From necessity drew altruism.

The will to survive took his feet straight into the heart of the underprivileged communities in his hometown in Abra, but never did 23-year-old Randel Beñas think it was the link to a life changing epiphany.

“It is not an easy job yet I’m blessed to be part of this,” the gentleman said, referring to his work as a community empowerment facilitator (CEF) in one of the barangays of Luba town.

Initially, the young man who spent most of his life in the capital town of Abra, Bangued, said he was not prepared to take up a job following a year-long stint as an assistant statistician at the National Statistics Office (NSO).

However, on October 2014, Beñas applied as to be a part of the Kapitbisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services – National Community-Driven Development Program (Kalahi-CIDSS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“Because of financial scarcity, I was then forced to find a job,” he explained, adding he was still half-hearted when he was called to work.

A few days later, he was immersed for the first time in the upland town of Luba. Beñas remembered the warm welcome of the people in Luba but he was already greeted with a grip of mixed feelings of excitement and fear.

The licensed secondary math teacher had volunteered in many organizations before but was never in the kind of work he was currently in.

“I had a mood of blind obedience, (just) doing what is being instructed to me,” he admitted, recalling his first few days as a CEF.

Never did he expect that a few days later, he would encounter a realization that would awaken his inner senses and shackle his heart to the work he initially was reluctant to take.

On the October 24, Luba conducted a MIAC Technical Review with stakeholders of the Kalahi-CIDSS.

During the meeting, Municipal Coordinating Team member Jessie Daoaten recalled how the previous KALAHI CIDSS – NCDDP staff worked hard to establish ground in the community and start the grueling task of empowering the community.

“Ket sapay koma ta dagitoy kabarbaro nga staff haan da nga masayang dagiti efforts dagiti immon-una (Hopefully these new staff will not waste the efforts of the previous ones),” Daoaten said, as recalled by Beñas.

The speech was all the young community volunteer needed to hear.

“I was about to cry during the speech of ma’am Jessie because I imagined all the efforts, sufferings, and trials of all the past KALAHI CIDSS – NCDDP staff and it challenged me to do more  than what my position means,” Beñas relayed.

The sleeping volunteerism in him was now awake, he said. Further, he also realized he should not isolate his capabilities in just one corner but develop and impart it with the community he is working with.

“If you must say yes, say it with an open heart,” was a line from book author Paulo Coelho that would remind him often of this epiphany.

“I must say yes not because of the monetary incentives but the determination and willingness to help the community,” Beñas concluded.

A few months into the program, he said he is having fun at work and is inspired to do more because of the stories of the community volunteers in his area.

The young Abreño found working at the grassroots a fulfilling cause. He said he made vow to himself not to leave until the community folks are empowered.

“Drama exists in the communities but not for ‘kill-joy moments’ because every second counts,” he said.

Unexpectedly, life turned around for Beñas. From just a job, he found his calling. From hesitation, he found worth to stay.# DSWD-CAR, SOCIAL MARKETING UNIT, KARLSTON S. LAPNITEN

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