What’s the new way to celebrate a birthday? Try a ‘Sharelebration’

Published October 28, 2020, 8:33 AM

by Pinky Concha-Colmenares

  • A ‘Sharelebration’ is a way to share one’s blessings to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, wedding and order special occasions.
  • This special celebration was born during the pandemic when people sought out the Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) foundation for ways to share their resources to those affected by the lockdown.
  • The most popular ‘Sharelebrations’ are sponsoring the Mingo Meals of undernourished children for six months, and the Feeding Force meal bags which contain fruits and vegetables grown by small farmers, fish from marginal fishermen, rice and Mingo, and given to those who have lost their jobs.
  • The ‘Sharelebration’ of a woman who chose to pay for the construction materials to repair the damaged house of a family was posted on Facebook, and in less than two months, attracted more birthday celebrants whose ‘Sharelebrations’ repaired 18 houses.

There will always be reason to celebrate.

Despite the threat of COVID-19, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, baptisms, personal achievements and more will always inspire people to celebrate.

The new way of celebration has been through zoom parties where people gather for a virtual party —with food and drinks and giveaways sent by the celebrant to guests. At the appointed time, they “go” to the party, click a link, see familiar faces, exchange greetings, and sit down for a meal and conversation.

But there’s another way to celebrate as many have discovered through a social media post and of course, through the stories of celebrants. It’s called a “Sharelebration.”

(Photo courtesy of NVC / MANILA BULLETIN)

And it comes at a time when good deeds flow out so naturally in many neighborhoods where many private citizens, on their own, reach out to help those who lost their jobs during the lockdowns.

As the coined word suggests, a “Sharelebration” is to share one’s blessings to celebrate a special day. A celebrant can choose to feed malnourished children, or provide tools for livelihood (like a sewing machine or a motorized banca), repair a damaged shelter, or give a year’s school supplies, including a pair of slippers (many children in poor communities still walk to school barefoot).

The practice is not new. We’ve read of celebrities donating impressive amounts of money to poor communities. Or politicians having a meal with orphans to celebrate their birthdays.

What is new is that the people who have chosen to share their celebration are private citizens without political backgrounds and are not celebrities. I recently found their stories buried in the files of the Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) which is headed by founder and president Millie Locsin Kilayko, my former classmate and good friend.

Millie L. Kilayko, second from left, founder and president of Negrense Volunteers for Change Foundation (NVC).

According to her, the “Sharelebration” started during the lockdown shortly after the pandemic was declared, by people who were looking for meaningful ways to celebrate.

“While we were all cooped up with lockdowns and quarantines, NVC became busier than ever because there was just so much to do: produce PPE’s, feed hungry children, provide meal bags to families who lost their income due to the pandemic. I guess that made us visible, and so when people began to search for meaningful ways to celebrate despite being disallowed from physical celebrations, we were approached by people who needed a new “venue” to celebrate. While this option was always availed by many in the past, we thought of coining a word for this, and the word was ‘Sharelebration’,” she said.

I was introduced to a “sharelebrartion” when three former classmates celebrated their birthdays and decided to donate what they would have spent for a party to fund the Mingo Meals of undernourished children in Bacolod City. In a few days, classmates sent their gifts for the birthday celebrants to NVC. The gifts are now funding the Mingo Meals of 245 kids for six months!

But that’s not the most touching “Shareleration.”

(Photo courtesy of NVC / MANILA BULLETIN)

There was also a seven-year-old girl who had a physical party only with her parents and sibling. She asked her ninongs and ninangs and other persons who would normally give her presents, that she would rather that they donate for Mingo Meals instead of presents for herself. She collected enough for 1,385 meals.

Very early during the start of the pandemic, there was a wedding of a New Yorker and a Singaporean in New York. The Singaporean had relatives and friends in the Philippines. Guests attended the virtual wedding, and many of them “sharelebrated” by funding PPEs for medical frontliners.

There are other reasons for a “Sharelebration,” as Millie related to us.

“Another lady “Sharelebrated” by underwriting the cost of repairing the house of someone whose roof was leaking and whose floors could barely hold the family living in it,” Millie said.

That was the “sharelebration” that became viral in social media.

“When we posted her Sharelebration story on Facebook, the idea caught on, and now, just two months later, 18 houses have already been sponsored through “Sharelebration” to celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries and even a celebration of life for a friend who passed away,” Millie said.

“There was also this fan club of a popular Korean singer whose members sold merchandise and turned over their sales to NVC to sponsor undernourished children on the Mingo Meals program,” she said.

She said the most popular “Sharelebrations” are sponsoring kids for six-month daily feeding with Mingo Meals and The Feeding Force meal bags for families (contents are fruits and vegetables grown by small farmers, dried fish from marginal fishermen, rice and Mingo Meals).

The popularity of the feeding program and meal bags define the foundation’s vision — Freedom from hunger and poverty.

Share through livelihood tools

Other celebrants had chosen to share their blessings by sponsoring the purchase of a tool to give the head of a family livelihood. There are many who need tools like sewing machines, tricycles, even a motorized Banca (under NVC’s Peter Project, 4,980 fisherfolk have received this from “sharelebrations” even before the pandemic).

(Photo courtesy of NVC / MANILA BULLETIN)

Many of those tools for skilled workers came from a family who celebrates the life of a young child who passed away, every year through a “sharelebration.” Even before NVC had coined that word, the family had sought out the foundation to celebrate his life by giving livelihood opportunities to heads of families. The memory of that child is given meaning by the sewing machines and other livelihood tools that now feed families. There was a year when the family’s celebration was sponsoring “Love Bags” with a year’s school supplies for children in a mountain community.

What are Mingo Meals?

(Photo courtesy of NVC / MANILA BULLETIN)

NVC manufactures Mingo, a nutritious instant complementary food made of rice, mongo (mung beans), and malunggay (moringa). Mingo is primarily for infants and toddlers, but is also used for older children in areas of need.

Mingo comes in powder form and creates a porridge or drink when mixed with water, but hungry children often eat it straight from the sachet.

Because of its convenience and nutritional value, Mingo has also gained popularity as food in emergency relief operations. It has been used to feed people in a number of disaster or emergency situations in the Philippines, such as during the war in Marawi City, the Taal Volcano eruption, and the pandemic.

Today, NVC’s Mingo Meals feeding module provides complementary food to children aged 6-60 months in poor communities through a holistic approach. As of October 15, there are 34,556 children enrolled in the Mingo Meals nutrition program.

(Photo courtesy of NVC / MANILA BULLETIN)

As of Oct. 15, 2020, there have been 12,614,506 Mingo Meals served to kids in 46 provinces across the Philippines.

If a “Sharelebration” is something you’d like to do for the holidays, send a message through the NVC website www.nvcfoundation-ph.org.