The Logo of SLPs in Action and GW Food Drive
The COVID-19 pandemic has put everything to a halt: face-to-face classes, office work, in-person speech therapy sessions, and even programs that were aimed at helping families in need. Despite the physical limitations brought about by the pandemic and the measures to contain it, seven bold Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) saw this as an inspiration to move past the barriers and help those who are heavily affected or mostly in need. With this, the initiative called “SLPs in Action '' was born. The writers were able to have an interview with one of the founders of SLPs in Action, Ms. Wingmay Yves Alegado, CSP-PASP.
SLPs in Action is an online initiative that aims to provide online consultation, evaluation, screening, assessments, speech teletherapy sessions and home programs for people with speech, language, and swallowing difficulties across the lifespan. This project is led by Filipino SLPs composed of the University of Santo Tomas alumni Ms. Wingmay, Ms. Anna Patricia Talavera, CSP-PASP, Mr. Emanuele Virgil Fernando, CSP-PASP, Ms. Darla Zhana Manalo, CSP-PASP, Ms. Nathalie Andre Galang, CSP-PASP and Ms. Samantha Foja, CSP-PASP, and a University of the Philippines alumna, Ms. Katrina Claire Marcaida, CSP-PASP. Apart from providing therapy services online, they were also able to collaborate with GW Food Drive which aimed to provide meals, grocery packs, and hygiene kits, to those affected by calamities as well as the less fortunate.
A Zoom Meet-Up
From left to right: Mr. Emanuele Fernando, Ms. Wingmay Alegado, Ms. Anna Talavera, Ms. Samantha Foja, Ms. Darla Manalo, and Nathalie Galang during the zoom meeting where SLPs in Action was conceptualized.
It all started with a casual Zoom meet up. Seeing the news about the pandemic and how it affected disadvantaged people, the group decided that they wanted to help. Initially, the team asked “paano tayo tutulong” (how can we help [others]?) and “ano ang pwede nating gawin” (What can we do [about the situation?])as they were faced with logistical concerns.Recognizing that providing in-person services is not a viable option, the group then realized that they can extend help to people who are in need through virtual means.
From this idea, they decided to create SLPs in Action, which formally launched its services on September 7, 2020. The group of SLPs started social media pages on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to serve as an avenue for individuals, groups or families who might be interested in availing their services.
Idea Into Action
In order for the organization to run smoothly, the founders delegated tasks among themselves. For social media management and handling of inquiries, the people assigned are Sam Foja, Lian Galang, and Darla Manalo. On the other hand, Eman Fernando is the one responsible for the publication materials. Anna Talavera and Katrina Marcaida are the heads in service provision, while Ms. Wingmay is the one in-charge of the fund management.
A therapy session in SLPs in Action
The SLPs have one-on-one discussions with inquiring parents to know more about the complaint, and answer questions they have regarding their child’s skills and diagnosis. Clients who inquire in SLPs in Action and avail free consultations include those families who live in provinces, and those who have children with ages 2 to 6 years old. Some families who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic also express interest in SLPs in Action as they cannot afford paid consultations with a specialist.
All interested clients reach out to the SLPs via Facebook Messenger where they are asked to fill out a confidential patient form with their concerns and availability for consultation. After checking when the client and speech therapist are both available, the schedule is reserved for them on their corresponding appointment date.
Another key aspect of SLPs in Action is on building awareness of the profession. From the second day that the pages of SLPs in Action were made public, inquiries from potential clients already came in. Until now, inquiries regarding speech delays of children, milestones of what to expect in speech and language development, and recommendations for home activities that will provide speech and language stimulation are being raised. With this, the founders of SLPs in Action realized that there are still a high number of people who are not aware of the profession as well as the services SLPs offer that could help people with communication and swallowing problems. They saw the importance of promoting awareness, educating people, and sharing reliable information about speech and language concepts, which is evident in their current social media platforms.
