Growing up in the bayside city of Manila, Philippines, Marge Cabasagan learned the power of helping others from her grandfather when she was just a little girl.
On Sundays after church, she would often accompany Severino De Vega Cabasagan on his visits to Hospicio de San Jose, a 200-year-old institution in Manila that cares for more than 225 people, including orphans, survivors of domestic violence, and the elderly. There, she watched her grandfather selflessly give his time to better the lives of the less fortunate.
“Volunteering is my No. 1 passion — it’s an extension of myself,” said Cabasagan, an operations analyst for Wells Fargo Enterprise Global Services in the Philippines. “My exposure on helping communities started at an early age, as my family was into volunteering.”
That passion to help others only strengthened as she grew from a young girl to an adult.
“When I came back here after 22 years, I realized the need for food had increased because of the number of beneficiaries within this institution,” recalled Cabasagan. “I grew up eating the food that was growing in our backyard, and I spotted an opportunity for the same at Hospicio, because they had ample open space where we could easily set up a garden. Wells Fargo provided the soil, seeds, and volunteer hours needed to create something simple that will sustain the community for generations to come.”
Cabasagan’s interest in food sustainability led her to create the Garden2Kitchen project at Hospicio de San Jose in 2017. Under her leadership, more than 400 of Wells Fargo’s Philippines-based team members have donated their time to rebuild and expand the vegetable garden that now supplies a significant portion of the food served to residents at the institution each day.
“As a volunteer leader, I consider myself a ‘wounded healer’, since it enables me to transcend my own personal issues and inspire others,” said Cabasagan.
The Garden2Kitchen program has been such a success that Cabasagan has since expanded it to three more locations in Manila. In addition to sourcing fresh food for resident meals, the program also produces up to 200 jars of homemade pesto sauce each month, using basil grown in the garden. Proceeds from the pesto sales go back into the project, creating a sustainability model that Cabasagan hopes can remain in place long into the future.
“I measure success in the smiles that our project gives back. It’s something that’s very spontaneous. It’s not something you can buy,” she said. “So when I see the residents happy, and when I see my colleagues happy, and when I see my children happy, that’s my gauge of success.”