The following blog entry is written by Jeselle Santiago, 2015 NEXTGEN Fellow that traveled with the Bayanihan Foundation. In 2017, Jeselle will be learning about non-profit management and administration with the Bayanihan Foundation as part of her Internship as she completes her Master degree in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago. Jeselle will also be helping prepare the next cohort of 2017 NEXTGEN Fellows to the Philippines in June 20 – July 4, 2017.
There are no words that I feel could adequately capture what the Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide has come to mean to me. Truly, my experience as one of their first NEXTGEN scholars has been transformative to say the least, and a catalyst for clarity that moved me to my current life’s path in the field of social work. Our trip to the Philippines two summers ago (2015) awoke my dormant Filipinx soul and reignited my passion to spend my life in servant-leadership roles. Since returning to the U.S. from that trip, Bayanihan’s Executive Director Mr. Dale Asis has graciously taken me under his wing and given me the honor of being involved in various service projects such as sending balikbayan boxes of books to local Philippine schools in Iligan; spearheading fundraisers such as the kamayan (traditional Filipino feast) hosted at my family home; contributing to the development of a Filipino/Filipino-American history workshop series “Filipinx X-Plore our History”; and even co-creating a Filipino focused giving circle “Community Power Giving Circle.”
At the time I joined as a NEXTGEN Scholar that summer 2015, I had just graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with my Bachelors in Psychology and Minor in Asian American Studies…but after that milestone, I lacked clear direction about what to do next with my life. Now, only about a year and a half later, the possibilities of what I can do seem limitless.
I am proud to say that I am now a second year Masters of Social Work (MSW) student at Loyola University Chicago–specializing in Mental Health, sub-specializing in Migration Studies, and pursuing my certificate in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy. Time has flown by, and I can’t believe I’m due to graduate this coming December 2017! In the meantime, I have the privilege of continuing my involvement with Bayanihan and have leveled up from volunteer to formal intern!
As an intern, I will focus on developing our Community Power Giving Circle; contributing to the growth of the next NEXTGEN cohort; and working on policy advocacy for mental health issues affecting Filipino-Americans and Asian Americans overall. Up until this point, I had humbly been volunteering with Dale as I could, but felt constrained in capacity with competing responsibilities as a full-time graduate student with two jobs. Now that we have formalized my role with Bayanihan by connecting it to my MSW program and legitimizing it as my advanced level fieldwork experience, I am excited to have structured time for me to focus on our efforts towards Bayanihan’s mission of “Filipinos abroad helping Filipinos at home.”
I would like to close this post by taking a moment to step back and acknowledge that I could not have done this all on my own. Perhaps it sounds cliché, but I mean it when I say that my current path was made possible by the generous support and love I have warmly received from so many folks I’ve met along the way, folks including those of you reading this right now. Thank you, sincerely! Maraming Salamat, po!