A social worker’s journey of volunteerism

A personal account of a social worker as a volunteer is the core of the book, The True Taste of Water: A Social Worker’s Lived Experience of Volunteerism (The True Taste of Water).

Book cover. Photo by Jacelle Isha B. Bonus, UPDIO

In the book, Angelito B. Meneses, DSD, an associate professor at the Department of Social Work (DSW) of the UP Diliman (UPD) College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD), recounted his journey as a volunteer development worker, particularly in Pakistan and Mongolia.

CSWCD Dean Lenore Polotan-dela Cruz admitted that the book title intrigued her and she looked forward to reading it during the coming holidays.

“Congratulations, Joltz, and I foresee that you would tell us something about the book so that we are inspired to read more about it,” she said.

Meneses. Photo by Jacelle Isha B. Bonus, UPDIO

Meneses said the story behind the title was about his time as a volunteer. The book’s title was inspired by Meneses’ encounter with a nine-year-old Pakistani boy who worked in a sweatshop.

It was one hot season in Pakistan when he visited the home of the boy named Assad, the eighth child of a widow whose husband died because of an ailment. Meneses decided to visit Assad to bring the boy a glimmer of hope in an otherwise miserable life.

“My time and my presence were the greatest things that I could do to sow hope,” Meneses said.

Meneses continued that the temperature of the hottest season in Pakistan can reach 45 degrees Celsius.

“Water is gold during the hot season. Potable water is scarce in the villages,” he said.

At the time of his visit, he had run out of his water ration. Parched, Meneses needed a drink of water.

“Assad seemed to understand my needs. So, without uttering a word or an excuse, he went into the kitchen. After one moment, he came back with a glass half full of water. He offered it to me. He was smiling as he was giving me a glass of water,” Meneses remembered. He admits: “I hesitated, baka kako the water was dirty and the container was contaminated with the hepatitis virus.”

After a moment’s thought, Meneses changed his mind.

“I knew that the offer was a sincere gesture of kindness and love. To turn it down means turning down the work of love,” he said. “So I closed my eyes and sipped the water. I was not sure if the water was clean and the glass was free of the hepatitis virus. One thing that I was sure about… [it] was the freshest and sweetest water I have ever tasted in my life,” Meneses explained.

Glennie Marie M. Sina-on, an assistant professor at DSW and the event’s host, quoted an African proverb that Meneses said he was reminded of at that time, “It is only in the desert that one can know the true taste of water.”

The four reviewers of the book lauded Meneses for his storytelling and insights on volunteerism.

Suzanne Magalona-Nazal, social work educator, author, and DSW senior lecturer, said the author “transports his readers to his journey, allowing them to experience the joy, challenges, and the transformative power of volunteer work” and that volunteerism “is a selfless act of kindness that multiplies and has a far-reaching impact on people’s lives.”

The author and the book launch participants. Photo by Jacelle Isha B. Bonus, UPDIO

Amelyn Laro, author of Streets to Horizons: A Journey From Street Education to Global Education, said, “Reading his stories [Meneses’] allows us to observe a range of viewpoints, introspection, and even the significance of volunteering and dedicating to a higher purpose.”

Natalia Sali, founder of the advocacy group One Child, One Tree, said the book was “heartwarming yet informative for those who want to know about volunteerism.” She added that Meneses’ story “inspires and invigorates.”

Meanwhile UPD Ugnayan ng Pahinungόd Director Jowima A. Reyes said, “The True Taste of Water illustrated the infinite cycle of the power… of giving oneself… to serve others and in that journey, it transcends limitations and boundaries.”

The book was launched on March 21 at the CSWCD 3F Seminar Room and is available at the DSW for P500.