By Giana Montinola 
Hands on Manila Foundation Co-Founder

Trustees (L-R) John Silva, Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez, Gianna Montinola, Nicole Marie Fandiño, Junie del Mundo, Federico Lopez, and Wynn Wynn Ong

August 1, 2001 was the day Hands on Manila Foundation, Inc. was officially born. My Co-founders and I were determined to spread the spirit of volunteerism in the Philippines. We all dreamed that one day, the name Hands On Manila would be synonymous with the idea of volunteer service. 6 out of the 9 Co-founders were alumnae of Assumption College – Sandy Prieto Romualdez, Mari Cris Duarte Olbés, Wynn Wynn Nyunt Ong, Nicole Olbés Fandiño, Gizela Gonzalez Montinola and myself.

In the course of 20 years, we branched out from individual Hands On Volunteering to Corporate Special Projects where we created bespoke volunteer programs for companies who outsourced their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives to us. Hands on Schools and Hands on Volunteer Vacations were born under this umbrella.

Vini Jalandoni, Cristina Tiu, Rose Anne Belmonte ( AC) , Marianne Po, Lizette Cojuanco, ( AC) Gianna Montinola, ( AC), Bernie Montinola Aboitiz ( AC), Michelle Batungbacal, Suzi Fong, ( AC) Quintin Pastrana

Our volunteer tribe grew in leaps and bounds. As did our tribe of Assumptionista trustees – Gina Africa Aboitiz, Bernie Montinola Aboitiz, Lizette Banzon Cojuangco, Rose Anne Garcia Belmonte, Suzy Fong, Patrice Montemayor Tan, Mia Tambunting Padilla, Gina Tambunting Roxas, Ming Roxas and Mia Camus Villanueva, who all dedicated not only their time and talent, but also their resources to help Hands On grow. We developed the SHERPA Volunteer Leadership program to expand our services. Our SHERPAS were our proud ambassadors – they helped create and manage programs, and lead our volunteers especially during our flagship events.

HOM FunRaiser Night, Manila Polo Club 2015
Thanksgiving Dinner, December 2008

Armed with more experience, we developed other flagship programs like Servathon (Service Marathon) in 2005 where employees from corporations all met to do volunteer work on one given day. In 2017 we began to participate in the global Good Deeds Day where individuals volunteered to do participate in a service project. Hands on Holiday Gifts not only helped provide the necessary funds to run our organization but also was a marketing tool from the day we were born.

Measuring the impact of our programs continues to be important to ensure that we remain relevant, effective, efficient, and sustainable. In 2019, we had gathered 4970 volunteers, contributed 59,640 volunteer hours, partnered with 37 corporate partners, for a combined total of P59.6 M worth of services.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced us to leap into the world of virtual volunteering almost overnight. It radically changed the landscape of volunteerism, but we remain confident that we are prepared for what tomorrow will bring. Today, our bottom-up approach focuses on 4 pillars — education, the environment, livelihood, and health care. These resonate with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals and contribute to nation-building.

Corporate volunteers during Servathon 2012 coastal cleanup
Rockwell Land Corporation refurbished the science room at Jacinto Zamora Elementary School, Pandacan, Manila
Seventy volunteers and teachers of Ricardo P. Cruz Elementary School collaborated together to create educational materials for the children who were deeply affected by typhoon Odette in Siargao, Philippines

In true Assumption spirit, Hands On Manila continues to mobilize people to address the critical social, educational and environmental needs of the country through volunteer action.

20 years later, our best, most productive years are yet to come.