Robby Bucoy Echavez, MAEd, RPm, RPsy, MAGC

When one hears the word welfare, the state comes to mind as its primary

dispenser. Second to it, there is the community, which is often seen as its object or

target rather than its implementer. Most people would not think of a clinic as the focal

point of a welfare program. Yet, as Mayo (1994) asserts, welfare is now increasingly

becoming a “mixed economy” that many stakeholders contribute to. The future and

sustainability of welfare relies on heterogeneity– its dispensers, beneficiaries,

supporters, and benefactors cannot be one undifferentiated mass.

From this forward-looking thinking, it follows that the systematic provision

of aid for individuals and groups to attain a better Quality of Life is an activity that

everyone can add something to. Clinic-based welfare is a specific form of that. The

same way that industries and organizations are often challenged to heed the call of

responding to their corporate social responsibility, clinics like RBE Psychological

Services are not only invited to contribute to social welfare, they are also especially

poised or positioned to provide them.

RBE Psychological Services (RBEPS) takes for itself the vision and mission

of . In order to live up to these ideals, RBEPS established its Charity Division (CD), a

mirror-image of its paid services dedicated purposefully for individuals at the

economic, social, and environmental peripheries. The division was first chaired by

Elisa Torres and then co-chaired by Mark Piedad, both from the University of the

Philippines. The CD’s flagship program had for its primary objective the provision of

mental health services, especially psycho-education activities, to children at risk. The

Bookhabilitation Project sought to gather children’s books for distribution to shelters,

rehabilitation facilities, and centers for children in conflict with the law (CICL) and

youngsters who were sexually or commercially exploited (OSEC).

Hundreds of picture books, comics, textbooks and workbooks, and references

were handed out to My Home in Tayud, Liloan, the Maghaway Youth Home in

Talisay, and Sapak Farm in Compostela. The last distribution occurred in ****, with

three boxes full of reading materials and some items such as bags to Safe Haven, a

DSWD run center in Labangon, Cebu City. Since the onset of the pandemic, the

flagship program has been modified to be called eBookhabilitation and now includes

the collection and dissemination of electronic material in the form of ebooks, digital

posters, charts, and pictures, and other types of educational files. It has also extended

in scope, with schools such as Ibabao Estancia Elementary School now becoming

program partners.

The CD has also spearheaded the facilitation of no less than three free

support groups that have been up and running since the first pandemic year. Heeding

the call for mental health support after the skyrocketing number of individuals whose

depression and anxiety levels blew through the roof, the COVID-19 Support group or

COSupport began providing a safe space for all who felt they needed it to directly or

indirectly address the negative and burdensome effects of the pandemic on their

mental health. Meeting every Monday from 11 in the morning to 12 noon, no less

than 50 sessions since March 15, 2021 have been conducted.

The Mental Health Hour Cebu (MHHC), originally founded in 2018 and

facilitated by a loose group of confidantes from the province, found continuity with

the RBEPS CD. When the face-to-face listening sessions stopped because of the

lockdowns, quarantine, and travel restrictions, RBEPS CD made sure that the

therapeutic power of listening continued to help those who have benefited from thefree program. Since the first pandemic year, RBEPS CD has conducted numerous

listening sessions, providing free support to individuals and continuing to advance the

MHHC’s mission of undoing the effects of the stigma around mental health.

Understandably, many of the stories that were told to be listened to revolved around

the listener-turned-story tellers’ pandemic experiences. Since February 2020, the

MHHC page has received nearly 5,400 visits, peaking at the last quarter of 2020 when

Cebu was transitioning from stricter quarantine status to MGCQ.

The RBEPS CD has also been offering for more than a year now, the First

Step support group to aid individuals who are making their initial move towards

healing. Whether they are recovering from a neurodevelopmental disorder such as

A-D/HD, a personality condition such as Bipolar Personality Disorder, an anxiety

disorder, substance use disorder, or a stressful phase of their lives, First Step has

become a companion in many a journey, reminding those in the road to healing that

their first step is also the most important one; that all of us have the responsibility of

choosing when to take that first step; and that when we make that first step, we take

one step closer to the truth.

Like its free-of-charge counterparts, the Gandang-Gandang Buhay (GGB)

came out of the need to make mental health services accessible for all, especially

those who find it most unreachable– the poor and those in the fringes of society.

Many who are in the peripheries suffer because of toxic relationships. Unfortunately

mostly women, participants of GGB come to the Saturday evening sessions to find

freedom from the bondage of tumultuous relationships and self-defeating lifestyles,

especially that of codependency and other addictions. The group has ballooned to

include 58 individuals getting together in fellowships guided by the 12 Steps and the

Traditions of Codependents Anonymous.

These programs and projects, albeit free, come with a cost, foremost of

which would be operating expenses including salary for staff. RBEPS CD had to find

a way to fund these activities. Apart from donations coming from the HealTree Mind

project, which links potential service users with sponsors or benefactors, the clinic has

recently established its Community Shop, a marketplace of sorts that allows mental

health advocates and supporters to donate items or objects they no longer need for

RBEPS to sell. All proceeds directly go to the CD. Most recently, funds from the sales

have covered expenses for three tree planting activities in ridge and river sites in

Adlaon, Cebu City and Jaclupan, Talisay.

