Pushpin Movement and a Cofounder's Journey

(By: Ann Marie Cunanan | Pushpin Movement) Here's my story in starting the Pushpin Movement, a story on overcoming fears, and on getting help to make the dream of connecting international volunteers with Philippine communities and projects come true.

The Pushpin Movement
We had a brief meeting with this river community of Abatan, Bohol. We explained to them what Pushpin Movement is and what activities would the volunteer tourists take part in the community (Homestays, doing community projects, immersions, etc). The reply of Mang Juanito, the old man beside me was a great reminder of why we need to make this volunteer immersion and project happen in the first place. Read full story below. (In photo are Miday Umali of Pushpin Movement, and the officers of the Abatan-Lincod Mangrove-Nipa Growers Organisation)

"Are you sure about this? Working in any social enterprise, you must sustain yourself – body and soul.”

“You are giving so much of your time with minimal financial reward.”

"Until when are you going to face your reality?"

These are some of the comments I have received when I finally decided to give our social enterprise—Pushpin Movement—its needed ‘push’ after finishing my postgraduate studies in Australia.

I could have jumped back to the safe and familiar world of the corporate life, to be able to earn a six-figure salary again, combined with sales incentives. It was a financially rewarding and a safe option. But no. I knew I wanted something more from life than just a high income. And I could no longer turn my back on a dream that we have been brewing for months. So I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started again from scratch —even renting out a small room and sustaining myself with a part-time teaching job in a university just to give Pushpin Movement the time and energy that it needs for it to grow.

The road was never easy. I was full of doubts and fears at the start. I questioned my own abilities and recalled my past failures. But at some point, I needed to stop all these noises in my head and just move forward. And I remembered a favourite saying, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen”. True enough, Pushpin Movement was able to get the seed funding it needed to get started from the Australian Embassy, which opened its door to support its Alumni Network and their development projects for the first time. Pushpin Movement, a social enterprise, was given a chance to demonstrate the impact that it wants to achieve alongside its non-profit counterparts.


Slowly, I started to realise that it’s not just about me and my fears. I am not alone. On-board the project are the most amazing people I’ve met, which my other friends would denote as a ‘world class’ team. Cheenee, Nina, Miday, and Lui are all equally passionate people, sharing their expertise in community organising, legal, communication, and working with government agencies. It also gives me joy to see their faith in what we want to achieve and their genuine care and concern for our partner communities despite their busy lives and schedules.

Aside from the core team members, many other friends and supporters have stepped up to help in so many ways including helping us with promotional materials and setting up meetings at various  Australian universities.


My most moving experience for this project was in meeting our community partners in Abatan River, in Bohol, in the Visayas region of the Philippines.

In October 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck its province that displaced over 344,300 people and destroyed Bohol’s most visited heritage sites. This tragedy resulted in a significant decline in tourist arrivals in the following months. Because tourism is one of their major economic drivers, the drop in tourist visitors also meant lower incomes for the families who lived there.

In a meeting with the community leaders, I shared with the local farmers and fishermen what we intend to work with them. 'We plan to bring Australian volunteers into your community. They will immerse themselves here and take part in the community building activities. We’ll host them with local families and in the community, so they will know more about our culture and our community. During breaks, they will experience for themselves the eco-tours you prepared in this village. Will you be ready for these types of activities?,’ I asked. Tatay Juanito, an old man in his 60s, responded with a sweet and hopeful smile, “We have been ready for a long time, we are just waiting for the visitors to come here.”

I knew deep within that there is a mission behind Pushpin Movement. It’s not just to provide our volunteers a rich and transformative experience, but more importantly, to also empower and support the local communities in matters that are truly significant for them.

There is so much potential for Pushpin Movement to grow – it has many big dreams and plans – open programs for Filipino locals, expand the volunteers from Australia, to Europe, and the USA. But the key is to take one step at a time and bring the first batch of Australian volunteers to Philippine communities this June and July for this grant project.


We invite everyone to take part in this amazing journey by looking at our website and telling all your friends about Pushpin Movement and our community projects for this Australian Grant Scheme Award: articles, updates, testimonials and photos, which can be found in our website and social media accounts. We look forward to an amazing and inspiring journey for everyone.

For more information about Pushpin Movement, click the following pages:

  1. Our Website: http://pushpinmovement.com/
  2. Get to know more about the team: http://pushpinmovement.com/about/
  3. Community Partners and Projects: http://pushpinmovement.com/volunteer-projects/
  4. Add us up in Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pushpinmovement
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