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Nicamil Sanchez

A quiet achiever shines through


Nicamil Sanchez has never been one to shout his achievements from the rooftops. 

“It’s not the Filipino way,” said the 40-year-old social worker, technocrat and academic. “I consider myself an ordinary student, an ordinary scholar and an ordinary Filipino, and we ordinary Filipinos are quiet achievers by nature.” 

But Dr Sanchez’s impact on his community and the discipline of social work in the Philippines has been anything but ordinary. 

Born and raised in Balagtas, a rural province outside Manila, he endured a childhood of disadvantage to become an international scholar, attending university in Malta, the UK and Australia. 

“I chose to study social work, gerontology and public management because I have experienced and seen hardship firsthand, not only in my family but also in my community,” Dr Sanchez said. 

“I told myself from an early age that my goal would be to uplift that condition, and it gives me a sense of satisfaction and significance to be doing this kind of work.” 

A desire to give back

In 2015, while pursuing his PhD in Social Work at ACU’s Canberra Campus, Dr Sanchez founded The Philippine Consortium, an innovative technology firm that provides consultancy services to social welfare organisations, research bodies and universities.

The Consortium is a generous giver. It donates part of its income to various charities and runs a feeding program for rural day care centres in the Philippines, which has alarmingly high rates of child poverty

“We chose to support day care centres because these services are crucial in contributing to the future success of our children,” Dr Sanchez said. 

His steadfast commitment to rural education and social welfare stems mainly from his humble upbringing. 

“I’ve come from a simple family, raised lovingly but with grit, and taught that you have to work hard to survive — but more importantly, that you need to give back to the community,” Dr Sanchez said. 

“Our community is what keeps us going, and my family, parents and life experiences instilled those values in me and gave me the desire to make a difference.” 

Uplifting human dignity 

Dr Sanchez has no problem identifying what drives him: a long-term vision to uplift the condition of the most vulnerable Filipinos. 

About one in five people in the Philippines live in extreme poverty, and despite sustained economic growth, the nation’s poorest still struggle to feed themselves and earn a living. 

This presents many challenges to social workers on the frontline.   

“I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the country into rural communities and I've seen the many different faces of poverty,” Dr Sanchez said.  

Dr Nicamil Sanchez

“It's a complex issue, and to tackle it we need a government that cares, that is free from corruption, and that takes action to assist the most vulnerable in a holistic way, which engages non-government organisations and the academe and volunteers who are out there in communities.” 

He said social workers in the Philippines were “very hands-on”, but they don’t often get a say when poverty alleviation policies are devised.

“Social workers should not only be the ‘foot soldiers’, they should also be the ones informing politicians who are tasked with developing social welfare policies concerning the most vulnerable,” Dr Sanchez added. 

“They’re dedicated, passionate and committed, they’re on the frontline and they get their hands dirty, and when you see the hardship with your own eyes, you’re motivated to do all you can to alleviate human suffering.” 

Home away from home

When Dr Sanchez arrived in Canberra to study at ACU in 2010, he was already an accomplished scholar. 

He had completed his studies in social work and public management in the Philippines, obtained a postgraduate degree in gerontology at the University of Malta, and was an academic visitor at Oxford University’s Institute of Population Ageing.

But it was while pursuing his PhD at ACU that he really hit his straps. 

Inspired by the University’s focus on producing effective transformational leaders, he became the first international student to serve as National President of ACU’s Postgraduate Students Association. 

While at the helm, he led a fundraising drive for victims of the Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines through the Australian Red Cross, and initiated the ‘Books for a Cause’ campaign, which saw some 15,000 books sent to rural universities and schools in the Philippines.   

By the time his five-year stint at ACU was near its end, Dr Sanchez had come to view Australia as his “second home”.  

However, the pull of his homeland was always strong. 

While most Filipinos who obtain their PhD in another country decide to settle overseas, Dr Sanchez chose to return to the Philippines.  

“I feel that returning and contributing to my country is my duty, because it is here in the Philippines that I can best serve humanity,” he said. 

On his return to Manila, he worked in professorial roles at the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Davao University, and was a military professor in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).  

He also ramped up his volunteer work. At present, he donates his time and expertise as a reservist in the AFP. 

He’s a lifetime member of the Philippine Association of Social Workers Inc, and regularly volunteers his time to give lectures at universities, charity functions and conferences.

Dr Sanchez

But his main gig is heading up the welfare services department for the Philippine Red Cross, where he manages national programs that support the country’s most vulnerable. 

“We work in partnership with communities, concentrating on managing and leading Philippine Red Cross social welfare programs, like livelihood for indigenous peoples, child protection, promoting disability inclusion and preventing gender-based violence,” Dr Sanchez said. 

“We have limited resources and limited budget, but we deliver social welfare to the most vulnerable individuals, groups and communities that have nowhere else to turn, and that's all thanks to our donors, volunteers and aid workers.”  

He sees those working in social welfare as his country’s “quiet heroes”.

“Society is so quick to give praise and acknowledgment to politicians and celebrities who come from privileged families,” Dr Sanchez said. 

“But in my mind, the real heroes are the quiet achievers: those ordinary Filipino citizens who make extraordinary contributions, who uplift the vulnerable and alleviate human suffering, and who don’t expect anything in return.”

Dr Sanchez won the International Contribution Award in ACU’s Alumni Awards 2019. He graduated with a PhD in social work from ACU. Learn more about ACU

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Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2019 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G