AGAPE is a five-year-old non-governmental organization that aspires to be a medium of hope for everyone. As a team, we organize charity events on birthdays for a cause, outreach, and life skills programs that involve child beneficiaries from all over the country. AGAPE is founded by Coach Ree and leads the organization with her team. Their goal is to seek out kids, mostly in marginalized areas, and bring them to different shelters in the Philippines. They want to be a beacon of hope and build a collaborative culture that would teach people to show their love most outrageously. In one of their recent webinars, Coach Ree introduces AGAPE in a deeper perspective along with Daniella Samarista and Jeanne Fernandez. Here, we get a glimpse of Coach Ree’s life, how AGAPE had started, and its operations now in the middle of the pandemic.
After exchanging friendly remarks, Coach Ree introduces herself to the audience and her involvement with AGAPE. She is a registered nurse by profession and a certified life coach. During this pandemic, she also serves a company as a health and safety officer because, according to her, it’s important for people nowadays to be health-conscious and safe. This also reflects in the organization’s videos where projects involving kid’s health, safety, education and finances are shown. Now, Coach Ree tells how AGAPE started from one birthday for a cause and her being invited to organize other events. An idea then lit up, which made the coach talk to her friends in the church community to put up a real outreach program. With the support that she had four years ago, AGAPE continuously helped, taught, and organized events for street children. Still, they are more focused on making “healthy shelters to become more sustainable for the kids to avoid them staying in the streets to be taken care of and help them in education.” Coach Ree tells that she is open to the possibilities of having educational funds in the future, but they are currently preparing modules. She also enthusiastically shares that the pandemic hasn’t stopped them from donating, especially to their partner shelters. AGAPE’s mission is to involve everyone that wants to help.
Jeanne asks Coach Ree if she has other motivations behind building AGAPE, in which she responded, “There is a different feeling when you give—soul cleansing. It is a way of recharging the soul because aside from the fulfilment that the act of giving gives, the joy you get when involved, people would say how the outreach is unforgettable and how it is something they want to do. This is probably one reason why the first statement I wrote in AGAPE’s first portfolio was, ‘Our mission is not only to give hope to the receiver but also the giver that there is a chance to give.’ This is probably what ignited my motivation continuously that when you are giving, you are not only saving one soul but also other souls that want to be a part of your journey. For our organization to run for 5 years already, we can say that people are inspired to be involved in these outreach program. This motivates me even though there are lots of things that consume our time, and sometimes this is seen as an additional activity, time, and effort, but then there’s fulfilment after it.” This leads to the next question on where this purpose in life had been realized by Coach Ree, which leaves the founder amused as she reveals that she is like other people who are born clueless. She never expected from her childhood to build a foundation because she has no background about it, so when people ask her why she built AGAPE, she would say that building something does not need to be done out of a background or emotion because she only has is the passion for helping and serving people. This is where she felt where she would grow, and that is why she pursued it.
In tune with Coach Ree’s passion for service, the interviewers then asked what helped her identify that she has one. Here, she recalls a parallel experience where she was asked the same question in one podcast. Coach Ree narrates how she used to be a people-pleaser as she wants to be unique from her three siblings. She joked how she couldn’t be the best in academics, so she wanted to be the kindest, “Kahit ako na lang yung pinakamabait”. Her desire to have a different trademark and be good started her people-pleaser attitude until she became burnt out from it. Although this can be a negative experience to many, the younger coach saw it from a different perspective and converted it on a deeper sense of service, which she brings as life lessons. She thinks that this is how she can put up AGAPE and honestly says that she is not excited to be in the organization’s pictures and videos because she is not the only reason it continued as there are many people behind-the-scenes who made her learn.
