(Note: Pilipino Star Ngayon’s Bituin Ng Pag-Asa series celebrates viral stories of hope and inspiration this 2020.)
“Ano ba ang ambag mo?”
This group of students became one of the bright spots in this otherwise difficult year after forming a charity organization as response to a question they often encountered when expressing themselves online.
May Twenty Ako was born on the day the Enhanced Community Quarantine was imposed in Metro Manila last March, with the goal of calling for P20 donations to help the homeless in their community in Malabon. The youth-led org has since raised P4 million for Filipinos in need from different parts of the country.
“Pag nagsasalita, we are often asked, ‘Ano bang ambag mo?’ We answer, ‘May twenty ako.’ Ang sabi nila nung ECQ, ‘Stay at home.’ Paano ka naman makakapag-stay at home kung wala kang bahay? Kung homeless ka? So nasa streets sila. Sila ‘yung pinaka-vulnerable. Kasi nadadaanan sila and ‘di ba? Wala silang security. Pagkain nga lang po hirap sila, paano pa ‘pag sa hygiene kits, mga face masks,” Charisse Parchamento recalled how she and her high school batchmates at St. James Academy in Malabon came together in a STAR interview.
Inspired by an idea of their former teacher Erika Jean Ente, the group decided on the P20 amount knowing that some people could be discouraged from donating as they might feel like they’re required to contribute a lot of money.
“We believe that we are able to change the game because everybody has a spare P20 they can allot for a good cause such as this,” said Charisse in a talk.
They initially planned on raising P2,000 only to buy hygiene kits. They took to social media to share about their initiative and “power-tagged” celebrity accounts.
Much to their surprise, they received donations worth P30,000 within three to five hours from posting about May Twenty Ako.
“Meron nga po ang binibigay pa nila sa Gcash. Nakikita namin is parang P23.5, parang inuubos na po nila ‘yung Gcash nila,” Charisse said.
From homeless and informal settlers, their list of beneficiaries grew as donors came and groups partnered with them. They have since donated PPE supplies to medical frontliners in Metro Manila, Batangas, Cagayan, Bukidnon, Pangasinan, Bicol and Laguna public hospitals. They have also given aid to other frontliners such as volunteers doing disinfection in the streets and those manning checkpoints.
They have also included jeepney drivers, construction workers and people at temporary shelters in Catholic schools in Manila. They have extended a hand to public schools for their module learning materials through their Project Pa-Print and Surprise Supplies campaigns.
May Twenty Ako has also expanded their reach, responding to calls of assistance from outside Metro Manila and Luzon. They have set up chapters in North Caloocan, Pampanga and Cavite after receiving messages from other communities interested to carry out their initiatives.
They’ve also donated to organizations with the same causes such as ATD Home Foundation, Save San Roque and Jolly Homes Foundation, as well as those severely affected by fires and recent calamities amid the pandemic.
Their latest donation drive was for victims of supertyphoons Ulysses and Rolly in Cagayan.
Meanwhile, every update regarding contributions is posted on their Facebook page for transparency.
Charisse said, “Sobrang achievement na po nun na hindi naman kami established. First time lang po namin. Estudyante lang po kami. Social media lang po ‘yung platform namin. Parang, ‘Totoo ba?’ Parang ‘Hala, ang dami na.’ So parang na-push kami na maging accountable.”
Since they didn’t want to depend on donations they had to come up with creative ways to generate funds. They now sell merchandise and care packages, and hold jersey auctions.
“Nag-message po kami ng mga professional players, UAAP, NCAA players, na kung magbibigay sila ng jersey and nagre-reply naman po sila. Binibigay po nila ‘yung jersey nila.”
This is what they hope people will learn from their story. “To encourage people into volunteerism and community work. To show them the value of giving back, as well as to inspire and motivate the youth po that they we can all do something. That all our actions, big or small, matters katulad nga po ng 20. ‘Di ba po 20 pesos, sinong mag-aakalang aabot ng ganun kalaki ang matutulungan?”
“Right now, I think, it’s important for us in our little ways, to shed a light amid the bad news and negativity that is surrounding us because we cannot let the crisis define our generation, like we always say, May Twenty Ako is a collective effort.”
Even as these students are about to begin a new chapter in their lives as college students, they intend to continue with this project. “Napag-usapan din po namin na even after the pandemic, this is not the only calamity or natural disaster that our country is going to face so we aspire po to give aid to them as well.”
If you want to support their group, check out their Facebook page here.
Watch the inspiring #BituinNgPagasa video below: