The WFP kandori: A shared thanksgiving meal for those working for zero hunger

The WFP team in Iligan dines together at a kandori in 2012. WFP/Charlyn Pendang

Every office has its own culture and way of doing things. In the World Food Programme’s office in Iligan, the Philippines, there is one unique and inspiring practice that is worth sharing — that of the kandori, which is a Maranao word for thanksgiving.

Traditionally, the Maranao people hold a kandori to give thanks for the daily blessings and guidance we receive from Allah, or to celebrate significant achievements such as the passing of board exams and other successes in the family.

For us at the Iligan office however, the practice of kandori has taken on a new meaning and has become a vehicle to strengthen relations, teamwork and dedication among our staff. It has become tied with the concept of “family,” creating a unique bond that has carried us through accomplishments and challenges.

I first introduced the idea of holding a kandori sometime in 2007. We had successfully organised a complicated mission that needed much coordination. It was a way to say “thank you” for a job well done, and to celebrate a simple success made possible by the meaningful contribution of each colleague.

From that initial celebration, the office staff slowly took up the practice of kandori more often, until it eventually became a regular occurrence. After our regular meetings every Friday, I remember saying: “As a way to say thank you and to celebrate our team’s success, let’s have kandori!”. It was also a way to introduce the tradition to other non-Maranao colleagues, who are not familiar with the term.

Maranao staff in Iligan share the kandori tradition with Noy, a colleague from WFP’s office in Manila. WFP/Jaslin Masbud

When the office faced challenges, the kandori custom took on a new meaning. Staff started to hold a kandori as a way to strengthen teamwork when faced with difficulties in programme implementation. When there were challenges in the field that needed discussion, or when there was workload that would require staff to go overtime, we would hold a kandori. It is like tapping a support system — that spirit from within the team — during difficult times. It facilitates a ‘work-life’ balance even in our most challenging moments in the workplace.

The kandori has also grown to touch personal relationships in our office. There are also times when I would sense internal issues among the staff. The kandori then becomes the ice-breaker, a way to ease the tension and bring out the spirit of oneness.

The author, second from right, with some of her team in Iligan during a kandori in 2013. WFP/Raihanna Datuharon

Ten years after the concept was first introduced, the culture of kandori is now well-embedded in our office and staff. It has become an instrument that allows us to express our collective sentiments, boost morale and resolve issues when needed.

This year, as we come to celebrate life with our families and community for Eid’l Fitr, many of us are thinking about the current crisis in Marawi City that has caused deaths, massive displacement, loss of livelihoods, and huge damages to our properties. The humanitarian response we are working on is a kandori for our brothers and sisters, our way to celebrate life and inspire us to continue on with our work towards Zero Hunger. Times like this remind us of the more important role of kandori — a moment to share, especially to the people who need it most.

Words and story by Baicon Macaraya, WFP Philippines National Programme Officer in Iligan Sub-office.

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