HLAF Volunteers: A Lesson to Learn

What is volunteerism to you and how did it affect you as a person, student, and member of a community?  

“Volunteerism is a way of giving back to the community. It helped me craft my mission and vision in life and opened my eyes to the sad reality of life given that growing up I was sheltered and provided with everything that I needed.” – Law Student Volunteer

“As I make new connections, learn skills, gain experience through HLAF volunteering, I feel happier and healthier. It is very fulfilling, it helps me improve my mental health and even my academic performance.” – Law Student Volunteer

“Volunteerism is a selfless act and through it, it makes me more humane as a person, student, and member of a community.” – Law Student Volunteer

Volunteering is a selfless act that transcends boundaries, enriches lives, and fosters a sense of community. It is a cornerstone of social progress and an embodiment of our shared humanity. Whether it involves lending a helping hand to those in need, contributing to a cause, or supporting local initiatives, volunteering holds immeasurable importance in our society. In this article, we explore the transformative power of volunteering and the numerous benefits it brings to individuals, communities, and the world at large.

Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation Inc (HLAF) volunteers are a group of dedicated individuals who are passionate about providing legal aid and empowering vulnerable communities. Through their selfless efforts, these volunteers offer valuable support to those in need, ensuring access to justice and advocating for human rights. In this article, we highlight the remarkable work carried out by HLAF volunteers, shedding light on their role in creating a more equitable society.

One quote that you lived by as a HLAF volunteer?  

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”  – Law Student Volunteer

Volunteering at HLAF empowers individuals and communities by providing them with the tools and resources they need to create a better future. Through educational programs, vocational training, and community development initiatives, HLAF strives to uplift disadvantaged individuals, equipping them with skills that enable self-sufficiency and economic stability. Volunteering at HLAF is an amazing feat. Especially if one has no experience in dealing with PDLs, or has even had the chance to talk to persons deprived of liberty. The common thought process when it comes to PDLs is that they are horrible people with no good moral standing. 

What were the common misconceptions about PDL’s that you have debunked in your journey as an HLAF member? 

“PDLs are friendly and respectful. Even though they have been inside for a period of time, they are very relatable. They enjoy simple things. They’re grateful. And they care for their family even if they’re away from home.” – Law Student Volunteer

The act of volunteering at HLAF offers immense personal growth and development opportunities. Through service, people can enhance their skills, expand their knowledge, and gain valuable experiences that can shape volunteers’ personal and professional life. Whether it’s honing leadership skills, improving problem-solving abilities, or fostering teamwork and collaboration, volunteering equips people with transferable skills that are highly sought after in various domains. Furthermore, the sense of fulfillment derived from making a positive impact on others’ lives can boost self-esteem, increase sense of purpose, and foster personal happiness.

Expectations vs. Reality. Were your expectations met? Why or Why not?  

“Yes. Before I only intended to share my legal knowledge and learnings to others, but more than that, I have learned a lot of things through my experience with HLAF Volunteering. I did not only give, but I gained.” – Law Student Volunteer

“Yes, I participated in several events that the jail decongestion program of HLAF organized and became a speaker for the recent AsiKaso event. Not only was I able to share my learnings from the study of law but I was also able to learn more from my co-speakers and from the PDLs themselves. The workshop with HLAF also helped the group come up with the event.” – Law Student Volunteer

Volunteering at HLAF encourages the cultivation of global citizenship by fostering understanding, empathy, and cross-cultural connections. As a volunteer, people have the opportunity to work alongside individuals from diverse backgrounds, gaining a deeper appreciation for different cultures and perspectives. By engaging in meaningful interactions, they can break down barriers, bridge divides, and promote harmony among people from all walks of life. This global outlook not only enriches one’s own life but also contributes to the creation of a more inclusive and compassionate world.

What were your personal experiences with PDLs that created a lasting impression?  

