In the second class municipality of Calauan, province of Laguna, one can find the 107-hectare Southville 7, a government housing project that did not fully take off. This sprawling lot gathered moss for years, until concerned groups and organizations saw the promise and potential of the area, and is now transformed into a welcoming home for the marginalized families from Metro Manila’s low neighborhoods, the Pasig riverbank, and survivors of Tropical Storm Ondoy.
Offering hope in the face of want
It is here that one finds Joel Balindan. Despite being differently abled after losing both his arms in an unfortunate accident a decade ago, he has been one of the active volunteers of Rise Against Hunger Philippines (RAHP), a trusted partner of Coca-Cola, whose mission it is to end hunger in our lifetime by providing food and lifechanging aid to the world’s most vulnerable.
Personifying hope and perseverance in the face of difficulties, it was through the Don Bosco youth center in the area that Balindan first became a volunteer two years ago. “Sa aming mga taga-rito sa Don Bosco, in-assign po ako ni Father Darwin na maging volunteer para sa feeding program ngRise Against Hunger Philippines kaya po ako na-involve. Doon po nagsimula ang lahat(Among us here at Don Bosco, I was assigned by Father Darwin to volunteer for the feeding program of Rise Against Hunger that’s why I got involved),”Balindan shares. “Masaya po ako sa pagtulong ko sa mga tao sa kabila po ng may kapansanan ako (I’m happy to be able to help despite my physical limitations).”
Despite being differently abled and facing the risks that Covid-19 pandemic brings, Balindan refuses to let these challenges hinder his desire to help others in need, proving that with faith and determination, much can be achieved. By assuming the role of facilities coordinator with passion and aplomb, overseeing the cooking operations including the preparation of all the equipment to be used, he is doing just that. “Makakatulong pa pala ako ng mas mahigit sa inaasahan ko(I never realized that I’d be able to help in more ways than I’d ever imagine),” Balindan says.
Working together under a shared purpose
With the desire to empower and uplift communities, Rise Against Hunger Philippines and Coca-Cola set out to make a difference at Southville 7. Setting aside the large number of people to be fed daily, the feeding program of RAHP is no mean feat. The program is wrought with numerous challenges, moreso with the Covid-19 pandemic and the community quarantine. It is through strategic partnerships with companies like Coca-Cola Philippines that they are able provide lifechanging aid to the most vulnerable of sectors.
“Sa totoo lang, nahihirapan po kaming lumabas, dahil sa quarantine. Ang ginagawa po namin in-coordination sa barangay ay dini-distribute na lang namin yung mga food pack at yung tulong namin tulad ng bigas saka pagkain na binibigay ng mga donor (To be honest, going out is difficult due to quarantine. What we do is we coordinate with the barangay as we distribute the food packs and other relief items like rice and food from our donors),”Balindan says. “Sa tulong po ng Rise Against Hunger Philippines ay nakakakuha po kami ng pantawid sa aming pang-araw-araw. Buti na lang po ay nandito kami at may natatakbuhan sila (Through the help of Rise Against Hunger Philippines, we are able to receive support that tides us over every day. We’re grateful that we have an organization that we can turn to in times of need).”
At Site 2 of Southville 7 where Balindan stays, RAHP and Coca-Cola, through the Coca-Cola Foundation, serves 500 housing units where house-to-house distribution of meal packs are conducted.
“At a time of crisis and unimaginable struggles, being there for the marginalized can make a big difference,” said Winn Everhart, Coca-Cola Philippines president and general manager. “Thankfully, there are individuals and organizations who share in our vision of making a difference in the lives of others in significant ways. At Coca-Cola, we have always endeavored to pursue programs and initiatives with strong, solid partners like Rise Against Hunger Philippines—believing in the power and strength of working together. This thrust becomes ever more meaningful in how we support people like Joel Balindan who exemplifies the best of humanity and the Filipino.”
At present, Coca-Cola Philippines has partnered with several organizations for Covid-19 relief. Combined, their efforts have so far yielded 174,000+ PPEs for more than 51,000 medical workers, food packs for over 39,000 vulnerable families, and around 557,000+ liters of beverages distributed to 715+ hospitals, NGOs, local government units, and national government agencies. Through the collective efforts of organizations like RAHP and Coca-Cola, and with dedicated volunteers like Joel, the hope for a better tomorrow is made more possible and tangible.
Coca-Cola continues to increase its community support and is sharing updates as well as inspiring stories #ForTheHumanRace on https://facebook.com/CocaColaPhilippines.