Since year 2011, my bucket list never fails to have a space for “volunteering in a humanitarian or environmental cause” experience. For four years since then, I engaged myself in doing small community services in my own little ways until I’ve met the organizer, Kap Jun, of then newly founded Unang Hakbang Project. UNANG HAKBANG PROJECT (UHP) is a non-profit organization of a group of individuals from different walks of life, sharing the same passion in mountaineering, nature tripping and are outdoor activities enthusiasts. People who aspire to be a bridge between the less fortunate children of highland communities and those people who are willing to give and share their blessings to others. People who “IGNITE THE SMILES” of others and enjoying their passion of exploring the Earth’s ground once in a while.
UHP provides a couple of activities such as feeding, games, gift giving and nurturing minds of children through mini-lectures with the idea of sharing anything, the smallest value possession you owe or even the non-material thing, that will benefit others especially the needy one. As a volunteer of UHP, I’ve really appreciated the importance of making a difference and provide an opportunity to give back what has been given to me.
It has been a busy-straight four months for me, guess for most of the volunteers, when UHP started its first outreach program in Sitio Bacao, Palayan, Nueva Ecija – PROJECT TSINELAS. Since then, UHP events (outreach and hike or the other way around) fills my calendar aside from the usual “Barkada Getaway” that I used to plan with my travel buddies. TSINELAS was followed by PROJECT BOTA in Sitio Cablao, Gen. Nakar, Quezon, PROJECT ALAGA in Sitio Dupinga, Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija and PROJECT ILAW in Barangay San Andres, Tanay Rizal, which unfortunately, the last event that year that I missed because of a prior commitment.
This year, a birthday outreach, organized through the kind request of Kap Irish in Nagcarlan, Quezon and a month later, a Valentine’s Special, PROJECT YAKAP, allow us to share our love for the children of Lemeng Elementary School in Benguet. Meeting different kinds of people is the best experience I have acquired in joining UHP and learning from them is an opportunity to enrich my knowledge. To name a few, there’s the bravery of Kap “Nay” Angie whose age is above 60 but still into hiking while Kap Yang whose name is a self-proclaim as the youngest of all the loyal members. Ha ha. Kap Jun E. and Kap Mike who can earn the Entertainer Award if given a chance. The mind blowing lectures and ideas of Kap Kharl (less his habitual bullying) and the professional talent of our photographers and videographer Kap Hali, Kap Clara, Kap Reel among others who aspires to capture all perfect moments and breathtaking views. Too many “Kaps” to mention and words cannot justify how they have changed every one of us in their own little peculiar ways. LOL
Through these services, opportunities of trekking and climbing mountains together with this group of people, gives new meaning of reaching summits. From exploring Nueva Ecija’s mountains, climbing Mt. Daraitan, camping in Tayak Hills to spending Valentines Day in Mt. Pulag, I can say that climbing with UHP is really a unique experience. Aside from benefiting a number of local children, mostly Dumagats from the ranges of Cordillera to the higher grounds of Sierra Madre, mountaineering and volunteering with UHP allow me to grow as an individual by doing different tasks, be more organize, more patient in dealing with children, meet different kinds of people, and treasure more friends. UHP taught me how to adapt to some changes such as addressing volunteers as “Kap”, our own way of calling each other “kapatid”, an unusual term for mountaineers who used of having Sir and Ma’am for addressing a co-mountaineer (Unique!🙂 ).
Being a volunteer in a mountaineering group is not an easy commitment to me, excluding the financial issues that comes along with it every time I have to travel. To start, looking for sponsors and asking donations in preparation for the event is a big step to make. Aside from other processes, the UHP’s day of event “forces” all volunteers to use their strength in carrying goods, donations, foods and paraphernalia needed for the outreach. Imagine how much human energy that will take us to transfer those things not to take accounts our hiking backpacks and camping gears?! (Calling all hearty transport groups out there). Fortunately, all I know is that there is nothing more satisfying than giving some of your precious effort and time in the service of others. Fighting and keep on moving! (Aja aja!)
All hard works for each outreach is a worthy effort when I see big smiles of cheering crowds awaiting all volunteers to start our program. Everyone is appreciative of all our efforts and that one thing is enough for us to push ourselves in doing such good deeds.
Continuous support from numerous sponsors in the country and overseas let UHP team to have a non-stop resources to make these events a successful one. Thus, kudos for all my fellow co-volunteers and sponsors of Unang Hakbang Project and let’s continue to IGNITE THE SMILE! credits for the following Kaps: Kap Hali for the video links, Kap Clara & Kap Jun Eslava for the photos🙂