It was 7 p.m. and not one in the group had had dinner yet. They had just come from work. One of them had brought snacks for everyone and that would do for now. After the usual pleasantries, they got down to business. Tonight’s topic: designing a system to coordinate the group’s growing number of volunteers in six colleges and universities, four municipalities and a dozen support units in Cebu.

Meetings like this usually have somber-looking people in business suits and with families to worry about at home. This group destroys that stereotype. Anne Lalaine Chua, Cheryl Baldicantos, Girlie April Cabije, Johanna Michelle Lim, Nelbha Iglesia, Al Graem Rocina, Andrews Maquiling and Delmar Jess Tuquib are actually young enough to be seen in bars getting wasted or wasting time at the mall like many of their peers.

But their youthful idealism coupled with a passion to be of service to others led them to each other and to eventually compose the executive committee of Tsinelas, a non-government organization that helps poor children get proper education. They assumed the posts after the previous committee members joined the organization’s board of directors.

Their job in the executive committee is no joke. They have to make sure the organization’s services reach their intended beneficiaries and its resources are managed well. Tsinelas is helping students and schools in mountain barangays in Pinamungajan, Asturias, Sibonga and a fishing village in Cordova, all towns in Cebu Province.

Working for Tsinelas is not new to them, though. They were among the pioneering student volunteers after the organization was formed in 2003 and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2004. Mostly in their early 20s, they can easily be the most energetic executive committee handling one of the youngest NGOs now operating in Cebu.

They are also among the youthful voices in their respective workplaces. Ann Lalaine works in a bank, Cheryl works in a government office, Girlie works in an accounting firm, Michelle works in an advertising agency, Nelbha and Andrews teach at the university while Delmar Jess works as youth coordinator for a cooperative. Considering their varied fields of expertise, they are a power team.

During the meeting at Tsinelas office, discussion became even livelier when the next item in the agenda was discussed. It’s the creation of a free art school for children. That’s one topic this bubbly group has no problem relating to.

By Petite H. Bautista

Weekend Magazine, Sun.Star Cebu, July 26, 2008