Challenging the Filipino Youth
by: Harvey S. Keh
The Manila Times
DURING the last elections, I was pleasantly surprised by the the level of involvement among young Filipinos especially in social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Some chose to campaign for a particular candidate while others decided to engage in voters’ education by joining groups such as PPCRV and NAMFREL. Sadly, as soon as the winners in the last election was proclaimed everyone seemed to go back to their usual concerns and the spirit of social action slowly but surely diminished.
Is it because young Filipinos are really apathetic and don’t care much about the future of our nation? I don’t think so. So what gives? Here are some of my insights into this.
Elections are exciting but governance is boring
Young people always love to do exciting new things and during the elections wherein there was so much debate about the merits of each candidate, you could see them expressing their insights and opinions using Facebook and their blogs. This is also a generation that is an impatient one and their attention span is also very hard to sustain for long periods of time, thus, they want to see tangible results quickly. In an election, you can easily see the results while if you work for good governance, the results are not often tangible and they take a long time before you see change happening. Yet, the elections are just a process and the work of governance is the more important aspect in our drive to help move our country out of poverty. The challenge for non-profit organizations, government institutions and other civil society groups is to find new and innovative ways by which they can appeal to the younger generation of Filipinos.
Opportunities for young Filipinos
Another concern is that there are not just enough volunteer opportunities that are being presented to young Filipinos that appeal to them. I have talked to some dynamic young Filipinos who want to change the Philippines but they just don’t know how or where to start. This summer, I was fortunate enough to work with Stephanie Sison, an incoming second year medical school student who wanted to do something worthwhile during her summer break.
Stephanie implemented a preventive health program that taught children from urban poor communities on how to stay healthy and stay away from diseases such as diarrhea, dengue fever and the common flu. After the children are taught by college student volunteers from Ateneo de Manila University, they are given paper and coloring materials to draw what they learned. The best artworks will be made into a Preventive Health calendar to be distributed to more than 1,000 families in Brgy. Old Balara in Quezon City. This project was supported and done in partnership with Kaya Natin’s Congressman Bolet Banal of Quezon City and the Sangguniang Kabataan of Brgy. Old Balara. More than 350 children took part and Stephanie hopes to be able to bring this to other barangays in Quezon City.
Those who want to be involved or want to support the We Heart program can contact Stephanie through her email: email@example.com .
Alay Ni Ignacio (ANI)
Aside from having a strong desire to help solve social problems in our communities, it is also important that young Filipinos be given the right information about the advocacy that he or she is planning to undertake. In 2000, my sophomore college students at the Ateneo de Manila University started a summer instructional program for public high school students called Alay Ni Ignacio (ANI). This program was geared towards helping poor but deserving students prepare for the college entrance exams and be able to compete for scholarships. The program was run primarily with college student volunteers who taught enrichment classes in English, Mathematics and Science to the participants who came from Marikina and Quezon City.
Due to the success of ANI, the Ford Foundation, one of the biggest international foundations in the world, awarded it a grant that would help expand the program into what is now called, Pathways to Higher Education. Since then, Pathways has now helped more than 150 students from very poor families to graduate from college. Aside from this, Pathways has also helped train more than 8,000 public school teachers in basic computer literacy. What initially started as a youth-led summer education program has now helped change the lives of thousands of public high school students and their families all over the country.
Those who want to know more about ANI and Pathways can get in touch with them at (02) 426-6001 local 4048.
Given these concrete examples of young Filipinos who chose to make a difference, I believe that real and genuine change can happen in our country if we are able to harness the talents and skills of these young Filipinos. In my talks to colleges and universities, I always tell students that the time is now for us to take charge and go out of our way to do our own share in helping rebuild our nation. Moreover, I remind them that this is the only nation that we have and in the end, this is the kind of nation we will inherit. The choice is ours whether we want to inherit a nation beset with the same problems or a nation brimming with much hope and promise.
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org