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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.