25 June 2014

From Discernment to Empowerment

by Patricia Membrebe

As a self-confessed worrywart, I have always been in a quandary over which path I would wholeheartedly take after graduation. With the desire to get a head start in my career discernment, I decided that this summer would be the perfect time for me to get involved and work as a volunteer for any sector that is dedicated to development and passionate for public service. After weeks of searching for the best avenue to dedicate all the passion that I have for the development sector, I stumbled upon ANSA-EAP's website. I have to admit that I couldn't stop reading the articles published on the site. I was so amazed by how creative, dynamic and relevant the network's projects and advocacies are. Without hesitation, I decided to send my resume. I was just so excited to meet the people behind the network, especially the great minds behind the Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA). CPA was one of ANSA-EAP's projects that really piqued my interest. Initially, I thought of CPA as a brilliant way to ensure that the government is doing its job. Eventually, I found out that there is so much more to the project than just testing the government's efficiency.

Albeit nearing its conclusion, the current phase of CPA still had a place for people like me who are willing to volunteer. Looking back to my interview, I remember one question that really struck me. I was asked about what I think of the government in general. Even though I was really embarrassed to tell the truth, I admitted that I have always been afraid of working for the government. To me, it has always been a sort of high-walled entity; therefore, ordinary people like me would find it very difficult to find their "way in" to see what is really going on in there. Having said that, I was certain that I still felt hopeful that maybe someday, something will change my problematic notion. The question bothered me for weeks, even in my time as a volunteer. But it became my motivation, my 'why' as I looked forward to proving myself wrong.

As a volunteer for CPA, I was tasked to layout the practice briefs for the project, write an article regarding the conclusion of the phase, and organize a database of contacts. I must admit that I initially thought that the responsibilities assigned to me were a little bit technical. I understood that this was because I came at a time when the phase was already being wrapped up. I used to think that only the field works are the most important parts of any research or project. But I learned through this experience that the interviews, the tools, and the findings would be for naught if they were not documented and communicated. As a matter of fact, reading the practice briefs made me understand what CPA is all about. I became even more familiar with the nitty-gritty details of each phase. On the other hand, organizing the database for the project made me realize how much an organization should value its connections. ANSA-EAP is a network after all, so in building bridges and working together to get to one destination, it is very important to bank on strong tie-ups. I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to partake in such a crucial time for the latest phase of CPA. Moreover, I consider myself really fortunate that I got to witness how the stakeholders of CPA gathered to celebrate the progress of the project in the turnover ceremony with the Commission on Audit. The event looked back to the progress of the Citizen Participatory Audit and recognized the driving forces of the project. I honestly felt even more proud to be given the opportunity to volunteer for such an amazing project. I was just so amused by the great number of people who support and take part in accomplishing the goals of the project. 

I admit that I always had too many apprehensions and doubts about the government and how they implement policies and projects. But in retrospect, all of that changed after I volunteered for CPA. Even though I was not able to witness how the project started out and how it was all processed, I can confidently say that I have seen enough to conclude that CPA--more than being the perfect example of social accountability and the best avenue for good governance-- is also a good way of empowerment. CPA is not only a tool to check if the government is doing its job well, it is not just a process of correcting everything that is wrong in a government project. It is also the best way to let everyone know that even as ordinary citizens, we have the capacity to voice out our needs, our demands. For me, it is the very heart of social accountability--that all sides are empowered enough to be informed, get involved, make an impact; and inspired enough to work hand in hand to achieve the ultimate goals. After all, the real power of a democratic government like ours lies in the ordinary citizens. 

This summer has taught me a lot and I really felt like a changed person. If at the onset I was merely looking to gain career maturity, I learned so much more about myself, and what I want to passionately fight for, in the future.


Patty worked as a volunteer for ANSA–EAP in the summer of 2014. In this blog post, she shares about her experience as a volunteer for the Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) project of ANSA-EAP.

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