“I have interviewed a minor PDL who was charged with a drug-related offense. She has been regretting the time she has associated herself with (bad influence) barkada which led her to try using drugs in their past times. She was also a product of a broken family, and was neglected most of the time. She became rebellious. At the time when she was arrested, her parents did not even know. She only told them that she was in prison, at the time when her case was closed and she’s waiting for her probation to be approved. She said she never told her parents since would not even bother. She was wrong. Her parents loved her, and they have reconciled their relationship even if she was still detained. In the midst of hardship, she found peace. While in jail, She rekindled her relationship with her parents.” – Law Student Volunteer

“PDLs showed their willingness to change and learn the laws that will help them become better persons and understand their cases fully well.” – Law Student Volunteer

“That they are still people who can sing, dance, and talk just like any other people who are not deprived of liberty.” – Law Student Volunteer

The dedication and compassion demonstrated by Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation Inc volunteers are invaluable in promoting access to justice and empowering vulnerable communities. Through their selfless efforts, they make a significant difference in the lives of those who need it most. By providing legal aid, raising awareness, and advocating for human rights, HLAF volunteers exemplify the power of volunteerism in creating a more equitable and just society. Their work serves as an inspiration to others, highlighting the importance of using one’s skills and resources to uplift and empower those in need.

What are the tips/advice that you can give in order to balance life as a law student and as a volunteer/intern for HLAF?  

“Prioritize commitments; study well not study hard; and remember why you’re doing it in the first place.” – Law Student Volunteer

“Study and analyze the law not just for yourself but also for the people who needs your help such that you can give back by sharing what you learned.” – Law Student Volunteer

“Time management, know your priorities, and one task at a time but if you can multitask then it’s much better.” – Law Student Volunteer

Volunteering at HLAF is not just an act of kindness; it is a transformative experience that has the power to change lives, communities, and even the world. Through dedicated service, people become an agent of positive change, helping those in need, empowering communities, and fostering global understanding. By volunteering at HLAF, people play a vital role in building a brighter future for humanity. So, step forward, lend a helping hand, and join the HLAF community in making a difference—one act of kindness at a time.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

In Samar, the journey towards justice for children in conflict with the law (CICL) and those at risk (CAR) has taken a significant step forward through the establishment of a local justice zone. Spearheaded by the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF), this initiative has played a vital role in safeguarding the rights and well-being of vulnerable children in the region. By focusing on rehabilitation, reintegration, and preventive measures, the local justice zone has become a beacon of hope, offering support and guidance to CICL and CAR individuals.

The formation of a child’s character and behavior is shaped by a multitude of factors, and one significant aspect is their surroundings. From the family environment to the neighborhood and broader social context, the influences children encounter can have a profound impact on their development. In some unfortunate cases, certain environments can contribute to the path leading children toward criminal behavior. Recognizing the pressing needs of CICL and CAR in Samar, HLAF took the lead in creating a local justice zone, acting as a catalyst for change in the lives of these children.

One of the primary goals of the local justice zone is the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in conflict with the law. Instead of focusing solely on punitive measures, the zone adopts a restorative justice approach, prioritizing the well-being and future prospects of the child. Through counseling, educational programs, skills training, and recreational activities, CICL individuals are provided with opportunities to heal, learn, and develop positive life skills.

The local justice zone also ensures that CICL receive proper legal representation and support during their encounters with the justice system. By offering legal aid services, HLAF ensures that their rights are upheld, and they are treated fairly throughout the process. This holistic approach not only addresses the immediate needs of CICL but also aims to break the cycle of criminal behavior, enabling them to become responsible, productive members of society.

Recognizing the importance of prevention, the local justice zone implemented various programs aimed at children at risk (CAR) to intervene before they engage in illegal activities. These preventive measures focus on identifying and addressing the underlying issues that contribute to a child’s vulnerability. For instance, HLAF works closely with local communities, schools, and families to raise awareness about child rights, child protection, and the importance of education. Through counseling and mentorship programs, CAR individuals receive guidance and support to help them make positive life choices.

The success of the local justice zone for CICL and CAR in Samar is due to the collaborative efforts of various stakeholders. HLAF works closely with local government units, law enforcement agencies, social welfare offices, educational institutions, and community organizations to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach. This multi sectoral cooperation maximizes resources, expertise, and knowledge to provide a comprehensive support system for CICL and CAR individuals.

There are two juveniles who are the best examples of how the local justice zone facilitated by HLAF has been helping them, leading them toward a better life after their run in with the law. “Jasper” and Christian were teens when they committed their first criminal act. Jasper was to be sent to the (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) BJMP for 5 carnapping cases, all of which have now been terminated. The sacrifices were made by the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) and City Social Welfare and Development Officer (CSWDO) with Sir Robert, who guaranteed his presence in Jasper’s trial. He was sent to the Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY). Jasper is now a college student and has earned two NC II from TESDA for Bread and Pastry Making and Cookery.

