MANILA -- The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ravaged the country at an alarming speed, and as the number of cases in the country continues to grow by the second, so does the socioeconomic damage.
Although the pandemic has plunged more Filipinos into hardship, the necessary measures imposed by the authorities to curtail the spread of the virus brought the nation’s social activities crucial to charities such as marathons, concerts, galas, and auctions to a near-standstill.
This, however, hasn’t stopped some modern-day heroes from raising funds without skirting the self-isolation rules. In fact, in the new normal, helping out can be a piece of cake -- literally.
Jaime David and Kia Alampay, both 21 years old, founded Bake Sale for Better PH (BSFB), an initiative that not only pledges all their proceeds to advocacies dedicated to the pressing issues the country faces today, but promotes activism as well.
“We are an online community fundraiser and virtual bake sale that aims to create tangible, continuous impact, and raise awareness for various causes,” the pair said.
They continued: “Online posts for awareness on social issues definitely go a long way, but we wanted to take the extra step to create a measurable impact on the Filipino community. Funding alone may not be enough for many NGOs and charities in the Philippines, but we hope to help in any way we can.”
The charity organization was patterned after the movement of the same name David’s sister started in Toronto, Canada in June.
“She took inspiration from similar Instagram fundraisers, and has focused on raising funds for BLM (Black Lives Matter). I thought it was a great idea and highly transferable to the Philippines, with so many people on social media sharing stories of their home-baked goods, and opening home bake shops,” he said.
“I then asked Kia Alampay to come on board with me to work as partners, and the two of us developed the concept into what it is right now,” he added.
David, a Management Engineering graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, functions as director of operations and brand development, while Alampay, who is currently studying Environmental Science in Ateneo, is the director of marketing and social media for BSFB.
HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT
In the group’s upcoming bake sale on August 19-25, BSFB’s Instagram account will function as a catalog where shoppers can browse through the available products. Akin to any bake sale, the tweaked online version flaunts a wide selection of sweet and savory treats such as cinnamon rolls, cakes, cookies, flavored pan de sal, cheese rolls, sourdough, etc.
Some beverages that go well with the pastries like cold brew, mocha, latte, and other types of coffee are also available.
Purchasing an item is similar to most business transactions made on the social media platform.
For goods to be released, proof of payment must be sent to the seller. However, instead of paying the vendor, the customer must “make a donation matching or exceeding the asking price of the item” to one of their listed beneficiaries.
"Buyers will use the donation receipt they received as a voucher they can send to our baking volunteers. Once this is done, the volunteers and donors can coordinate delivery or pick-up,” David explained.
“Online fundraisers can be challenging, because with no cash or face-to-face interaction, there can be some issues with transparency. To address this, we try to emphasize how donations go 100 percent of the revenue will go directly from buyers to the selected institution and no money passes through BSFB or the volunteers,” he clarified.
BANG FOR YOUR BAKE
Bake sales have long been one of the most popular and reliable ways of earning cash since zero to little capital is needed as most of the goods are handed out by volunteers.
Similarly, in the virtual charity sale, all the delectable treats up for grabs are contributed by BSFB’s partner merchants consisting of both professional and amateur bakers.
“Anyone can join Bake Sale for Better,” David enthused. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a casual home baker, or you run a bake shop, everyone is welcome to help out.”
While the buyers are the ones who will shell out money during the bake sale period, BSFB founders stressed their partner bakers and customers are equal participants to the cause. Since shoppers will deposit directly to the accredited advocacy of their choice, the merchants are responsible for shouldering the ingredients, production cost, and packaging of their products.
“With that in mind, we don’t impose any minimum for the number of orders bakers must make. If bakers can help out by selling two batches of cookies, that’s as great as selling 10,” David remarked.
He continued, “Moving forward, we hope to find a way to help our volunteers with the cost of ingredients, as we understand they can really pile up.”
For the time being, Alampay said BSFB can assist their partner bakers by providing a platform where the volunteers with small businesses can “promote their products, expand their network and connect with others.”
BAKING FOR A CAUSE
In BSFB’s inaugural round last July, 30 volunteer merchants raised a total of P131,848, which benefited the National Union of Journalists (NUJP), Project Kaagapay, the Golden Gays, Loyola Pansol TODA, and Sucat-Baclaran Jeepney drivers.
“After our first bake sale, we were overwhelmed by the response and with the amount of donations we received,” Alampay said.
BSFB said they select the beneficiaries depending on the relevance and urgency of the cause the organization represents.
“We try to stay relevant with the beneficiaries. We included several funds for our transport workers who haven’t been able to operate to anywhere near their usual level of activity, and we wanted to include the NUJP because of the controversial events regarding press freedom at present. Also, we selected Project Kaagapay, a PDRF project for COVID-19 relief, and the Golden Gays to (belatedly) celebrate pride month,” David expounded.
