Being a taciturn and introvert student in college, I was always shy to attend PCAFPD alumni and scholars meet-up events or assemblies. The first (and last while I was a student) that I participated in was in 2014, a year before I graduated. There, I met my co-scholars, and got inspired by the alumni who involve themselves in the Foundation as a way of giving back. This was the initial spark which made me ex-cited to attend meetings, and eventually resulted in me rising up to the challenge of handling scholars and becoming part of the promising Ituloy Team. Not sure of what to do at first, I clung to the Team for advice, tips, and lessons they can give me in man-aging scholars properly.

Hannah Catiis, Ituloy Team Member (and former PCAFPD scholar), Manila, Philippines.

Currently on my third batch of PCAFPD scholars, I can say that onboarding the new batch of scholars is always the busiest time of the year. The challenge begins in reaching out to the awardees to let them know of their acceptance. Some awardees can’t be reached through their provided mobile number or email, so I must be resourceful in finding ways to contact them. The joy of delivering the good news to an awardee is rewarding on its own. I cannot count how many ‘thank you’ I’ve already received from the scholars as well as from their families. Each excited and thrilled ‘thank you’ represents the hope that the scholarship brings to their lives; the scholarship may have monetary value on its own, but this hope is, and will forever be, priceless.

Working with other Ituloy Team members through-out the year not only developed my ability to man-age the scholars, moreover, it helped me establish a rapport with my fellow alumni. My co-members are now more than colleagues, and their friendship and mentorship permeate other aspects of my life. This made the volunteer work more enjoyable and added a personal attachment to PCAFPD which gradually made me feel at home. Through them I’ve met other scholars and alumni, making this home bigger through time and in return wanting other scholars and alumni to feel the belongingness I’ve felt with these marvelous people.

Reading scholars’ es-says is an effective way of knowing how they are doing in their studies and in their personal lives. This is one of my favorite tasks. I marvel how they conquer their own fears, worries, and problems. I love to read how they are having fun in college despite the constant pressure to always do good. So when I am fortunate enough to meet some of them during my travels, I feel like I know part of what they are going through even though that is the first time that we see each other. Their essays serve as veins that connect them not only to the Ituloy Team but also to the Board and the sponsors.

Challenges, too, are part of running the Philippine operations. Some are part of the day-to-day operations, but there are few isolated scholar-related cases too. These predicaments sometime bring me distress, in times of which I would seek the wisdom of Mr. Roland de Jesus to set the right direction of where I am heading. I rely on his 25 years of experience in running the PH operations, and I will always be grateful for the guidance, support, and under-standing as I learn. I still have a long way to go in this pursuit; I consider these endeavors as the learning curve that I need to experience in order to grow.

This year, three of the scholars I am supervising will march to get the diploma that they, and their families, have been waiting for. I am proud of their success in their undergraduate education despite the 7 challenges that life throws at them, and I can’t wait to see them in their graduation toga. The Ituloy Team takes part in their rejoicing, and although we have not (yet) met them in person, seeing them complete college adds inspiration for us to do better. Being once in their position, I know how much it means to live the dream of earning one’s degree, with the help of the people around us, and of the donors who generously shared their blessings with us.

From the first time in 2016 that I formally involved myself in the Foundation, I feel no regret in spending time working for its cause. As years go by, I feel more inspired, and I take pride in my responsibilities from onboarding the scholars, to collecting their grades and essays every semester, to providing them advice whenever I can. At the same time, I am humbled in this opportunity to serve my fellow Filipinos. I wish to thank all of the people behind the Foundation – the donors, the Board, my teammates: Roland, Jessa, Aries, KV, Tonet and Jody – for the three wonderful years as part of this team working with the scholars and investing today for a more secured future for them and their families.

Written by Hannah Catiis, Ituloy Team Member (and former PCAFPD scholar), Manila, Philippines.

The Ituloy Team is the Philippines-based team supporting the Foundation and our scholars – “Ituloy” meaning “to continue.”

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