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Working Class Heroes

Ralph Tasic and Emmanuele Marie Parra are involved in the Manila Volunteers Council, a business resource group of Thomson Reuters which are employee-led mini organizations formed to cater to the employees’ professional and personal development. Photo by Kitkat Pajaro  

MANILA, Philippines — In 2013, the atmosphere in Manila during the Christmas season was quite different. Filipinos were trying to recover from the destruction wrought by the strongest storm to hit the Philippines. Images of washed-up cities and communities were plastered all over the news. Consequentially, some companies cancelled their lavish year-end celebrations to use the allocated funds for various relief efforts.

Thomson Reuters is one of them. “We used the funds to build 20 house units in New Washington, Aklan,” says Ralph Tasic, Customer Support Executive for Eikon AIM D&A and Thomson Reuters Foundation Ambassador Challenge 2017 winner. “All the relief efforts were focused in Tacloban and Leyte; however, other places in the Visayas region were also heavily devastated. So we invested our efforts there.”

The coastal community, generally dependent on fishing, was washed away to sea. All wooden houses were blown to oblivion, all foliage flattened by the record-breaking winds. In May 2014, 30 volunteer employees flew to Aklan to help build houses and conduct workshops for four days. “We offered services we were more knowledgeable in, like arts and craft workshops for kids and financial literacy for parents,” adds Tasic.

Positive Impact

What first comes to mind when thinking of corporate social programs is usually mangrove planting, tree planting, or even coastal cleanups — all one-off activities. For Thomson Reuters, the culture of volunteerism is highly encouraged, and becomes sustainable. It is in its mandate that employees have access to resources and opportunities to reach their full potential and invest in their local communities.

“More than anything, the experience of the 30 people who volunteered was life-changing. From there, people become more invested in spending more time to volunteer. We saw the impact on the community and, at the same time, the impact on us, the volunteers,” Tasic says.

In 2015, the Thomson Reuters Foundation launched its Ambassador Challenge, a search within the global enterprise for a model employee who could raise awareness about the foundation’s commitment. In 2016, Emmanuele Marie Parra, a new hire who was already knowledgeable about the CSR work of the foundation even before entering the company, nominated herself and eventually won the challenge. She was the first Filipino to grab the prestigious award.

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Parra flew to London for the Trust Women Conference, an initiative by Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to promote women’s rights. “During every break (in the program), you have the opportunity to talk to scholars and NGO leaders to exchange ideas on how they instigate change in their respective communities,” she shares.

After this eye-opener, Parra chanced upon Visayan Forum Foundation, which champions victims of human trafficking and domestic labor abuse. When she returned to the Philippines, she contacted the foundation again and celebrated her 22nd birthday in their safe house. “There I got to know the survivors of human trafficking and slavery. My whole perspective changed. Since then, I organize different activities to help them,” she adds.

Office Support

Both Tasic and Parra are involved in the Manila Volunteers Council, a business resource group of Thomson Reuters. Business resource groups are employee-led mini organizations within the company, formed to cater to the employees’ professional and personal development. Being active officers, they spearhead most of the volunteer initiatives and gather the various interest groups within the company to raise funds and organize programs for a specific community.

The company advocates for sustainable volunteerism and empowering their partner communities. “Even though we’ve already turned over the houses to the community in New Washington, Aklan. back in 2014, we have yearly cupcake sales and T-shirt fundraising within the company to send them noche buena packages for Christmas,” says Tasic.

Coincidentally, Parra was able to visit the community again this year. Several workshops were conducted with the help of interest clubs, such as the Thompson Reuters Speakers Club, which conducts storytelling workshops; and the Thomson Reuters Investment and Financial Information Knowledge Club, which spearheads the parents’ financial literacy workshop.

Apart from sick leaves and vacation leaves, Thomson Reuters offers regular employees two volunteer days a year to support the organization or cause of their choice. Moreover, employees are given the opportunity to convert their volunteer efforts into monetary funds to provide further aid to a chosen charity or cause through the Dollars For Doers Program. Employees can apply for a grant after rendering  a set number of volunteer hours within a 12-month time frame.

Work-life balance

While this volunteer work may seem like a full-time job on its own, Parra insists it’s all about time management. “I come in early to work, especially on Mondays,” she says. “It’s also great that I have a very supportive manager.”

Juggling core responsibilities and volunteer work is no small feat. Going to conferences, organizing fundraising activities, rallying the different interest clubs and seeking management approval are just some of the many things they accomplish on a daily basis. “I think it’s really finding time for your passion,” adds Tasic, who’s been with the company for eight years. “I’m happy with the way things are at my job because I’m also empowered to do other things outside work.”

Parra, being one of the newer hires, with only two and a half years of experience under her belt, says, “I’m very thankful that Thomson Reuters is my first job. I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.”

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