If we only love those who love us, what good is there to it? That’s why I decided to spearhead a fundraising and volunteer campaign for the soup kitchen called Karinderia ni Mang Urot.
How Would You Spend Your Birthday?
This was the ping-pong ball question that Josh and I ask each other as March kicked in. Because our birthdays are ten days apart, we can’t help brainstorming how to best celebrate. The answers usually came in the form of a shrug and a blurt of “Anything will do.”
Do we want to go bowling? Go drinking with friends? Watch a band gig? At one point, his answer became different. He said he had always wanted to do a feeding program with the group we have eyed volunteering to for a long time — at Karinderia ni Mang Urot.
Karinderia ni Mang Urot is a soup kitchen put up for nearly three years. Mang Urot personally finances feeding the homeless three times a week. Cooking is done at his home. He then takes the food to a parking lot of Bank of Commerce right at Quezon Avenue corner Examiner Street. There is nothing but a small setup of tables.
Expect no frills, no altruistic invites and no fancy programs. Volunteers for Karinderia ni Mang Urot get a chance to prepare the food and distribute them onsite. By around 8PM, the homeless pray before taking their meals and line up to get their dinner and beverage. Sometimes, there are desserts, sweets and special treats for the kids. And on Sundays, volunteers of Karinderia ni Mang Urot can eat together with the homeless.
They had me at the low-key approach. I messaged Mang Urot that we were planning to support his soup kitchen for our birthdays. Even though Mang Urot does not actively look for donations, he gladly accepted and was very accommodating to anyone who wanted to help, even if it meant a 1:1 volunteer to homeless ratio.
When Donations to Karinderia ni Mang Urot Multiplied
At first, I only planned to fund one night of dinner for the homeless with Karinderia ni Mang Urot. After all, it only costs around Php 1,500 (about USD 35) to feed 60-80 people in one night. They can even go back to get a second helping with that amount.
But I didn’t want to be a “come and go” volunteer, so I changed the plan to invite other volunteers and willing donors who will be support Karinderia ni Mang Urot for the next three days. It became a fundraising and volunteering drive more than just a birthday celebration — and everyone is invited.
When a Quiet Gathering turned into a Celebration
With less than ten days of preparation, we started inviting our friends, officemates, teams, Couchsurfers, churchmates and even strangers to volunteer. We officially started a”Birthday Feast Fundraiser” or BFF for Karinderia ni Mang Urot.
In less than ten days, we discovered a very surprising phenomenon: We exceeded our target of Php 6,000 with donations coming from people we don’t even know. Plus, our guest list was made up of a vibrant circle of “friends of friends” from different walks of life and even nationalities, some of whom have had no prior experience volunteering.
It Was No Longer About Birthdays
What I enjoyed about the event with Karinderia ni Mang Urot is not that it was my birthday. I could do this in any random day and still feel blessed. What struck me was the willingness of people to help out without sounding the trumpets about it.
I only wrote this blog and took photos during the event because I think the cause of Karinderia ni Mang Urot and its supporters deserve a silent applause. And I also want to encourage you to go out and discover opportunities to make use of your time and resources to serve others.