The team continually advocates for the profession by posting and sharing relevant and reliable information regarding different SLP concepts such as teaching prelinguistic communication skills at home, tips for good vocal hygiene, techniques in communicating with a person with aphasia, and OWLing (Observe, Wait, and Listen). Moreover, they try to provide facts against the misconceptions that lay people have with regards to speech, language, and swallowing conditions. The UP-UST initiative even considers their free consultations as advocacy activities because they can better explain the conditions to concerned parents and/or caregivers. They aim for “individualized” recommendations to the different difficulties that the clients present so that they could best address his/her needs.
The team behind SLPs in Action began with the next phases of their initiative, which is to provide food and grocery packs to indigent Filipinos. Since they will be giving financial support consistently, they wanted to know that their donations will really reach their target audience; the group suggested choosing a group or organization that is associated with an SLP that is within their circle of friends. They asked around their group of friends and decided based on their choices. Given that Ms. Wingmay is the head of a non-profit initiative called the “GW Food Drive'', they decided to collaborate with this organization.
Ms Wingmay collects the funds on a bi-monthly (twice a month) basis and donate a percentage of the services’ rates to GW Food Drive. They usually give donations in-cash and ask GW Food Drive to inform them on where the given resources will be used; specifically, the SLPs ask for updates, information about the current project, beneficiaries, date, breakdown, etc.
GW Food Drive projects and their beneficiaries
GW Food Drive
“God’s Work,” or simply GW, is composed of compassionate and dedicated volunteers all over the Philippines who are dedicated to “help less fortunate Filipinos during the COVID-19 pandemic through meal distribution & community engagement.” GW was decided by the team due to the drive's pioneers and founders, Jan Gabriel Bulaong and Ms. Wingmay. The drive provides meals, grocery packs and clothes to different charities, orphanages, homes for the aged and areas affected by calamities. Those who are in need of help, regardless of their location in the Philippines, message GW Food Drive for support, and are immediately assisted by the drive’s volunteers. A portion of the funds collected in SLPs in action are donated to GW Food Drive.
Since the drive’s conception, they have helped different organizations such as Bahay Aruga, a place that houses children with cancer who are waiting for treatment, Little Sister’s Home for the Aged, Home for the Angels, an orphanage home for abandoned babies, and many more. It is the heart of the founders of SLPs in Action to provide a part of their income to the GW Food Drive. Because of this, the SLP initiative is a consistent collaborator with the said drive, along with different businesses who also aim to help those in need. Some notable collaborations include: Skin potions, San Beda, and Mr. and Ms. Chinatown. These team ups have helped different groups of people from Jeepney Drivers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic restrictions, children from Tacloban, to typhoon victims from Cagayan and Isabela. To ensure transparency to the said companies and groups who donated, Ms. Wingmay and her GW Team send the breakdown of the expenses to show that they are using the money for its intended purpose.
Trials and Triumphs
“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” This was true for Ms. Wingmay and her group of SLPs and volunteers when they were passionately running the two projects. One memorable experience for Ms. Wingmay, is the first outreach program of GW Food Drive in July 2020 with Josefheim Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides shelter to the poor, sick and elderly. She and the other volunteers spent their afternoon in that foundation. During the donation drive, she noticed that there was limited engagement from the other volunteers with the elderly beneficiaries. Recognizing this, Ms. Wingmay immediately gave a “semi-training” on techniques such as chunking and wait time. It was through this realization and recognition of her role as an SLP advocate that the volunteers and beneficiaries were able to interact and connect with one another.
Another experience that Ms. Wingmay described as the “most challenging yet memorable event” was a relief-operation/ project they did last November. During the last quarter of 2020, Typhoons affected areas including Marikina, Isabela, Cagayan, and Albay. Despite having meager resources, she and her team decided to form Operation Ahon, An initiative to help areas affected by the typhoons by delivering food and water. Despite having the donations and beneficiaries to help, they lacked manpower to deliver these goods to the different people. Overwhelmed with the experience, she prayed and communicated her concern with SLPs in action and GW Food Drive. From there, her team members and herself were able to contact different people - from highschool friends, to relatives, and acquaintances - in the affected areas. Soon enough, everything fell into place. In just a span of 2 weeks, they were able to distribute 100 food packs in Albay, 500 food packs in Isabela, 200 food packs in Marikina and boxes of water bottles to areas that did not have access to clean water during those times. It still amazes Ms. Wingmay how this was all accomplished through connection and collaboration with the team members, partners, and volunteers.
