by Charrie Joy V. Masculino
Guimaras – In 2011, I was among the first batch of volunteers of CheckMySchool (CMS). Back then, our work focused on interacting with teachers and students, monitoring of school facilities and equipment delivery, such as books, tables, chairs, and infrastructure projects.
It was easy for me because prior to joining CMS I had 10 years of experience working with a local government unit, and I knew many local officials.
In 2014, we attended a CMS training workshop in Antipolo City, and I was taken aback by the new monitoring activities being introduced to us. In the beginning, it was difficult for us to adjust to these new tools, such as conducting a school survey to generate data for funding request.
As time passed, we eventually adjusted to the changes. We leveraged our local organization, the Guimaras People’s Economic Foundation, Inc, (GPEFI), which was already known to the community, and were able to cover 90 out of the 114 schools in the area.
We anticipated the difficulty in getting volunteers from the community because our CMS activity coincided with the implementation of the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) program. It was tough for me because at that time I was also working with Kalahi-CIDSS.
Fortunately, I still managed to monitor my volunteers while encoding data gathered from different schools. The very slow Internet connection in our community just made things worse. I worked late into the night to complete and submit the reports needed to secure funding for school improvements.
With God’s grace, we received Php21M from the Basic Educational Facilities Fund (BEFF) of the Department of Education, and the LGU provided an initial Php100,000 for the repair of Unisan Multi-Grade School in the island-municipality of Nueva Valencia, which was damaged by typhoon Yolanda.
It was a tough year for us, but seeing the happy faces of the people we helped made it all worthwhile.
Initially I had to balance my time between my work, my family responsibilities, and CMS. But I eventually gave up my work in order to focus on my family and CMS. In order to avoid mistakes committed by volunteers in the past, I personally visited the schools with reported issues, enabling me to see firsthand how our volunteers work and get their feedback personally.
After gathering and consolidating the issues and concerns, I presented these to the Governor and DepEd officials for issue resolution, my confidence boosted by my conviction as a CMS volunteer to enhance the quality of public education in the country.
My CMS work will never make me rich financially, but it enriches me as a human being. I have travelled to different places, experienced different cultures, and met a lot of people from whom I have learned so much.
Most importantly, my CMS work has inspired me to become a community leader and serve my community as a bridge for development. It is difficult but fulfilling volunteer work, especially when you are able to make a difference in people’s lives. As Loreto Gandecela of Unisan MGS aptly put it, “Kung hindi kami mag-volunteer, sino?” (“If we don’t volunteer, who will?”).
Now on its seventh cycle, my involvement with CMS is as old as my seven-year-old son. While growing up, he was my constant companion in meetings with DepEd and LGU officials, and in CMS assessments. An excellent “CMS ambassador”, my little boy would excitedly tell people about our volunteering adventures, such as the time we visited an island school.
Together with other CMS volunteers, I have seen the participatory monitoring initiative experience growing pains, and through our collective efforts we have helped it overcome challenges. CMS truly has become a big part of my life. I can proudly say that volunteering for CMS is like raising my own child.
Edited by: Eric Michael Santos