Venus Raj on Giving and Empowering Communities – Plus Talks

According to Venus Raj, giving is sharing the best part of you. Raj, is, of course, no stranger to giving, as she is a youth advocate and a community development worker aside from being the Ms. Universe 2010 4th Runner-Up. Venus Raj also believes that we don’t give God the excess of what we have, but because He is the owner of everything, He deserves the best part of everything. 

As a youth advocate, Venus Raj doesn’t only just host and grant speaking engagements. She also goes to different schools and communities to discuss certain programs and projects. In this episode of Plus Talks, she shares an inspiring message about not just giving, but giving our best.

When asked when she’s done after winning titles and becoming a beauty queen, she shares that she’s done competing. But when it comes to the public display of life, she thinks that being a beauty queen is an unending journey. 

Back in 2013, Venus started volunteering in small-scale programs and became involved in church ministries and then enrolled for a master’s degree in Community Development. This experience exposed her to community work and immersions, allowing her to be involved in developing programs to help communities in our country. The two advocacies that she’s been involved with include:

Youth – Some of the programs she’s doing are Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) where they provide leadership seminars and training for the youth. Another program is #NotAlone which happens in schools and opens opportunities to listen and talk to students.

Community-Based – This involves community development and empowerment. 

She shared that being able to serve and take part in this kind of work inspires her as she also came from a needy community. She understands their needs and aspires to bring the opportunities and experiences she was able to acquire to similar communities where she grew up. She aims to inspire the youth to dream big and have a bigger perspective on what they can do in the future to support themselves and help their community.

Venus Raj recounted an experience about a community they helped in Catanduanes that was terribly affected by a typhoon. After one and a half years of serving this community with CCF Tulong Tayo, she felt fulfilled to see how the people gradually got up from scratch to hatch, and finally being assured that they have their jobs back and their own sturdy houses to go home to. 

She also discussed one of the challenges they encounter. Most of the time, people in the community think that community workers are “Messiahs” who can solve all of their problems. The aim of community development and community empowerment, as the terms suggest, is to empower communities. This means that the end goal is for the people to stand on their own feet and realize that they have capacities to make decisions and to not become dependent on anyone. The objective of community development and community empowerment will not be fulfilled if they look at the workers as answers to their problems. 

3 Factors in Empowering Communities:

  1. Conduct Focus Group Discussion – Workers do Focus Group Discussions (FGD) where they consult the people in the community and understand what they are going through. 
  2. Ask the People for Solutions – This will help the people reflect and realize that they can be part of the solution to some long-running problems in their community.
  3. Ownerships of Programs and Projects should come from the community

The people should be the ones to think of projects and programs and implement them. Later on, they will also be the ones to continue them. If the community has ownership to these programs and projects, they tend to last even if workers leave the community. If a community does not own a program, it will be hard to sustain it. 

Venus Raj is currently part of an organization called “SIPAG,” which stands for Simula Ng Pagasa. The organization helps in equipping and empowering the youth and marginalized communities. She also shared that she seeks for opportunities to learn more because she believes that when we have the knowledge of what we’re doing, our work and service becomes more effective.

For more inspiring stories, life lessons, and words of wisdom from industry leaders, watch PLUS Talks or visit PLUS Network on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

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