunderstanding and become agents of peace in our country. It is with youth like them that give a more beautiful meaning of the lives of the diverse peoples of Mindanao, and our country as a whole.
I hope they carry on your spirit of volunteerism, wherever they are. As a Chinese saying goes: “if you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
I would like to end my remarks by going back to the basis of my faith, with the following quotes from the Holy Qur’an:
“And whoever volunteers good [i.e. excess] – it is better for him” (Holy Qur’an 2:184)
“And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, Allah is Appreciative and Knowing.” (Holy Qur’an 2: 158)