Journeying with Lead to Heal

September 14, 2017 7:00 pm by Kritzia Santos

The words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in this world,” has always moved me to do something. No matter how hard I would try, it would seem to just be a little ripple in the ocean, but as St. Mother Teresa’s words would always remind me, it does not matter how small the drop is because without that missing drop, it wouldn’t be able to create ripples.

This year, I was more than blessed to be given the chance to journey, learn and grow with thirty fellows, who are working in direct social action service to the church. These fellows – may they be priests, directors, staff, and managers – have been brave enough to identify an issue they passionately care about and to change the situation that they are in right now.

These fellows are part of a program called Lead to Heal, which is part of the Catholic Church’s largest Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) response in partnership with NASSA/Caritas Philippines and the nine dioceses directly affected by the biggest storm surge in the world. The hard work bore important lessons emphasizing the importance of professionalizing humanitarian work alongside ensuring meaningful exchanges with multi-sectoral partners and communities. For this reason, NASSA/Caritas Philippines embarked on a 19-month transformational leadership program to strengthen the leadership and social innovation skills of church workers in the social action network.

Funded by Caritas Belgium and Caritas Espanola, Lead to Heal is a shared commitment towards community resilience in collaboration with the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) and Future by Design Pilipinas (FBDP),  in accompanying and partnering with Diocesan Social Action Centers (DSACs), Relief and Rehabilitation Units (RRU) of Arch/dioceses nationwide.


Methods used in Lead to Heal include group conversations, workshops and applicable learning tools facilitated by the FBDP, towards academic certification under a ladderized masteral program of DAP’s Graduate school on productivity and quality management.

The program began with thirty fellows composed of ten priests, one religious sister, and nineteen lay Social Action Workers from the DSACs and NASSA. The project consists of fellows from the whole Philippines – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

In between modules this year, I was awed by the fellows’ passion, love for the poor and service. Despite and inspite of all the not-so-good and harrowing news, there are still people who are ready to take the plunge to serve others. A monsignor in our program even texted me one day, which I would never forget, “I just cannot abandon the poor. In God’s name – whose aliases are Truth, Justice, Freedom – I am ready to go to jail with and for Jesus in them.”

Our Fellows Change Projects and what they want to change

It has been twelve months of journeying with these fellows and I can’t seem to put into words how passionate each one of them has been in working to make their change projects happen. Each of them is working on their change projects but more importantly, answering the question: What will it take for ME to be a Transformational Leader, enabling communities* to continuously develop, towards becoming more resilient, in realizing sustainable development?

The key here is to design innovative ways to bring out collective action in our work, and to bring in more people to achieve their vision, one that is shared and for more hands to work together towards that change. Supported by the different partners working together, the fellows worked with consultants, coaches, advisers, colleagues specializing on their particular field of work.


It has been twelve months of pure learning with the most humanely loving and self-sacrificing group, including their Board of Advisers, Coaches, teachers and Program Management Team. I have seen firsthand how they would try to improve their projects whenever their coaches would give other suggestions. They did all of these, while still continuing their multiple tasks in the organization – leading schools, churches, foundations and humanitarian and development projects around the Philippines.


One sister in the program mentioned, “We have been doing feeding programs in our congregation for the past 30 years and it is only through this program that I saw that we can do things in more innovative ways.” Through the Lead to Heal Program, she is now working on implementing this strategy in ten more poorest of the poor barangays in Samar.

Another fellow goes through five hour bus rides every Sunday to passionately teach Catholic Social Teaching to seminarians and lay leaders, which  is really actually the most integral in our church today for us to use the See-Judge-Act-Pray model.

Other fellows chose to work within the organization working towards better systems and structures, and plunging to work and combine teams no matter how difficult. Their efforts have been countless and below are a background of each of their programs for you to be excited to see.


Go and Spread the Good News

At the end of each mass, we would hear the priest say, “Go and spread the good news.”Through the Lead to Heal Program, the good news or the gospels that Jesus has taught us are alive in the efforts, contributions and hard work of the fellows. These fellows are yearning and continuing to strive for the vision that they have must first and foremost share with the people they serve, with their communities, and with the stakeholders.