He emphasized that the “timing of raising funds” for a certain cause is vital “to maximize the support” they will receive.
For the second round of their bake sale on August 19-25, for example, BSFB partnered with institutions geared towards providing educational support.
Since the government announced students will remain barred from their classrooms until a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed, making the proposed distance learning models accessible to around 27 million children — where the majority grapples with poverty — is one of the nation's biggest problems.
“There are a lot of kids out there who don’t have access to the internet, learning equipment, and yet will be forced to learn online. We hope to help them out,” Alampay said.
Among the partner organizations are JCI-Manila’s Tab’Learn, a group that aims to provide a method for continued education for underprivileged students who do not have access to the latest e-learning devices and solutions; Para! Sa Edukasyon, an advocacy that addresses the various educational needs of Katipunan Jeepney Drivers’ families, including tuition fee assistance, and learning materials for online learning, which includes laptops and phones for the students; UN SDSN Youth’s youth-oriented online COVID dashboard project which serves as a capacity-building program for the Sangguniang Kabataan to learn about sustainable development; and Lingap Estudyante: Negros ar Batangas, an initiative that hopes to provide desktops and gadgets to students in rural areas.
Apart from the student-directed advocacies, participants also have the option to donate to Pawssion Project, an organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and gives street animals new homes.
“The two of us love dogs, and believe in the joy they can give anyone. So we included them as a beneficiary as a little thank you to our furry friends that have kept us company during lockdown,” Alampay said.
BAKING NEW GROUND
On top of providing the much-needed monetary aid, the partners pointed out their other motive for building BSFB was to spur activism and create a community “committed to taking action.”
“We hope to show people there is so much you can do, even just with your phone and your love for baking (or eating) to become a person for others,” Alampay shared.
She continued: “I got to network with many new people and realized that there are so many others that really want to make a difference as well.”
According to David, more than being a fundraiser, BSFB is a community where “Filipinos from all walks of life can connect.”
The project also doubles as a platform where participants can learn more about the advocacies their partner NGOs and charities are devoted to.
“Raising funds is surely a big help to those who need it, but I think what people need more is a listening ear. We can never fully put ourselves in the shoes of those who are going through difficult times, because everyone’s experiences are different. But we can do our best to try to listen and participate in discourse with one another,” David said.
He continued: “Improving everyone’s living situation will be a team effort, and it won’t be done unless we go past just fundraising and communicate with one another.”
Alampay and David encouraged the public to educate themselves before making a donation to one of their partner institutions.
“We create and share content informing our network about our partner institutions. We want to make sure donors are well-informed and invest in their chosen funds responsibly,” David said.
“Our vision is to continue growing this community to help out beneficiaries and to keep events relevant,” Alampay chimed in. “The best way to keep discussions alive is by making sure you are first knowledgeable about these issues. Read, read, read.”
She revealed she cultivated the content of their Instagram account to be “light, fun, and relatable to different generations” because she wants to evoke a “hopeful outlook” in the online community.
“With everything that has been happening in our country, we hope we are able to encourage people to read about current events, so they are well informed. We need to be aware of the realities of the bad news but we shouldn’t forget to celebrate the good news,” Alampay said.
Even though BSFB is a non-profit organization, Alampay acknowledged the project compensated them in ways they “never expected.”
Alampay confessed that receiving messages of appreciation from their beneficiaries is “a different kind of fulfillment.”
Some of the letters that moved the pair the most was from Sucat-Baclaran Jeepney Drivers representative Julius Napari and TODA representative Eric Velasco.
“'Di man kami makapagpasalamat ng personal, pero batid namin sa bawat pagkain na maiabot ko ay may ngiting namutawi sa kanilang mga labi na ‘di mapapantayan ng ano mang galak sa puso namin nag-hari,” Napari wrote.
“Ito po ay malaking tulong sa amin sa gitna ng pandemya na ito. Nandiyan po kayo para makaintindi sa aming sitwasyon, naway po si God na po ang magbalik ng magandang loob para sa inyo,” Velasco penned in appreciation.
“When we first started monitoring payments and donations, for me it was just a number to tally. But then the messages of thanks from the jeepney and tricycle drivers followed and that’s when it hit me that the original idea behind this was really about helping people,” she recalled.
“Even though we planned it this way, you get lost in the work and the details -- until a simple thank you message from a driver or a photo they send in of their family smiling with food on the table, reminds you of your own original desire to help.”
David remarked that the most rewarding part of the movement is “understanding that what we are doing could really make a difference in some people’s lives.”
“The constant challenge we encounter is asking ourselves: Can we do more? There’s always much more to do, but I just try to remember how the project makes even the slightest difference in someone’s life,” he mused.
“It really is an empowering experience to give your time and focus to something greater than yourself, and it makes you want to infect others with that same energy.”
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