The real-time struggles of building an organization are revealed as Coach Ree states the difficulties in creating AGAPE. First, Coach Ree corrects the interviewers for calling AGAPE a foundation as there are still nitty-gritty things to be done with legal papers. From the beginning, as the coach retells, it is a “smooth process because everyone has their visions aligned because everyone is her friend, but then as time passes by, you would discover people with different perspectives than you, people who trust you, who became regular sponsors, and others who walk away because they can’t see the vision in you.” This is the hard part of the process and leadership; which she genuinely says she is still not attuned to and is still in the process of learning in handling people and how AGAPE would go. She shares, “I was listening on Enchong Dee and Bea Alonzo’s blog and how she started I Am HOPE, and she tells to the public that she never expected herself to open a foundation where I realize that it is not really an easy process because there are really people that you will suddenly not get along with.” The coach then talks about how year-end meetings go with some of the people in the committee and core group of AGAPE, “Sometimes we ask if AGAPE is still good for the next year because it’s never easy, but it’s fulfilling to look back and see how we survived it all.”
“AGAPE had really gone a long way,” One of the interviewers commented. Coach Ree has other things to do in life, so the next discussion discussed how she could balance her different careers. “Honestly, it is not balanced. This is really a good question because, in life, balance doesn’t really mean that you should control 100%, but it also means that you know what your priorities are, for example, your priority is a career, and you’re giving 70% for it and 30% for your passion. That is balance if you can handle it both and feel that things are still going your way. It doesn’t mean that both have 100%. You need to know your target, your goal, because only you know that, and even if people would throw opinions at you, you will still know if it’s balanced or not. So, balancing is hard because what I feel lately is when a new opportunity comes my way, I should let it in. And since I have a new job, I must put my focus there and be better then next is coaching. I need it too—I don’t want to let them go, so they need to be there then also AGAPE.” Coach then tells how she sets a schedule for all the things she needs to do and how it becomes a matter of balancing and weighing things, and if people really yearn for balance, then risks should be willing to take. Coach relates to this as she also needs to sacrifice to make AGAPE work and sometimes sacrifice to stay in her coaching business, so she advises that if you really want to continue, then do what you want to do in life.
Daniella curiously asks if Coach Ree is ever pressured and how she manages her schedule to avoid stress, to which she agrees and takes time to think when was the last time that her tasks overlapped. “So far, for now, my schedule is still working—workdays on weekdays and weekends for AGAPE and coaching business, however when they become simultaneous, I really have to know my sequence of prioritization.” She then discusses the arrangement of her schedule, “First, my work is 8 hours. Second, when I have a client, I take it after work because my boss permitted as they knew when they hired me. I also have my coaching business, so I need it when entering a big, big organization with a bigger opportunity, so you must open. I can be open to opportunity, but it is for the things that I do. It would be best if you also were an honest partner, that’s what I did with my boss here in my new job. It is important as you are also the one who’ll seek an applicable time, for example, you’re tired after work, so when is the best time? You need to have a goal; you need to fix it; when you’re going to do it or like that. It’s a continuous practice, and no one really gets it perfect for the first time.”
Per this topic, Jeanne asks Coach Ree if time would’ve pressured her when she was still new without coaching and AGAPE, where the coach affirms sincerely and answers Jeanne’s follow-up question how she managed to make it. Coach recalls that she was a full-time nurse assigned in the emergency room before, so there is always an adrenaline rush in her body, and the only places she goes to is work and house and sometimes a night out with friends, but she enjoyed it a lot. What opened her mind for other opportunities is when she felt that her life before isn’t the only kind of life meant for her. Faith and connection to God are also important because when you have this, you can hear Him even when you are tired. “You can hear Him everywhere when you’re quiet, tired, and He pops in your mind. Aside from this, you can also see Him in the things you do. As for me, I see Him, and I ask Him what He wants me to do, so when I entered the charismatic community and had church friends, that is where I opened up on things I want to do aside from nursing.” Coach tells how difficult different shifts are, but that is where she felt the need to discover where she’s meant to because one of her nursing career highlights is when she finished a book—waking up 1 or 2 hours before the shift to write. This was when she realized that eventually, you would find that right opportunity at proper timing. A beautiful anecdote that Jeanne had found inspiring for her as a student and realizes that there is always a time where people would know themselves.
