We chat with one of LoveYourself’s most dedicated volunteers, who proves that a positive perspective and can-do attitude go a long way.
By Teejay Castro
Jemuel Titan, more popularly known as “Jamie Well Titan,” or just simply “Jem,” has been consistently counseling for more than a year as a volunteer at LoveYourself. His dedication to guiding others in finding out their HIV status has made him one of the top counselors of LoveYourself Anglo, having helped over three hundred clients.
More than being a dedicated volunteer, there is something in Jem that makes anyone feel at ease with him. His exuberant personality and bright smile make it seem that he is always having a good time. His enthusiasm for the advocacy has given him much opportunity to shine and to learn - beyond counseling, he has consistently helped out in this year’s Incognito and Incognito 2.0 mass testing events. His inclination to arts and crafts has produced numerous adorable bead creations that are used as ornaments at LoveYourself clinics, and his “Memoirs of a Counselor,” which he wrote for the organization’s website reveals a deeply introspective person filled with altruism.
A roller coaster ride
Growing up in an unfavorable environment, Jem knew at a very young age how it is to live in a world full of challenges and extreme disappointment. One of the seven siblings, Jem was forced to face the harsh realities of life. Aside from a difficult life they have, what added to his misery was when his mother fell for another man, which caused their family life to crumble.
But Jem as a rock solid person, did not let his pain turn into anger and hatred. He remained optimistic, looked at the brighter side of life, and used his unfortunate experiences as learning opportunities. With the help of his spiritual friends, Jem was able to rise above and start life anew. Having good influence from his friends, Jem started to see the light toward his spiritual direction, and he eventually became a Born Again Christian and part of JCTGBG (Jesus Christ To God Be the Glory) worship service. It was a good turning point in his life, where all his realizations came into picture - that there’s always a rainbow after the downpour and that you can still get up even though you’ve reached rock bottom. Jem says that if you have strong faith and you know deeply what you believe in, then you’ll never go wrong.
Now, Jem is a representative of career-oriented millennials, working in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. He started as a call center agent 10 years ago handling inbound and outbound calls. His fluency in English and his ability to talk to people from all walks of life became his secret weapons for staying in the industry for so long. But these characteristics didn’t stop him in aiming for something better and higher as far as his career is concerned. With his ability to handle difficult customers, being flexible on his work schedule, a go-getter attitude, perseverance and determination, Jem is now part of the recruitment team of one of the biggest BPO companies in the country - wonderful crossover from being a call center agent to a recruiter. Now, he’s enjoying sourcing and interviewing agent and non-agent positions supporting their company’s aim to give career opportunities to people.
Being the breadwinner in the family, Jem is one of those determined people who have braved the adjustments demanded from someone working in the BPO industry - graveyard shifts, a perpetually continuous business schedule without regard to local holidays, a commitment to achieving ever increasing quotas - all these Jem has striven to make ends meet.
His works of art
Not everyone is born artistic or creative. But Jem is one of the few gifted with artistic intricacy and a singing voice. "I love doing things that can extract my creative juices and showcase the things I got," says Jem. Ever since he was a kid, he’s been into arts and crafts. He loves sketching with nature as his primary subject. He loves collecting movie tickets, bus tickets, or sometimes even just simple candy wrappers, and he puts them in a journal made from an ordinary notebook. He describes it as nothing fancy; he just customizes it with art materials available in the market.
Jem is also into beadworks for crafts and novelty items. It’s interesting to note that some of his masterpieces are showcased in both the LoveYourself Uni and Anglo clinics. He’s also into photography and capturing the beauty of nature. And of course, he exhibits his singing talent in karaoke and KTV bars, performing his go-to songs from the likes of Mariah Carey and Beyonce.
Definitely not to be disregarded is Jem’s skill in narration and writing in Filipino. His “Memoirs of a Counselor” depicts the emotional turmoil a fictional client undergoes upon hearing that his status is reactive. Inspired and woven from real-life experiences as a counselor, Jem also brings to light the responsibility a counselor has in communicating to the client his status, and at the same time the strength of will and spirit required to assure that hope is not lost, that there will always be a network of people who will provide support and counsel.
The Rough Road To Becoming a LoveYourself Volunteer
More than one year of being a LoveYourself volunteer and a proud member of batch Katha, Jem says it's really destiny at work that led him to volunteer. "There's really a purpose why I'm here. It all started with a photoshoot for a cause for HIV/AIDS in our company spearheaded by Sir Ian Felix Alquiros (one of the founders of LoveYourself)." This event gave Jem the thought to do something new and worthy for others.
At first, it was really just to support the cause, but everything was given a new meaning when he found out that some of his friends were HIV positive. To make things worse, he learned some of them had died due to complications from AIDS. Jem learned about these realizations around March of 2013, and from then on, he looked forward to the future as if it were his “second life.”
