Ms. Ma. Cristina So-Samson receives her Praise Award during the DSWD Anniversary Celebration last April 1, 2022 in Legazpi City, Albay

The pandemic has proven that disasters impact people from all walks of life. Regardless of status, people are conquering the same storm. True to their oath to serve the people, employees of agencies providing front line services continue to ensure provision of necessary assistance.

The pandemic has given rise to modern day heroes. The spirit of solidarity and compassion for the most vulnerable population transpire as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc to many countries. The sense of community became more pronounced as evident in many volunteer activities during the height of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). With the worsening impacts of the pandemic, social services are being delivered more efficiently to address the needs of the affected population.

Social Workers on the front line

During the pandemic, social workers stood side-by-side with front liner workers became front liners themselves in order to deliver necessary social services to its stakeholders. Aware of the risks and dangers, DSWD continued its commitment to provide assistance to families most affected by COVID-19. After her life-changing experience, Ms. Maria Cristina So-Samsom felt no regret about working on the field during the height of the pandemic.  “Hindi ako nag-sisisi dahil alam ko na noong nag-trabaho ako, (I have no regrets because I knew my job) it was to serve the people.

To lessen the risk for its employees, the agency employed various strategies. These included strict implementation of minimum health standards in the workplace and in the field, implementation of flexible work hours and Work-from-Home, monitoring of employees exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, partnering with other agencies to provide free swab testing for employees, and conducting seminar series on Occupational Safety and Health with emphasis on COVID-19 safety measures.

A leader, not a boss

Ms. Tin contracted COVID-19 during cash distribution under Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS). Due to the nature of her work, direct contact with clients was inevitable. “I was the head that time, but I know I needed to go down on the ground”. Even before the pandemic, Ms. Tin had been leading her subordinates on field during cash distribution and COVID-19 made no difference.

“I got severe COVID infection. I was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for 14 days and complications got me”, she recalled. Her lungs were severely affected by the virus and had to undergo an operation. Despite her experience, Ms. Tin is still grateful for the second life given to her. “I am very thankful because this is my second life. Everything that happened to me is a miracle. Ako yung patunay ng miracle after the pandemic (I am a proof of miracle after the pandemic)”. Although her left arm was affected, Ms. Tin is thankful that her right arm is functioning. To her, this meant having another chance to serve. “I still have purpose, makakapag-trabaho pa ako (I could still work)”.

Recognizing exemplary employees

The agency recognizes employees who showed exemplary performance in their field. The award aims to boost the employees’ morale while highlighting their accomplishments unseen by the public. “It will boost your confidence and self-worth”, said Ms. Tin. “Mararamdaman mo na importante ka sa isang organisasyon (It will make you feel important to the organization). Maliit man ang posisyon mo (though you are not in a high-rank position), you are needed by your organization”, she added.

Her advice to her fellow angels in red vests: Be persistent. Always go back to your oath as a worker and why you are working in DSWD. “I know we will be challenged by a lot of problems but be persistent and do not give up despite the state you are in right now”.

Ms. Tin received her Praise Award for Best Social Worker during the 71st Anniversary Celebration of DSWD Region V last April 1, 2022. Prior to this, she was named as finalist for the National Praise Award. This year’s theme, “DSWD @71: Napapanahon na pagtugon sa Suliranin ng Taong 2022; Kabalikat ng Katatagan ng Bawat Pilipino” highlights the agency’s services in response to the pandemic. The celebration honored the employees and stakeholders who have worked to provide social services that are adaptive to the needs of program beneficiaries during the pandemic.