In March of this year, KI met with Rt Hon Lord McConnell. Lord Jack was First Minister of Scotland 2001-2007 and UK Special Representative for Peacebuilding 2008-2010. He wrote a blog about KI and our work and we reproduce it here.
Bridging the divide in the PhilippinesPosted by Lord Jack McConnell on 17 March 2014
Judging the global competition for local peacebuilders organised by Peace Direct in 2013 was a difficult task. The judges were to choose four projects from the dozens of nominations from every continent, and to choose those that were making a real impact, were innovative and were likely to be a good example to others. We agonised over the choices we eventually made, disagreeing in ways that you might expect, based on our different perceptions and experiences. But there was one winning project that deeply inspired me. And last month I had the chance to meet up with Kapamagogopa.Kapamagogopa Inc (KI for short) is based in Mindanao, a huge island in the southern Philippines where conflict has claimed lives and inhibited development for decades. There conflict has at times been very violent, at other times simply persistent. But such conflict has implications way beyond the violence that seeps into the consciousness of Muslims and Christians locally, exaggerating their fears and tensions.In 2005 Mariam Barandia, a civil engineer, took the first steps to establish a volunteering organisation for Muslim youth. The result is KI, which places Muslim youth volunteers in Christian organisations. At first both communities were reluctant – maybe fearful – to welcome this, but over time new understanding has overtaken fear, and friendships made across the religious and cultural divide have lasted.In 12 years, KI has supported 86 volunteers, each of whom today is part of COMVOL, an alumni association that supports new volunteers and continues their work to build understanding and peaceful co-existence. Mariam is still their leader, and she clearly inspires the young people she has supported.I met Mariam with two of her volunteers in Manila last month. I had just spent a week volunteering with VSO and Beyond 2015, a coalition of campaign groups from across the Philippines. Almost everyone I had worked with was a Catholic in this most Catholic of Asian nations, but everyone I asked had heard of KI and were inspired by their work. And they worked hard to ensure that I could meet the amazing Mariam and some KI alumni.Hafsa Madid was a volunteer in KI’s first year, and today she works in Manila in Human Resources for the World Food Programme. She explained to me the particular challenges for a young woman to take this step. Her calm confidence and determination left me sure she would make a huge difference somewhere during her life. She is active in building the network of KI alumni.Ganie Amlain was a volunteer in year five. He comes from the area at the heart of the conflict, and his teenage years may have developed very differently if he had not joined KI. He faced hostility when he volunteered with Kapamagogopa, but his eyes shine when he talks about the experience and he has no regrets. Today he works in the community with young people, and supports more volunteers to take the steps he did.The parties to the conflict in Mindanao have just signed their most significant peace agreement yet. UK experience in Northern Ireland has helped, behind the scenes, to convince them to give peace its best chance. But there are many hurdles still to cross.The Filipino parliament must now deliver the Government’s side of the deal and establish autonomous devolved government across the country. Then peaceful elections can elect a representative assembly. The people and elected representatives of Mindanao will need young ambitious men and women who can help them build a permanent peace and deliver the development that will be the peace dividend. The alumni of Kapamagogopa will, I am sure, be among those first in line: and they will be better prepared than most to secure a peaceful future for their communities.Rt Hon Lord Jack McConnell was UK Special Representative for Peacebuilding 2008-2010
KI alumni, Alicia Pandapatan (volunteer in 2008), Jalanie Pangalian (2009) and Ashary Dimacor (2009) are now making a difference in reaching Yolanda (typhoon Haiyan) affected communities in the eleven municipalities of Eastern Samar. They are all working for separate organizations. Ash being a Senior Community Organizer from Community and Family Services International (CFSI), Jalanie is a Field Associate from United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and Alicia is a Field Monitor Assistant for World Food Programme.They all based in Guiuan in Eastern Samar, where the Typhoon first hit.
Previously, these young people have been able to utilize their skills developed during their volunteering to assist in the response Typhoons Washi and Bopha in Mindanao. This experience has now proved invaluable in the response to this devastating Typhoon. Jajanie remarked " Our experience of being young Muslim professional volunteers through Kapamagogopa Inc. is definitely our strongest asset in defeating challenges that humanitarian workers and volunteers usually encounter. We were equipped by KI.
One of the goals of our project is that our alumni continue to work for peace and development long after they have finished their year of volunteering. Many of our volunteers continue to do so and the achievement by these three is a great boost to impact of our project. Please help us to train more young people like Ash, Jal and Alicia who can then go on to help their fellow Filipinos.
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Mindanao was mercifully spared from the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan. However, KI volunteers, Ash and Nafisah placed at Gualandi Volunteer Service Programme (GVSP) in Cebu City, have been working hard with the relief effort. GVSP works with the Deaf and other people with disability, in times of disaster this group of people are often even more marginalized. GVSP has been delivering relief and psychosocial support to those in need and their families in Northern Cebu and surrounding islands where the aid response has been limited.
Ash has been working on the distribution of aid and translating signing to the hearing whilst Nafisah has been in charge of managing the donations and helping with the monumental task of organizing the logistics to procure and distribute the relief goods.
The areas affected are almost 100% Christian and so the sight of a Muslim helping their fellow Filipinos in the Visayas can only help to break down the barriers between them.
We also can report that previous KI volunteers are working as staff for the big International aid agencies in Tacloban and other areas in Leyte and Samar. This demonstrates how our project impacts in the long term. Our volunteers carry their experience and skills with them for life, empowering them to affect change in society not only when they are volunteers but for many years after.
Thank you for your support
The following is an e-postcard from Zamil Akhtar, a GlobalGiving Representative in the Philippines:
Teamwork and critical thinking were emphasized during KI’s volunteer boot camp. Not every volunteer is selected; a rigorous process excludes those who are not motivated or lack ingenuity. I doubted I would be able to pass after hearing the volunteers discuss a practice question that had to do with saving lives on a sinking ship. But those who do pass go on to do great things: many of the former volunteers are now working for major NGO’s. There’s no doubt this program is life changing for these volunteers; it is also hoped that these volunteers will help foment peace in a troubled region.
Dear Friends and Supporters
We are now in the month of Ramadan but KI staff and volunteers are not slowing down their hectic schedule. KI has begun the selection process of the next group of 10 volunteers who will make up the 8th Batch. Over 80 young people from across Mindanao applied to our program. After an initial pre-screening the number of candidates was reduced to 28. These candidates are currently undergoing a tough one-day assessment so that the final 10 volunteers can be selected. They will then receive 4 weeks of development training before being placed in the host organizations in early September.
KI has also been training some of its Alumni volunteers to become selectors for the assessment process. This is part of our long term goal that all functions of the program are carried out by our former youth volunteers
Your donations are vital to the continuation of the project. We run a streamlined organization, keeping our operating costs to a bare minimum, so that we can train as many volunteers as possible.
Thank you again for your support
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Lanao del Norte