Jem sought to cultivate his spirituality after finding about the reason behind his friends’ demises. He started going to EDSA Shrine religiously to participate in the late afternoon mass. Later that year, Jem got invited by a former colleague to a Sunday worship service which he greatly enjoyed. “It felt great having Him as the center of your life,” Jem shares. The regular worship services have earned Jem a greater appreciation for life. However, Jem’s quest for meaning did not stop here.
“After two years of continuously attending Sunday worship, I felt that there was something lacking,” recalls Jem. In 2015, HIV/AIDS dealt a double blow to Jem as it claimed the life of yet another friend, a close one as matter of fact, and led two other friends a hair’s breadth away from death’s door, both suffering from infections brought about by complications caused by the disease.
Jem was not discouraged in the face of these tragedies - in fact, it made him think that he had to do something. “What happened to my friends is a sign that I had to fight. The sufferings of my friends who were inflicted by this disease further fed my desire to do something,” says Jem. Refusing not to do something, Jem found out that Ian Alquiros and some other friends of his were already volunteers of LoveYourself. He applied for the organization and was inducted as part of batch Katha last October 2015.
Volunteering for LoveYourself
Jem started out his volunteer work doing decking and assisting clients and counselors. Then, he became a counselor and started establishing great connections with clients. He counseled not just about sex and HIV/AIDS but about life in general. Of course, he also handled the results, that envelope that says if a client is HIV reactive or not.
As he continuously searched for a deeper meaning on why he joined LoveYourself, Jem also became interested in how is it like to be a life coach. Life coaches are volunteers that deal with clients who are HIV reactive and closely monitor the medication and overall condition of their clients. “Being active and dedicated to my responsibility [as a volunteer and advocate] pushed me to become a life coach and bring my passion from just counseling to include life coaching as well. My co-volunteers who were already life coaches encouraged me to join the training program and become a life coach.”
Jem, as person who loves to challenge himself, decided to apply as a life coach and luckily got accepted. Indeed, he’s a jack of all trades, and he enjoys being a volunteer, counselor, and a life coach. Aside from these three things, Jem is also a member of various committees in LoveYourself, such as Communications, the organization’s learning and development arm known as “LoveU”, Events, and Operations.
The joys of volunteering
The most exciting part is the simple act of touching other people's lives in little ways. Hearing their stories and sentiments in life, and just being a confidant is a priceless feeling. "The overwhelming trust that your counselee gives is just simply touching and heartwarming. It cannot be compensated by money or any material thing in this world. Just remember to always walk the talk,” Jem says.
Aside from being an active volunteer, counselor, and life coach, Jem considers heading the Incognito mass testing last May 2016 as his biggest achievement in the organization so far. Jem recounts the documentation he had to deal with related to preparations for the event, along with the countless meetings he had to attend. “It actually came to the point that I wasn’t getting any sleep because I had to do all Incognito-related matters after work.” Jem also recalls the logistical problems during the event - “The lack of logistics and runners, these things I had to take care of by myself. I could very well say that my patience was put to the test.”
Despite setbacks, with some clients having to wait longer than expected, Jem thinks of the first Incognito both as a success and an opportunity for learning. Jem selflessly acknowledges the help of other volunteers, crediting them for making the event work - Incongito held last May 2016 brought in more than 200 clients, a record figure for LoveYourself. Jem added that with a positive mind, determination, perseverance, and for as long as you put your heart into it, everything is possible.
As for Jem, there's no limitations in terms of being a LoveYourself volunteer: "For as long as the passion to serve is still there and I get to enjoy what I do, I’ll be a volunteer till my hair is gray." He stressed that it's just really a matter of striking a balance in everything and setting up priorities. “It also pays when you go back to where it all started, to revisit the primary reason why you volunteered. And of course, the people I am working with, my loved ones, especially my friends and the many lives I have helped and touched, perhaps are the reasons why the flame is burning,” Jem added.
Lastly, as parting words from Jem, I asked him to give me his mantra in life, a mantra that he believes in and reflects the totality of his being. His answer: “Never complain. Just do it.” Sounds familiar and somewhat similar to the famous sports apparel brand tagline? Well, the deeper meaning of it is more than that. It takes courage to do something one is unsure about - whether it's a decision that involves one’s family, love, career, or one’s HIV/AIDS status. One must take the plunge for whatever it is that will give happiness to a person.
“Never give up, just do it. If others can, why can’t I? So just stand up and fight. You are not alone and never will be, so do not be afraid. There will be challenges, best to learn from them. Do not complain, just do it. You will not get to where you want to be if you do otherwise”, Jem says. For as long as it won't have negative implications and will not be detrimental to others, then that's totally fine. "Never complain. Just do it,” Jem concludes.
Photos: Kevin Tuazon
LoveYourself Volunteer Spotlight is a monthly feature on the cause- and service-oriented members of LoveYourself. We will be chatting with volunteers from all walks of life – all united in one cause. Keep checking every month to meet the different faces of LoveYourself.
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