The Catholic Church has numerous efforts to serve and to continue to live out love in action. Through my experience of working with NASSA/Caritas Philippines FBDP, DAP’s, I have learned that systems processes and procedures are never perfect but it doesn’t mean that we will stop trying. It is in working together that we can create collective action and where our ripples will continue to begin.

There are so many things that are happening in our country today. As a Filipino citizen, I have no control of everything, but I choose to be part of the solution, even if it may be in a small way. I choose to be part of that change through small or big efforts like our fellows.


Each of them have a unique spirit of social action, dedication and joy in what they do. This is what makes their work even more special. I especially have been blessed to hear and witness their personal journeys and what adventures they have taken with the mission God has given them.


Today I write this full of gratitude to tell the fellows a big CONGRATULATIONS FOR ALL THEIR HARD WORK SERVICE AND COMMITMENT, for teaching us to never give up and to always keep trying. A prayer that we can all have is for people to never lose their passion in service for the others. One day (even if this may never be in our life time), through all our little ripples, real change and development will happen in our country.

Watch our fellows as they

Be Part of the Change

Support the change projects of our Fellows from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao

The Lead to Heal Fellows’ stories of leadership and change showcase personal and community transformation – the ultimate determinants of the program’s positive impact on social action in the country today. If by any chance you would like to support possibly through financial resources and partnerships, join us as our fellows share their change projects on September 22, 2017. You may email us at for more information.

Conversation 1:

Formation of Leaders and Strengthening Volunteerism

Change initiatives in Antique, Mindoro, Quezon, Capiz, Laguna and Cebu provide new strategies in engaging stakeholders and strengthening local leader and volunteer development and mobilization for sustainable and humanitarian development
Conversation 2:

Citizenship and Participation as a way to Sustainability



The exercise of citizenship is crucial for ensuring sustainable development and responsive humanitarian initiatives. This conversation showcases opportunities for participation in the face of complex challenges, as experienced by Quinluban Farmers in Palawan, by the Tagbanwa in Coron,  by malnourished youth in Rawis in Northern Samar,   women of Cabanatuan, by farmers in Mindoro, including communities threatened by water source depletion in Leyte. Lessons on how NASSA ensures financial sustainability as a faith-based organization through empowerment of its employees will also be shared in this conversation.
Conversation 3:

Rekindling Faith through Positive Collaboration


Stakeholders of various persuasions face the challenge of finding ways to come together, trusting each other enough to positively collaborate towards creating significant change. In the face of humanitarian development, this is even more urgent and necessary to clearly agree on and effectively communicate immediate, medium-term and long-term action. Fellows will share on: (1) the Roman Catholic Church’s ALAY KAPWA program which helps realize such positive collaboration; (2) how a strong diocesan social action team can inspire strong parish-based initiatives, and vice-versa, for living out the Faith in the context of increasing changes in stakeholders’ development needs; (3) how local government and basic ecclesial communities and movers can work together towards a shared vision; (4) a prototype regional social action engagement that can be a means for institutional change in how NASSA/Caritas Philippines accompanies diocesan social action centers across the country; and (5) provincial multi-sectoral partnerships that bring drug surrenderees back to the fold in humane and participatory means.
Conversation 4:

Institutionalizationof humanitarian responses and sustainable development

All change initiatives must be adapted to what is unique to each community and situation. A “one-size-fits-all” mentality cannot be applied to humanitarian and sustainable development, especially in such a multi-cultural country as the Philippines. Fellows will share their initiatives on local pre-disaster and post-disaster data generation in Isabela; adapting NASSA interventions such as SHEG or Self-Help Groups in Sipaway, Negros Occidental for post-disaster rehabilitation and sustainability of communities; Ati community development based on their unique dreams, way of living, and marrying these with practices that can extend their health, lives, economy and culture; Mangyan indigenous practices for disaster response and rehabilitation fused with global humanitarian practices; and ensuring disaster-resilient farming pervades in typhoon-prone communities in Borongan, Eastern Samar.


Stories taken from the Lead to Heal invitation for September 22, 2017



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