For the second time, Melissa Grace Olit received the top prize for the individual category of the Search for Outstanding COVID-19 Volunteer (SOCV) 2021 during the Regional Recognition Ceremony on December 10  through  Zoom and Facebook live.

Meanwhile, the Palawan State University–College of Hospitality Management and Tourism wins first place in the organizational category of the regional search,  led by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Regional Office or NRO MIMAROPA, in collaboration with the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA).

In his welcome remarks, NRO  MIMAROPA Regional Director Agustin C. Mendoza emphasized the importance of volunteerism and unity in times of a pandemic.  He thanked and congratulated all the nominees for their selfless service and for being an  inspiration for the people in the region.

​​​​​​​“The award for the Outstanding COVID-19 Volunteer may have been given to only one person and one organization, but we would like to congratulate all the nominees for having a heart to care and inspire others,” said Mendoza. “The people whose lives were touched by these volunteers serve as living plaques or trophies to their good acts.”

The SOCV replaced the Search for Outstanding Volunteers (SOV), which is the centerpiece activity of the National Volunteer Month (NVM) observed every December. As the pandemic continues, the PNVSCA decided to extend the SOCV for this year. The SOCV 2021 aims to identify and recognize outstanding Filipino volunteers and their exemplary performance and achievements in empowering communities and promoting volunteerism as a way of life, contributory to nation-building as mandated by the Volunteer Act of 2007.

​​​​​​​NRO MIMAROPA, which led the SOCV Regional Search Committee, received seven nominees under individual category and four under organizational category, which came from the different provinces of the region. The search committee selected one outstanding COVID-19 volunteer from each category, two special citations from individual category, and one special citation from organizational category.

Olit, founder of Chef Aiza’s Community Kitchen, a college professor at Palawan State University, was the COVID-19 Regional and National Awardee in 2020. Her brainchild project, the Chef Aiza’s Community kitchen, has been the centrepiece of her volunteer activities. She distributed healthy drinks out of oversupplied produce from the farms in Puerto Princesa City.  For this year, she collaborated with different stakeholders such as  the Philippine Air Force, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, and JCI Puerto Princesa Oil.

In her speech, Olit said that the kitchen was able to serve 30,000 bottles of healthy drinks (and counting!) with the help of partners, individuals, and donors. The kitchen caters to medical and non-medical frontliners.

“My passion for serving others who are in need became an addiction. I believe that doing good is like a muscle that one needs to exercise. The more you do good, the better and the more naturally it will become part of your character,” she said.

​​​​​​​The PSU-CHMT, on the other hand, focused on the tourism of Puerto Princesa City. The college crafted the Tourism Reopening and Recovery Plan of Puerto Princesa City and launched several programs to aid the tourism workers through trainings and webinars.

The organization was represented by Dr. Judy Ann V. Sarail, who acknowledged all the people who worked with them. She said that the PSU-CHMT commits to continue volunteering for the betterment of the tourism of the region.

“Rest assured that we will continue our commitment to the government of the Philippines and the people we serve,” she said.

​​​​​​​Special citations were given to Ms. Kareen G. Garcia, Ms. Elizabeth M. Fury, and the Green Land Gracias Volunteer for their invaluable and selfless service in the region’s response to COVID-19 pandemic and in promoting the value of volunteerism in the community.

During the recognition program, Prof. Queenie Roxas-Ridulme of the University of the Philippines Open University–Ugnayan ng Pahinungod served as the resource speaker and shared the organization’s activities, which focus on free online learning.

​​​​​​​ “We provide online resources relevant to creating assessment materials and other supplementary teaching materials”, she said on the presentation of one of their activities.

PNVSCA staff, led by Executive Director Donald James D. Gawe, expressed their congratulations to the awardees and nominees through a video message.

​​​​​​​Present also during the online event were the nine nominees of the SOCV 2021, representatives from the regional line agencies and local government units, and private sector representatives.