The next question had been about the factors most helpful for Coach Ree in continuing AGAPE’s development as she prioritizes other areas in life. Coach thinks that she owes it to all the people who supported AGAPE from the very beginning. “There is no I in building a business in building an organization. It will never be possible if you’re alone, so I owe it to them on the core committee. I owe it to them as we made sure that it’ll never be a big loss of money when someone sponsors on AGAPE. We made it affordable, so even a regular employee can give, so I am really grateful for our regular sponsors from the first year until today. They are the reason why I continue because how can I end AGAPE this year, where would I bring the money they donated?” Coach Ree is also thankful for the volunteers and recalls another interview where she was asked if the volunteers helped her. She told them that the volunteers do not receive anything but fulfilment and the output, which can never be bought by money. She adds, “But I have a vision. I have a vision that I’ll be able to repay the volunteers too.” Coach Ree also recalls an interview that she watched, “I want Boy Abunda to say that it only takes one person to believe in you for you to continue and it will take so for me in AGAPE when I learned about one or two or three until the supporters grew, it encouraged me to go on. The organization continues growing, and with people that supports and believes in me, I really see no reason to doubt myself or a reason to pause or stop, especially there are visionary people in the team that sets goals for this year and coming years.” Therefore, she thinks that all people must have someone who believes in them, and she hopes that people’s support for her and AGAPE would continue until they reach the fulfilling finish line.
AGAPE is an organization looked upon by many, and they are all looking forward to what changes would it have after 4 years. The coach started reminiscing events from the past year, “On the first year we concentrated on a birthday for a cause, so we open outreach programs only on birthdays. The second-year, we also did a birthday outreach but made it a reunion of churchmates and church friends, and that’s where the outreach becomes a bridge for all of us to meet again. We started thinking on the third year what we should do aside from shelters, and we want to think of one shelter to support temporarily as we had teachers, healthcare providers, and entrepreneurs in the group. We are in the stage of maximizing our potential of sponsors, volunteers, and the core group, and we want to hone their skills and talents too. In this fourth year, we are preparing for a possibility of having a book, donating something that could help kids in one of our partnered shelters for them to have things to do for school, especially now that it’s online so we’re exploring and searching for the best possible thing to do.” She also says that not all organizations have one direction to take. Everyone is different and unique, and she is happy that some organizations that want to help are continuously growing and evolving.
Awe is left in the room’s atmosphere as wisdom is successfully imparted, and the interviewers asked the coach to share one inspirational message for everyone. “Always believe in yourself,” the coach imbues, “It is one of the most cliché but the sincerest message. You need to always believe in yourself, especially when some people doubt your skills and talents. It would help if you believed in what you think. After all, it will never be possible if you yourself wouldn’t believe it because it won’t be absorbed by your heart and mindset if it isn’t planned. Like me, it is not impossible that I thought of a foundation, then it turns out to be not destined for me, so you need to believe in your own self. After it, you need to put it and act because some would believe without taking action, so it wouldn’t be possible either because you need to prove yourself first before other people do, but how can it happen if nothing is done? That is why you need to put it into action like AGAPE, which is now existing four years. It’s a simple dream before until people believed and supported me. I built it not only because these people believed in me but also in AGAPE, the organization itself. This has made me continue, so you need someone to believe in you and believe in yourself, take action, grab the opportunity, and who knows? Even if it’s a failure, even if it’ll soar high, you still won because of the experience and knowledge that you gained.” This is a great inspirational message that leaves even the interviewers smiling and inspired by Coach Ree.
The interview ends with Coach Ree inviting everybody to support AGAPE by simply liking their page and sharing their posts which is also a good way to repay their hardworking marketing team. She also invites everyone to donate and let Jesus in our hearts stand out by helping our brothers and sisters start donating Php 300 monthly. This simple donation goes a long way and has supported them for four years now. Also, if people want to sponsor or have a birthday for a cause, AGAPE is always available on Facebook. You can see videos of her personally visiting shelters on their Facebook page, where she would also share about their new partner shelter full of great kids in the arts. Lastly, the coach reminds us of how good it feels to help, and she hopes that everyone supports to inspire others. Jeanne and Daniella share their takeaways from their interview and hope that it inspired the passion for service in our hearts to volunteer in AGAPE.
Giving is a way of receiving, as it is usually said. Let our hearts experience the fulfilling feeling from donating and supporting child beneficiaries. You can reach out to AGAPE Selfless Unconditional Love Inc. on their website: https://agapecharityevents.org/