These environmental activities, including the Fauna-Mind Therapy activity

this July 9, 2022, do not only abet the environment and instill a love of nature in those

who take part in it, they also provide participants an opportunity to be healed by

nature. Through earthing, forest bathing, tree hugging, and compassion towards dogs,

cats, and other creatures, participants allow nature to touch and heal them. Since the

tree planting and cleanup activities under the HealTree Mind Project, individuals with

diverse mental health issues ranging from depression, psychosis, anxiety, trauma and

stressor-related disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders have gained a better

sense of connection, grounding, and compassion, relieving them of their mental

distress.

Like most welfare programs, clinic-based or otherwise, the surface activities

very often, by and of themselves, portray a picture of positive outcomes and

substantial impact. Beyond the narratives, testimonies, and the subjective experiences

of this mixed economy of welfare, how is one empirically to measure or assess the

merits of social welfare? When people are aided systematically, what instruments or

algorithms can help us ascertain that such activities have indeed raised the standardsof living, quality of life, happiness, or other objectives these programs purport to

improve? Not an easy question, the challenge has been taken up by many from

different fields. An example is that of Sen’s Gini Social Welfare Function, taking into

consideration income distribution so that “greater weights are given to poorer persons

than richer ones” (Kakwani & Son, 2016, p. 33-34) and Rawl’s maximin rule

maximizing the welfare of those who have life’s minimums.

And then there are many others. One challenge is the fact that has been

observed by the American Psychological Association: Assessments of welfare are

fundamentally based on altruism and associated values which have powerfully

subjective undertones. That is, most of our instruments to evaluate welfare programs,

including clinic-based ones such as the RBEPS CD, are attached to personal meanings

of what it means to be giving, relevant, impacting, significant, or helpful (Pfuhl,

Haghish, & Biegler, 2013). The decided sidestepping of this pervasive and perhaps

totally inescapable bias, is of course to minimize it or surrender to it fully, bracketing

it and contextualizing our assessments with the full realization of this limitation.

Having presented this caveat and the dominant social welfare functions as a

matter of laying the predicate, I turn to the work of Laureate Professor at Princeton

University, Peter Singer, as a way of evaluating RBEPS CD. Using the framework of

effective altruism (EA), it can be said that welfare programs are efficacious when

stakeholders learn to live modestly and contribute a relatively large part of their

resources to effective charities or advocacy activities, engage in open and critical

dialogue with regards effective programs or projects, choose careers or vocations

where they can do the most good, talk to others about giving, and offering a part of

their body for what is good.

Welfare evaluation at RBEPS harmonizes EA with the clinic’s core values of

respect, balance, excellence, perseverance, and sustainability. The RBEPS CD can be

deemed effective when it respects and is mindful of the told and untold experiences of

stakeholders (Appendix A); commits to keeping balance through continuous learning,

consistent discipline, human capital investing, and rigorous self-evaluation (Appendix

B); articulates the whys behind its growth-inducing activities; achieves consistency

and regularity despite setbacks and failures (Appendix C); and movements towards

final causes through learning, relearning, and unlearning with due consideration for

present and future generations (Appendix D).

The matrix as seen in Appendix G illustrates how RBEPS’ core values

intersects with Singer’s EA. It shows a matrix that the staff utilized to assess one part

of RBEPS-CD– COSupport. In a June 28, 2022 webinar, RBEPS discovered that

respect was displayed in the COSupport sessions when participants listened to each

others’ pandemic experiences, relating to, learning from, and holding sacred these

stories by documenting them and applying health science lenses; the balance was shown

by acknowledging the value of the pandemic experiences of individuals from all

walks of life; excellence by fathoming the purpose of inoculation, the sacrifice of

those in the front lines, and vaccine development; perseverance in the dogged pursuit

of keeping COSupport going; and sustainability in facing misinformation and

disinformation and putting oneself on the line to raise our collective awareness of the

disease.

From the EA part of the matrix, it became apparent that RBEPS is being

challenged to live humbly in order to give more to the fight against COVID-19 via

COSupport. The other EA facets were observed in the publishing of a mental health

workbook which exemplified an openness to dialogue as well as a commitment to a

philanthropic mission, the material having been distributed for free. Spreading the spirit of altruism was expressed in the form of disseminating information, cultivating

shared spaces for healing, recovery, and rebuilding, and rethinking health behaviors.

These findings prompt RBEPS to utilize the matrix to evaluate all CD

activities and paid services. Completing the matrix also illuminates dimensions of

the activities that were not observed to have expressed the core values of the clinic

and the EA dimensions. These may have been subthreshold, if not totally missing.

Whatever the case may be, this pushes the clinic to reconsider alterations in the

delivery of welfare services so that under-emphasized facets are given focus at the next

instance of delivery. For example, the next COSupport sessions can focus on having

participants share how we can live modestly and contribute generously (e.g.,

community pantry movement) and allow for information to be shared about how we

can contribute to vaccine development.

References

Echavez, R. B., & Rosal, R. (2018). RBE psychological services guidance program.

Juablar, S. R. R. (2022). The impact of Sikolohiyang Pilipino and modern psychology

in the provision of social welfare services. [Unpublished manuscript]. RBE

Psychological Services.

Kakwani, N., & Son, H.H. (2016). Social welfare functions and development:

Measurement and policy applications. Palgrave Macmillan.

Mayo, M. (1994). Communities and caring: The mixed economy of welfare. St

Martin’s Press.

Pfuhl, G., Haghish, E. F., & Biegler, R. (2013). Assessment of altruism depends on

inferred ulterior motives. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural

Psychology, 7(1), 36–50. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0099175

Singer, P. (2015). The most good you can do. Yale University Press.


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