How government gaps are bridged by People Power
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-11-29

The Gawad Kalinga success story and other effective social responsibility practice of Good Samaritans working among poor communities show that it is possible to reverse the cycle of poverty in entire communities.

The GK as well as the Focolare Movement’s Bukas Palad communities are anchored on reforming values and bridging the Information and Education Gaps that conspire to keep the poor helplessly locked in a never ending cycle of poverty.

Only the poor can help themselves but not alone is the dictum of the Focolare’s Economy of Communion (EoC). The best equipped governments can only establish the policy framework and institutions that encourage the citizens of the country to unite and help make a better life for everybody. But the on-the-ground shepherding can only be realistically undertaken by neighbors who care for one another.

The huge amounts of money and typhoon relief donations that poured in from here and abroad from Good Samaritans during the Ondoy and Pepeng natural calamities were excellent examples of this capacity of the human person to care for a neighbor whether near or distant. Many victims that were reached must have somehow found comfort from their desperation.

The only thing perhaps regretted is that in emergency situations where we want to help and rush relief as swiftly as possible, we cannot avoid reaching mostly the victims who are nearest to us – leaving out those victims who probably need help most.

Although, in the Economy of Communion – the new economic paradigm which was the inspiration of the late founder of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich – it is proximity that is encouraged when attempting to bridge the Wealth Gap and to reverse the cycle of poverty.

In the EoC, which was endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI in his latest encyclical titled Caritas in Veritate, it is recommended that the beneficiaries should first be those within the proximity of the donor so that a relationship can be easily established. In a corporate setting, the firm must ensure first that their employees are not in need before playing Good Samaritan to other folks in other communities.

That is why your Chair Wrecker was impressed when told about how a Makati-based BPO and call center, ePerformax, got organized to visit the homes of its own employees so that they could determine assistance based on severity of damage. The quiet and determined efficiency by which this company assisted the victims who were part of its corporate family is one helluva good story we can all learn from.

On the day most of Metro Manila was submerged due to Ondoy, ePerformax staff members immediately took their places to man the phones so that they could reach employees and find out how they could help those who needed assistance. They received a lot of SOS’s - some employees were on rooftops, others were trapped and unable to help themselves but an alarming number, particularly those who lived in the worst affected areas, could not be reached at all.

Teresa Hartsaw, ePerformax CEO and resident and her expat team joined the local staff in mobilizing donations and launching what they called as “Operation: Rebuild.” Concerned clients in the US called and immediately got involved by donating money. Total cash collected amounted to P2 million. With the cash and in kind donations, ePerformax Operation: Rebuild began providing immediate and long-term relief.

Arriving in a convoy of vans, Teresa Hartsaw and her team of expats, clients and local staff went to the homes of victim-employees from Cainta, Marikina, Taytay, Quezon City, Sta. Mesa and Pasig. This first visit was intended for immediate relief – food rations, drinking water, medicine and first aid kit, sanitation and toiletries, clothes, blankets and sleeping mats.

Having had the ocular of various damage conditions, Teresa Hartsaw’s team took note of each home’s needs so that they could purchase basic appliances, furniture and hardware, and provide financial aid for home repairs.

Imagine the surprise of employees when the ePerformax group led by their CEO and her Operation: Rebuild team arrived. They came to replace what was lost to the floods and to inspire new confidence and strength to move on and face the opportunities of tomorrow.

Employee Juvy Carpio of Marikina had just returned from the hospital when she saw “delivery guys” Dennis Lindley and Paul Trulli, ePerformax executives, hauling in a huge cabinet destined for her home.

When they left, she texted them: “I am so happy and overwhelmed. I can’t thank you enough! Please let Teresa and the rest know how thankful I am to be with ePerformax. Thank you for all the support. I love my ePerformax family so much. In return, they can count on me for the best quality of work, dedication and passion I can provide. Please tell Ms. Hartsaw she is my angel.”

To date, ePerformax has so far provided its family members affected by the flood over 400 units of home appliance, furniture and fixtures. Cash donation of over P600,000 was also allocated to victim-employees for home repair.

No doubt, that everyone who lent help and support meant well and wanted only to ease the pain of brothers and sisters who have been ravaged. But ePerformax’s example has shown that corporate efficiency applied to humanitarian service provides the maximum possible benefits.

Times like these, one helping hand can truly make a difference. And helping hands, when united, and professionally trained to achieve best results, can surely rebuild.

Seeing American executives helping Filipinos co-workers through a personal crisis and outside of their usual corporate environments is truly uplifting. We can learn a lot from their helping perspective.

We can never overemphasize the importance of an enlightened private sector. Filipinos are by nature caring people and a natural asset to customer service operations. International call center operations have indeed given Filipinos the opportunity to cultivate positive work ethics as well as become international customer service professionals.

Teresa Hartsaw and her team of expats treated their Filipino co-workers like family. While they can be tough on demanding for results in the corporate setting, they were sincerely caring and loving when expressing their concern. In effect, it is this kind of leadership that inspires and moves people to positive action.

Whoever gets elected to the presidency in 2010 would do well to learn the lessons of leadership imparted by Good Samaritans – private sector and NGOs who helped and loved until it hurt. Their approach contrasts with that employed by do-gooders driven mainly by the desire to win brownie points and popular credit.

Without leadership by example, you cannot force people to give you love, respect and trust. Being in power, you will be surrounded by sycophants and hangers on who will make you think that you are some kind of a god almighty.

Let us hope that whoever becomes the next president of the Philippines will have the credibility and inspired leadership to unite the forces of good towards helping those among us who had not been more fortunate.

  Previous Columns:

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