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A Story of Partnership Between the Philippine Centre Canada (PCC) and the Ottawa Valley Filipino-Canadian Senior Citizens Association (OVFCSCA) by Maureen Lozano

In the heart of Ottawa, Canada, the Philippine Centre Canada (PCC) and the Ottawa Valley Filipino-Canadian Senior Citizens Association (OVFCSCA), two community organizations, came together in a partnership that has undoubtedly made a significant difference in the lives of the senior members of the Filipino-Canadian community. Among the PCC’s main priorities is to address the needs of key segments of the Filipino-Canadian community in the National Capital Region, including the seniors. Through collaboration with OVFCSCA, PCC has fulfilled this objective and provided much-needed support to seniors. 

As I sat down to chat with some of the officers and members of PCC and OVFCSCA, I immediately sensed the strong bond between the two organizations. The collaboration between PCC and OVFCSCA has brought about positive changes in the Fil-Can community. It was my pleasure to learn more about their inspiring story.

The collaboration began during the pandemic when PCC realizing the difficulties our community was having during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, offered masks to seniors. Knowing that OVFCSCA was the association representing Filipino-Canadian seniors, they were an obvious group that would reach many seniors in the community. Moreover, the realization of the increasing number of Filipino seniors gave PCC a sense of urgency to help address their growing needs. This support sparked a spirit of bayanihan (to unite in cooperation, helping our “neighbours” to achieve a common purpose) and mutual aid that has been instrumental in helping OVFCSCA members navigate the journey and challenges of aging and migration to Canada. Some have experienced language barriers, financial difficulties, isolation and disconnection with their Filipino culture, and limited access to social or health care services. This was especially exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. But these challenges could become more manageable with a community helping each other. This recognition has led to a strong partnership between the two organizations, and PCC has continued to support OVFCSCA beyond the pandemic.

Digital literacy was a project theme that PCC and OVFCSCA implemented together. The project aimed to teach seniors how to use digital technologies, such as tablets, smartphones, the internet, as well as email. The objective was to ensure that seniors could stay connected with their loved ones, access information, and participate in online activities. Another project funded by the provincial government through the Older Adults Centres Associations of Ontario trained seniors to use a telephone-based platform to participate in activities that contribute to mental stimulation and social interaction. One OVFCSCA member said, “It changed my life. We talked, listened to music, and reminisced about the old days. They also taught me how to use technology.” These projects were a lifeline for OVFCSCA members during the extended period of limited movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Both organizations faced hindrances to achieving their goals. OVFCSCA could not easily access government funding because only registered non-profit organizations were eligible. Through their partnership with PCC, they accessed new resources for their membership. As the OVFCSCA chairperson, Sally Cionelo, put it, “Of course, the funds from PCC and Social Planning Council of Ottawa are a big factor in making the organization active, and we are grateful for that.” This statement highlights PCC’s significant role in enabling OVFCSCA to access government funds for their projects. On the other hand, the partnership helped PCC fulfill its objective of addressing the needs of seniors in the Fil-Can community. Recognizing that OVFCSCA was the best way to reach the seniors in the community, PCC approached them with the idea of a collaboration – that PCC and OVSFSCA could jointly design a project and access government funds to support the activities. 

The partnership between the two organizations is rooted in the Filipino value of “kapwa,” which means recognizing the importance of each other, togetherness and the interconnectedness of people. This shared value brought the two organizations together, and their partnership serves as an example for other groups. They understood the value of uniting forces to achieve a common objective. PCC embraces the diversity of perspectives and experiences that the members of each organization bring to the table, allowing a collaborative and inclusive environment for working together and producing results that have a greater impact on the community they serve. 

For seniors in Ottawa, OVFCSCA has had an overall profound impact. Through their regular get-togethers and activities, seniors have developed strong relationships with other members and staff volunteers, positively impacting their mental and emotional well-being. It is heartwarming to see seniors come together and enjoy their golden years with family and peers. OVFCSCA’s cultural events, activities and programs are a great way to keep the Filipino culture alive and a sense of togetherness among seniors. OVFCSCA has touched their lives in many ways, and the members shared some meaningful insights. One member said, “masarap sa puso (good for the heart).” Another member added, “We developed love and friendship with members, having each other’s back during hard times when dealing with an illness and receiving treatment; members of OVFCSCA gave each other courage – ‘lakas ng loob’ and all-out support, sharing the moment.” This struck me the most, and at that moment I realized “wow, I am so proud to be Pinoy.” 

OVFCSCA vice chairperson Mary Formoso commented, “I found a sense of belonging and purpose.” She has made new friends who have become like family to her, especially as she is getting older. As she formed new connections, she felt a sense of warmth, change, and familiarity that reminded her of her love of family. With time, these bonds grew stronger, and she realized that age was just a number – it did not have to limit her potential. Even though she had reached a certain point in life, she knew she could still achieve much more. This realization filled her with renewed purpose and passion for life. She was excited to see where this newfound motivation would take her.

As the interview ended, I felt a sense of warmth and inspiration emanating from the words of the PCC officers and members of OVFCSCA. Both organizations shared a story of community collaboration demonstrating the strength and power of the kabayan (fellow countryman/woman) spirit. It is a beautiful reminder that as Filipinos, regardless of where we may be in the world, we are all part of one community, one family, and we can accomplish amazing things together. Looking ahead, there are opportunities for future collaboration between the organizations that arise from the needs of our aging community members. It will be exciting to see how this partnership evolves over time. As OVFCSCA assistant secretary Chit Villanueva said, “We are our brothers’/sisters’ keepers.” This sentiment captures the heart of their partnership and the value of “kapwa,” important to both organizations. In a world that can often feel divided and disconnected, especially in times of adversity, this partnership exemplifies what is possible when we come together with a shared purpose, vision and collaborative approach. By working together, PCC and OVFCSCA have reached a wider scope of need and created a more impactful presence in our community. 

The seniors had more advice on navigating their lived Filipino-Canadian experience that was both practical and profound. They emphasized the importance of avoiding procrastination, always treating others with kindness, looking out for one another, and learning more about Filipino history, culture, and current events. 

With that in mind, there is much potential for growth and collaboration within the Filipino community. The principle of mutual respect and valuing each individual’s diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise cannot be overstated. As Marion Villanueva, a PCC Board member pointed out, “No one person has all the answers, and we need to be open to new ideas and different ways of doing things. We can achieve a shared vision only by working together, trusting, and respecting each other.” 

I look forward to more initiatives that benefit seniors, youths, students, recent graduates, and new immigrants. PCC and OVFCSCA working with other groups are key in promoting equity, inclusion, and diversity within the Fil-Can community and together can contribute to a stronger, more united community. Let’s continue to work together, support each other, get involved, and make a difference we can be proud of.

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