“Ako po ay isang CICL na natulungan ng PAO, CSWD, UNICEF, HLAF, RRCY at ni Atty. Mary Ann Llanera at Atty. Cheska. Maraming salamat po sa inyong tulong at handa po akong babaguhin ang sarili sa pamamagitan ng inyong programa.” 

– Jasper “Bilanghoy”

Christian was arrested when he was only 15 years old and was charged with carnapping, robbery, and frustrated murder. Everything with the probation was well underway, but there was a minor bump, his case of frustrated murder. With HLAF encouraging Christian’s probation officer to attend the Local Justice Zone (LJZ) meeting. During the meeting, his case of frustrated murder was brought to light, where the judge, prosecutor, and PAO were present. The archived case was set and after one hearing, the judge dismissed it, keeping the best interests of Christian in mind. Now he has a job and he has a one year old child. Everyone was set on one vision, and that helped Christian. These two are the perfect examples of CICLs turning their lives around, the crime they committed was heavy in the eyes of the law. They had a huge impact, helping CICLs like them with open communication.

“May mga bata dito na nagpapasalamat sa UNICEF. Although hindi nadidiscuss yung cases nila sa LJZ meetings pero indirectly, nakakabenefit sila until now because there is constant and open communication between CSWD, RRCY, PROBATION at lahat ng government agencies concerned. So marami ang naka benefit.” 

– Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY)

A key aspect of the local justice zone is its emphasis on community engagement and empowerment. HLAF actively involves the local community, including parents, teachers, and community leaders, in the rehabilitation and reintegration process. By fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility, the community becomes invested in the success and well-being of CICL and CAR individuals, leading to greater acceptance, support, and opportunities for their reintegration into society.

“We are very glad to work hand in hand with you. with our commitment to serve and to make these unlovable children become lovable. We at RRCY, the staff and the dswd as a whole are doing our best that we can to really serve these children and to be able to achieve the mandate of the agency with this sector, the CICL.” 

  • Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY).

The local justice zone facilitated by the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF) in Samar has transformed the lives of children in conflict with the law (CICL) and those at risk (CAR). Through a restorative justice approach, the zone emphasizes rehabilitation, reintegration, and prevention, offering CICL and CAR individuals a chance to rebuild their lives, develop new skills, and become active contributors to their communities. By engaging various stakeholders and promoting community involvement, the local justice zone sets a remarkable example of how collaborative efforts can bring about positive change for vulnerable children. The impact of HLAF’s initiatives extends beyond the justice system, creating a safer and more inclusive environment for children in Samar.

By Jiro Pepito

A New Perspective: Jiro Mae Pepito

From May to June, I was an intern at the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF). Why did I decide to join HLAF? I have always been interested in criminal cases, often expressed through watching true crime documentaries, videos that tackle the psychology of a criminal, and, if lucky, the court proceedings. Furthermore, I have also been thinking about taking on law and becoming a lawyer. I saw the HLAF organization, working with PDLs, helping them in prison and reintegrating them into society. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, facing and talking to PDLs is a dream come true. 

When one thinks of working with inmates in such close contact as a scary feat that can only be achieved by those with wills of steel. Of course, that is what I was feeling when I had to do my first jail visitation. Although I was incapable of being able to contain my excitement, I was also feeling incredibly nervous. It was my first time meeting actual prisoners outside of the television. In all honesty, I am impressed with myself that I was able to go through with it, seeing as how the media did not paint a pretty picture of PDLs. 

Working with HLAF made me realize that PDLs in television could not be farther from the truth. PDLs were still people who loved to laugh, dance, and create something with their hands. Each individual has a story to tell. They did not turn to criminal activity just because they wanted to. There are many factors as to why the actions committed were done, such as families and the environment in which they lived in. Being in jail is no picnic either, the PDLs are subject to overpopulation, making them prone to depression and physical health risks.

I am eternally grateful for the experience that HLAF gave me. Through the opportunities that they have handed me, I was able to become more empathic and has made me a better person all-in-all. It made me aware of the blessings that I had and it made me more careful about how I should treat the people I meet. HLAF changed me as a person. It made me more sensitive to the needs of others and has ignited the flame of volunteerism in me. I could not ask for a better internship experience.

