Australia Global Alumni share stories of kindness, bayanihan, and hope in time of Corona

Members of the Australia Global Alumni community have been rising above the crisis by making a difference in their fields in their own little ways.  If you need an inspiring story to lift you up or looking for an opportunity to do your share, read how the COVID-19 crisis affected our alumni’s life and work, and how they have been moved to make a change.

Australia Global Alumni share stories of kindness, bayanihan, and hope in time of Corona

Spreading hope through art

Joaquin Lerma, Darlinghurst Public School

Choosing People over Profit

Anya Lim, Co- Founder/ Managing and Creative Director, Anthill Fabric Gallery Inc.

Anya Lim, Co- Founder/ Managing and Creative Director, Anthill Fabric Gallery Inc.

Supporting Filipinos living with HIV during COVID-19

Benedict Bernabe, The Red Whistle Foundation | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

Benedict Bernabe, The Red Whistle Foundation | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

Providing meals for frontliners and homeless

Lawrence Belo, De La Salle University

Lawrence Belo, De La Salle University

Using Data Science to combat COVID-19

Jason Alacapa, Innovations for Community Health Inc | Australia Awards Scholarships

Jason Alacapa, Innovations for Community Health Inc | Australia Awards Scholarships

Managing human resource during crisis

Aida Loveres, Human Resource Management Office, Provincial Government of Bukidnon | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

Aida Loveres, Human Resource Management Office, Provincial Government of Bukidnon | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

Redefining "education” in time of COVID-19

Carlo Fernando, Australia Awards Scholarships 2018

Carlo Fernando, Australia Awards Scholarships 2018

Supporting the Philippine learning community with free webinars

John Baluyot, President, Philippine Society for Talent Development (PSTD) | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

John Baluyot, President, Philippine Society for Talent Development (PSTD) | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

Educating children about COVID-19

Boom Enriquez, Development Communications Consultant | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

Boom Enriquez, Development Communications Consultant | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

Responding to the mental wellbeing of Filipinos

Dr. Nicamil Sanchez, CEO, Philippine Consortium Inc. | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

Dr. Nicamil Sanchez, CEO, Philippine Consortium Inc. | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

Reaching those who need it most

Kritzia Santos, 2KK Tulong sa Kapwa Kapatid Foundation | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

Kritzia Santos, 2KK Tulong sa Kapwa Kapatid Foundation | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

My Bayanihan Story

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Safeguarding mental health during crisis

By Gabriel Lizada

My experience studying in Australia has significantly helped me understand how important mental health is in our everyday life. Whether an individual is “mentally healthy”, suffering in silence, or acting normal, everybody needs to take care of their own mental health. The openness of mental health programs such as the “R U Okay Day” served as my motivation in advocating for mental health in the Philippines.

As we all know, by experience and through stories, this COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we think, feel, and act in our daily lives. This pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of safeguarding one’s own mental health and the well-being of others. With this insight, I have decided to put my education and training into good use. I believe that if I can help, even just one person, during this COVID pandemic, then I would say that my initiatives were a success. So, I decided to embark on a journey on helping others with their mental health starting with Mindfulness Mondays.

Mindfulness Mondays was a 4-week program I launched during the month of April where I gave free online 30-minute mindfulness sessions. Each session targeted different emotions and cognitions that an individual might be feeling during this pandemic. I was confident to give these sessions because I was able to attend sessions on mindfulness to improve my current knowledge while I was still studying in Melbourne.

A few months after, I was asked to give a webinar on Happiness and Positive Psychology sponsored by the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP). In this webinar, I focused on how Positivity is not the only option during crisis. Instead of seeking happiness, individuals should different ways to flourish to help cope one’s own well-being. The live session was attended by about 700 individuals and currently has 20,000 views in Faeebook.

On the side, I have done mental health and well-being talks to institutions and schools to help them cope with this pandemic. Overall, I am content with what I have done to help fellow Filipinos during this crisis. However, I know that there are more lives to help and this is what motivates me to continue helping as much as I can.

When this pandemic is over, I hope that we, as a country, will begin to prioritize mental health in the same way we put premium on physical health. I hope that we understand that both mental health and physical health are not two separate entities, but rather, two facets of well-being that should be prioritized simultaneously.

This is my bayanihan story.

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Doing the Right Thing

Dr. Jose Rafael Marfori, Australia Awards Scholarship 2015, Master of Public Health, University of Melbourne


Australia Awards alumnus Dr Jose Rafael "Raffy" Marfori's role radically changed with the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Philippines. As Special Assistant to the Director for Flagship Projects of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Raffy's role went from handling priority non-routine initiatives to handling multiple priority work to respond to the COVID-19 crisis while PGH transformed into a war zone as the country's COVID-19 referral centre.

Since March 2020, Raffy has been working behind the scenes in and outside the walls of the hospital. Taking inspiration from exemplary programs in Melbourne, he led the PGH Bike Program, which assigns bicycles to PGH health workers who need an alternative mode of transportation during the community quarantine. He also organised shuttle services for them and provided strategic recommendations to the Department of Health (DOH) in producing much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners. Raffy also worked on two important frameworks, which are now being used as key tools in the Philippines’ fight against COVID-19: a blueprint for mass testing of COVID-19 in the Philippines, which became the overall framework of the Department of Health (DOH); and a framework for an innovative modular type of benefit package to accommodate the nuances of COVID-19 care, in collaboration with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). As the Philippines welcomes a new normal, Raffy works with the PGH, University of the Philippines, PhilHealth and WHO on a proposal for PGH to serve as demonstrator and innovator of what health care could look like when the country transitions from a COVID-19 crisis to a COVID-19-aware society.

Like a modern-day warrior, Raffy has been tackling each job with all that he has, taking inspiration from his passion to help address the huge gaps in the Philippine health systems. But perhaps his most significant contribution to the COVID-19 war yet, was providing the much-needed inspiration for his leader, PGH Director Dr Gerardo "Gap" Legaspi, during a crucial time of decision-making: "He asked what I thought about the call of the Department of Health (DOH) and of private hospitals to turn our hospital into a COVID-19 Referral Center. Knowing he would make the right decision regardless, and aware that he was facing near-unanimous opposition for it, I merely boiled it down for him to a question of, 'Is it the right thing to do?' His conviction must be absolute, I replied, to outlast the prevailing sentiments of fear, which were to be expected. The next day his letter to the PGH community made the news, proclaiming in its last line, 'Let us do this because deep in our hearts - devoid of fear and anger - it is the right thing to do.'" Since then the PGH has been at the forefront of the Philippines' war against COVID-19.

Read his story here



Your story matters. We'd love to hear from you.

Australia Awards and Alumni Engagement Program in the Philippines strongly believes in the power of storytelling. By sharing your stories and experiences, we can empower the voice of those who need to be heard. In this time of difficulty, we can step forward by stepping up together. What bayanihan stories have you experienced, seen, or heard during this challenging time that moved and inspired you? Share your story with us. We'd love to hear from you.