For long-time volunteer (now Board Trustee!) Iona Mapa, there is nothing more powerful than seeing volunteer opportunities impact wish kids, their families, co-volunteers, donors, and more.
Since 2013, Iona has played numerous roles in Make-A-Wish Philippines: leading wish teams, designing event decorations, and preparing fun and creative activities for the wish kids. “I first got into Make-A-Wish because of a school project, and I had so much fun! Now when we partner with different people and sponsors for a wish grant, I can see the power of a wish reflected in them. They all contribute and can’t believe their actions could be so impactful to a wish kid,” says Iona.
Sharing hope as a community
In her years of volunteering, Iona finds inspiration not only in the wish kids involved, but also in their families and fellow volunteers.
“It’s unexpected but incredibly powerful to see the families enjoying when they see their child’s wish come true. The parents also feel that their son or daughter’s childhood is taken away due to an illness. But during the wish grant, their faces light up with so much joy!”, she describes.
When asked how volunteering has evolved since joining 8 years ago, Iona says that the excitement to grant wishes has never changed. She affirms, “we want to always keep it as special as possible! Thanks to the new wish journey process, [we can do this] even if it requires more resources. My fellow volunteers can imagine lots of ways to grant wishes. I love the creative brainstorming process that comes with it.”
Baking has been one of Iona’s favorite hobbies, and she wanted to utilize this in her volunteer work. Together with other volunteers, Iona spearheaded the Bake-A-Wish project that was able to raise around P110,000 through a big community bake sale.
The Bake-A-Wish proceeds helped the foundation create a Wish Journey for Lara in 2020. In this wish grant, Iona played a big role in creating the cookie recipes and baking lessons. It was one of her most memorable wish-granting experiences. “In each child’s wish grant, I feel lucky to be a part of their story and their life. There’s really a shared sense of hope,” she says. Iona also says that she was able to hone her project management and leadership skills through volunteer opportunities.
Iona describes the Make-A-Wish volunteer experience as a partnership. She has worked with local businesses, event or restaurant venues, and even celebrities’ handlers on creating unique and life-change wish experiences. But, the wish kids are considered as partners too! Iona sees it as, “they come to the event, invest in us emotionally and that joy spreads. I still feel it impacting even other parts of my life and fellow volunteers too.”
Continuing wish-granting mission
One of Iona’s big milestones in her own volunteering journey was having the opportunity to volunteer at Make-A-Wish Australia for two years, during her postgraduate studies in Melbourne. She recalls, “while preparing for my Masters’, I saw that MAW Australia was just a 1-hour commute from my place. Even if I was in another country, being in their MAW office felt like a familiar community. I was connected to 1 global movement with a shared mission to spread joy.”
Now, Iona is back in Manila as one of the foundation’s Board of Trustees and also as Head of Volunteer Care Ministry. When asked about her vision for the community, the Board Trustee shares: “We want everyone to have an opportunity to volunteer, as long as you have the heart for it. Whether you can give a day, a week or even a month – we want more people to be able to experience it. And, let’s expand to different parts of the Philippines so that more families can feel the power of a wish!”
“I want to tell our current volunteers to look back on your experiences, on what you’ve created, and realize how much joy you have spread. Be proud of the change you are making for wish kids and their families. We have so much to be proud of. As for the new volunteers, ask yourselves – what role do you want to play in Make-A-Wish and what role can the foundation play in your life? We’re here to help you. Let’s achieve it together.”
Volunteers are critical to the success of our wish-granting efforts. Through volunteers, donors, and partners, Make-A-Wish Philippines can create life-changing wish experiences for children with critical illnesses.