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Unpaid ‘volunteer’ kayo sa NGOs, but their heads can afford $66,500 necklace, atbp. Ano tawag sa inyo?

It is high time that we start calling out the modus operandi of so many LGBTQIA and HIV NGOs – i.e. get unpaid volunteers to help run the NGOs, but with HUGE money coming in, “fatten” the heads of these NGOs by allowing them to keep all the money.

Multiple choice: If you are an unpaid volunteer of a non-government organization (NGO) whose heads can afford to: buy a necklace worth over $66,500, or buy a resort or a hacienda (from the salary received from the NGO), will only use Rimowa luggage when traveling, or spend the NGO’s money to pay for lovers to accompany them in official trips, then ano ang tamang description sa iyo (what is the best way to describe you)?

  1. May mabuting puso (Have a good heart)
  2. Seryosong walang alam (One who seriously doesn’t know)
  3. Tanga (Stupid)
  4. Uto-uto (Blind follower)
  5. Martir (Martyr)
  6. Nakikinabang din (Also benefits from the system)
  7. Enabler
  8. All of the above
  9. None of the above
  10. Others (Please state)

Do NOT get me wrong because, truth be told, volunteers are essential in ensuring that various efforts get done, particularly those not funded by the government, donor agencies/funders, profiteering NGOs (often funded by the government or donor agencies/funders), et cetera. There are some examples worth mentioning here, e.g.:

  • In Jolo, Sulu, there were lesbian women who – due to the abuses they experienced due to their SOGIESC – established Tumba Lata in 2011. All members are volunteers, and yet they are able to help each other – e.g. escaping from sexually abusive family members, avoiding law enforcers who also abuse them, et cetera. None can afford – or will waste money – on a ₱300,000 pair of earrings, an oft-cited example of the luho (luxurious buy) of one of the heads of one of Metro Manila-based NGOs.
  • At the foot of Mt. Apo, near Ilomavis, there is a small still-unnamed community-based organization of Lumad LGBTQIA people. All of the members are volunteers, not only helping each other if there are needs (e.g. as support group), but also if there’s a “call” from their larger community for them to “step up” (e.g. clean up drives, providing free haircut, et cetera). None of the members can fathom how anyone can spend $66,500 for a necklace, when so many of them don’t even have proper employment, are unable to get proper education, et cetera.
  • For those who do not know, there are HIV activists whose volunteer work ACTUALLY save lives – e.g. John Jardenil, who I first met while working in the now-shuttered Remedios AIDS Foundations, Inc. I have seen for myself how he gave his own money to people living with HIV (PLHIV) so that they will go to RITM-AIDS Research Group to get treatment, care and support. Based on how I know John, even for all the work he did/continues to do, he will never, ever be able to afford that $66,500 necklace. People like him will never, ever be given fake and prestigious awards even if they have done more for more people. And yeah… if you all do not know him and his work, it’s because you’ve been focusing on the well-marketed “HIV advocates”, even if you ought to know they’re profiteers, fake, et cetera. The fact na di nyo kilala ang (that you don’t know) grassroots workers actually highlights how you’re being used by those in positions of power, known not necessarily because of their actual efforts, but because of how well they market themselves (including to you).

Don’t get me wrong, too: I recognize the need for people to get paid for work. So if you head an NGO, and there’s money flowing into that NGO, by all means, get paid.

But come on… whoever you are, if you can afford a $66,500 necklace, $100,000 Rimowa luggage, ₱300,000 earrings, atbp while the operations of the NGO you helm is basically run by unpaid volunteers, that is, in a word, exploitation.

Kaya tigilan na ang pag-volunteer sa mga peke (So stop volunteering for fakes), please. Andami nang yumayaman sa LGBTQIA and HIV “advocacies” (Stop this already. Too many people are getting rich from LGBTQIA and HIV “advocacies”). Notice how our situations are actually getting worse (e.g. we now have over 50 new HIV cases per day, and yes, after 24 years we still don’t have an anti-discrimination law). Stop glorifying these profiteers who pretend to do good while abusing people’s goodness by helping out for free.

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).

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