Richard Gordon receives this year’s Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award

MANDALUYONG, Dec. 15 -- For advocating volunteerism that leads to real, significant, and sustainable change through the years, Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman Richard J. Gordon is this year’s sole recipient of the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency’s Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award.

Volunteerism has always been the way of life for the Gordon family. Amelia Gordon, the mother of this year’s awardee, was a volunteer of the Red Cross for 63 years, and even established the blood bank in Olongapo City in the ‘60s. Following in her footsteps and in those of his father James’, Gordon has been a volunteer of the Philippine Red Cross for 48 years, having joined the foremost humanitarian organization at a very young age. Even as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the PRC, Gordon works 24/7 without pay. Thousands of people will attest that he can be contacted in the middle of the night if one might need blood or other forms of help.

When Gordon was elected mayor of Olongapo City, he successfully implemented a number of programs that led to the transformation of what was formerly known as “Sin City” into a “Model City,” the most peaceful one. This was achieved with the cooperation of the community who voluntarily maintained cleanliness of the surroundings; monitored and reported crimes committed in their areas, among other initiatives. His color-coded transportation scheme, which had never been exactly duplicated anywhere in the country, also contributed largely to the speedy resolution of crimes. Volunteers also rendered 24-hour duties in the hospitals of Olongapo.

After the departure of the U.S. Navy from Subic Bay in the 1990's, Gordon proceeded to implement a plan for the long-term development of its people and their livelihood. He motivated and mobilized some 8,000 volunteers in an unusual act of self-empowerment when the U.S. Navy completed its withdrawal from the naval facility and its conversion for civilian and commercial use began. Subic became a model for a successful bases conversion effort.

Having always led by example, Gordon was able to get young graduates from prestigious universities in the country and abroad to work for him. This was perhaps the first real volunteer revolution in the Philippines - an era when Gordon harnessed the skills and talents of young Filipino professionals and combined it the spirit of survival of the local community to create what was to become the country’s premier economic showcase. Young people from universities like Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, UP, De La Salle, Ateneo, FEU and UST, among others, who were sent to make deals with multi-nationals such as FedEx, Acer, Enron, and Thompson. Subic became a very good training ground for the volunteers that most of them made a name for themselves in others fields that they eventually entered into after their stint there.

Gordon is well-respected not only here in the Philippines, but also in the international community because of his transformational and effective leadership. Investor confidence in his leadership in Subic drove billions of dollars of investment into the Freeport, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for the people of Central Luzon. He was also hailed by leading international publications such as the Asiaweek, which included him in the 20 Great Asians for the Future in its 20th Anniversary issue, Asahi Shimbun which recognized him as one of the 50 Young Leaders of Asia in 1994 and Japan’s NHK TV which featured him as one of ―Asia’s Who’s Who in 1995, among others, for his inspirational leadership.

In 2001 when Gordon became Secretary of the Department of Tourism, he once again called on the people to volunteer and imbibe a culture of tourism, so that we might attract more foreign tourists. In Intramuros, people cleaned up and cooperated in making the area one of the country’s vibrant centerpieces for tourism. His programs as Secretary of Tourism earned him accolades in the international tourism community, where he was elected as Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association in 2003.

When he took over as Chairman of the PRC, Gordon came up with the formula Volunteers + Information Technology + Logistics = a Red Cross that is Always First, Always Ready, Always There! With the application of this formula, the PRC has been transformed from an organization known only for its blood services and relief operations into the foremost humanitarian organization in the country that is capable of responding in all kinds of disasters. The PRC is today one of the most modern Red Cross societies in the world.

Through Gordon’s efforts, the Philippine Red Cross has built more than 135,000 houses and distributed them to families affected by typhoon Yolanda and other disasters. His Red Cross 143 program also ensures that there are volunteers on the ground who can act as first responders during disasters. They will also serve as the eyes, ears and mouth of the PRC to ensure that assistance will be delivered promptly.

Gordon has also spearheaded rescue efforts in various disasters and volunteered in other organizations aside from the Red Cross. During the 1990 earthquake, he led a group of volunteers from Olongapo to rescue people trapped in the rubble in the affected areas such as Nueva Ecija. When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, Gordon led a group of volunteers in bringing the native Aetas living on top of the volcano down to safety and extended assistance in the nearby affected provinces. He also taught Catechism in Marikina and was a volunteer in Welfareville, the Philippine Cancer Society, and the Narcotics Foundation of the Philippines, among others.

The Search for Outstanding Volunteers (SOV) is the highlight of the celebration of the National Volunteer Month which is held every December to recognize the exemplary performance and dedication of Filipino volunteers as they contribute in building strong communities through volunteerism. The 2015 Awarding Ceremony was held recently at the Crown Plaza Manila Galleria in Ortigas Avenue.

Other recipients of the Award include the following: Lourdes Casas, Quezon Girl Scouts of the Philippines; Dr. Ligaya P. Jorge; Ms. Leonarda N. Camacho; Ms. Amelia J. Gordon; Jesuit Volunteer Philippines Federation Inc.; Teresita Ang See; Dr. Helena Z. Benitez; Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement; Philippine Red Cross; Dr. Ledevina Cariño (posthumous); Retired Justice Leonor Ines Luciano; Esther Asuncion Vibal; Ambassador Henrietta Tambunting de Villa; Sr. Eva Fidela Maamo, SPC, MD; Margarita Coscolluela; and Rosa Rosal. (PRC)


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