Bayanihan: FRED Program of Malabon City

On the 30 of May 2023, 6th floor of Session Hall at Malabon City Hall, the beginning of the program “Ugnayang Laya” took place. It is a program that aims to strengthen the second chance program implementers. The Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation Inc., in partnership with the Malabon mayor, Mrs. Jeannie Sandoval, invited LGUs, NGOs, and other facilities that help with the reintegration of detainees and enhancing the programs that are in place which help rehabilitate them after getting back into society. In the 4-day program, the participants engaged in activities that helped them reflect upon themselves and help with the betterment of the programs for PDLs. Many partook in the debates and open forums, learning about the crucial role of a multidisciplinary team and how coordination is key to aiding the people that need their help. Here are some testimonies that came from the participants of Ugnayang Laya.

“Salamat for the opportunity na pwedeng makatulong sa pdls at sa family nila during reintegration” – Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP)

“It’s a big help for us, especially to me being a worker in a barangay who has a lot of chances to talk and to listen to PDLs in our Barangay. It’s also a first step for giving PDLs a solution to the new life they want to have.” – Brgy. Hulong Duhat

“Ugnayan Laya is a good program for the ex-PDLs wherein to give them a 2nd chance to reintegrate to the community with the help of Barangays and other sectors.” – Malabon CJFD

The successful reintegration of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) into society is a crucial step in promoting rehabilitation, reducing recidivism rates, and creating safer communities. Achieving this goal requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond traditional correctional methods. By assembling a multidisciplinary team, consisting of professionals from various fields, we can harness the collective expertise and resources necessary to fasten the process of reintegrating PDLs. In this article, we explore the importance of a multidisciplinary team and how their collaborative efforts contribute to successful reintegration.

To begin, a multidisciplinary team brings together professionals from diverse backgrounds, such as psychologists, social workers, vocational trainers, healthcare providers, and legal experts. This diverse skill set enables a holistic assessment of PDLs’ needs, strengths, and challenges. Each team member contributes their unique perspective, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the individual’s circumstances. This holistic assessment helps in developing personalized reintegration plans that address specific needs, such as mental health support, vocational training, addiction treatment, and legal assistance.

Second, by combining the expertise of different professionals, a multidisciplinary team can offer a wide range of services within a single framework. This approach eliminates the need for PDLs to navigate multiple systems independently, reducing bureaucratic hurdles and saving valuable time. Services may include educational programs, vocational training, substance abuse counseling, mental health support, legal aid, and employment assistance. The collaborative efforts of the team ensure a seamless delivery of these services, promoting continuity and minimizing gaps in care.

Furthermore, the multidisciplinary team fosters collaboration and knowledge sharing among professionals. Regular meetings, case conferences, and shared documentation allow for a comprehensive understanding of each PDL’s progress and challenges. Through these interactions, professionals gain insights from different perspectives, expanding their own expertise and refining their approaches to reintegration. This collaborative environment ensures that PDLs receive the best possible support, as professionals learn from each other’s experiences and adapt their strategies accordingly.

Reintegrating PDLs into society involves managing potential risks and addressing underlying factors that contribute to criminal behavior. In addition to what was stated above, a multidisciplinary team excels in developing targeted intervention strategies based on the individual’s risk factors, needs, and strengths. By collaborating on risk assessments, professionals can identify potential triggers and tailor interventions accordingly. This proactive approach aims to mitigate risks, enhance protective factors, and promote positive behavioral change, reducing the likelihood of reoffending.

And last but not least, a multidisciplinary team engages with the broader community to facilitate the successful reintegration of PDLs. By collaborating with community organizations, employers, educational institutions, and housing providers, the team helps create a supportive environment for PDLs’ transition back into society. Community involvement reduces stigma, fosters empathy, and creates opportunities for PDLs to access resources and build social connections. This community engagement is vital for creating a sense of belonging, reducing isolation, and increasing the chances of successful reintegration.

The reintegration of persons deprived of liberty requires a multifaceted approach that acknowledges their diverse needs and challenges. A multidisciplinary team brings together professionals from various fields to provide holistic support, targeted interventions, and comprehensive services. By collaborating, sharing knowledge, and engaging with the community, this team creates an environment that accelerates the reintegration process, reduces recidivism rates, and ultimately leads to safer and more inclusive societies. The power of collaboration cannot be understated, as the collective efforts of a multidisciplinary team provide the foundation for successful reintegration and the opportunity for PDLs to rebuild their lives.

By Jiro Pepito


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