The external and internal impact
With the extensive reach that SLPs in action and GW Food Drive have in their almost two years of operations, there is no doubt that their programs have made an impact on the people that are involved in these initiatives - whether it is their partners, the online space or the founders themselves.
Ms.Wingmay witnessed the effect of their initiatives as they were able to see the gratitude of the beneficiaries towards her and her team of volunteers, as well as their demeanor of relief upon receiving donations. These beneficiaries would also make the most out of the donated goods by making something new out of what they are given to sustain their livelihood. For Ms.Wingmay, the impact was made, not only because the organizations provided for their beneficiaries’ basic needs, but also because they reached out to the people and engaged with them. Another proof of the impact they have made was the lasting memory that their beneficiaries have of them - they will always be remembered as the group who went out of their way to help others. Moreover, Ms. Wingmay also observed that groups that they have helped also began to have subprograms that aimed to help others as well, or they would share the excess of the donations to those who are in need. For Ms.Wingmay, this is by far, the most beautiful impact that their initiatives made externally.
The two projects also gave Ms. Wingmay different insights about being a person and an SLP. As an individual, she realized that kindness really goes a long way - no pandemic, lockdown, or restrictions can hinder the kindness that people have towards others. She mentioned that when individuals have kindness within themselves, everything and anything is possible, no matter how young a person is, or where they are in the world.
As an SLP, on the other hand, the two initiatives helped her keep in mind that helping people does not have to be within the scopes of speech and language. Different professionals can go beyond their area of expertise and still make an impact in the lives of others. With this, she became more determined to continue helping others through these initiatives.
The future for SLPs in Action and GW Food Drive
A Zoom interview with Ms. Wingmay Alegado last November 13,2021 with UST Advocacy Interns Johanna Mariano and Martina Soriano (clockwise, starting from the upper left)
When asked about their future plans for SLPs in Action, Ms.Wingmay shared that they will still continue to provide SLP services to the public, as well as providing free consultation, evaluations, teletherapy sessions, and home programs. Aside from this, they will raise awareness to the SLP profession even further. In Ms. Wingmay’s words, they would like to “use SLPs in action as an instrument to inform the people when to consult SLPs, (to address) misconceptions about the different Speech, Language, and Swallowing conditions'', and to encourage people to consult SLPs should concerns arise.
For GW Food Drive, on the other hand, Ms.Wingmay is hopeful that they will still be able to help Filipinos in need but she and her team aim to provide more consistent programs to their beneficiaries. They are planning to promote sustainability by creating programs that can help with their target foundations’ livelihood, such as gardening activities, that will later on establish the foundations’ food security. Moreover, they still desire to expand their reach to more areas in the Philippines.
“Even as an SLP, you can still be a helping hand to those in need (by) participating with these kinds of organizations or with these kinds of pages. You can cater your own service, your own skills, as an SLP but at the same time (donate) to those in need." - Ms. Wingmay Alegado
Gratefulness exudes from Ms. Wingmay as she desires to give thanks to their beneficiaries. She wants to thank them for having an open heart in welcoming her and her team, and for teaching them lessons and values that they would never learn in books - these are lessons that she will treasure forever.
Ms. Wingmay and her team of SLPs and volunteers spread the message that with whatever skills, profession, and resources we have, we can make a difference. No barrier is too high or difficult to overcome for those who have kindness, compassion, and determination to be able to uplift and empower others. For those who are willing to join the initiatives, you may contact SLPs in Action and GW Food Drive through their Instagram and Facebook accounts.